Tag Archives: women

International Women's Day begins Women's History Series

Today is International Women’s Day and it marks the kick off of our Women’s History Series. Look for our postings on various topics in women’s history over the next couple of weeks.  Next week’s topic: The Women’s Rights Movement.

2649 YWCA 1919_dwnl

Poster: “YWCA…For United America…Division for Foreign Born Women,” 1919


For more information on International Women’s Day visit:

United Nations Women Watch: “UN System Observances for International Women’s Day 2013

International Women’s Day 2013 website

OxFam America: “Celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day 2013 Events Search

Valentine's Day Recipe

Valentines day

For more information on the above ads visit the following links:

(starting from top left)

1. Ad: Middishade Blue Suit, ‘Correct at every tick of the clock’ 1928

2. Ad: L’ECHO of Paris, ‘New Dance Frocks’ 1928

3. Ad: Holeproof Hosiery Co., 1924

4. Ad: Spur Ties, ‘All tied for you. Husband, friend, or brother’ 1929

5. Ad: Jewelers’ Association, ‘Love Token for the Ages’ 1927

6. Ad: Packard, ‘Packard was born into the world of taste and refinement’ 1928

7. Ad: Johnston’s Chocolates, ‘Rudy Vallee autographs his photograph for the sweethearts of America’ 1931

Let's Go Shopping…19th Century Style!

As the holiday season gets into full swing, engage student’s shopping preoccupation with nineteenth century department store ads and photographs.  The Marchand Archive holds dozens of intriguing posters that will get students thinking about the differences between department stores then and now.

Take for example this 1885 ad for Hill Brothers Millinery Goods storeroom.  Perhaps students notice how well dress the shoppers are.  Maybe they recognize that all the sales associates are men.  Or even, notice the differences and similarities with today’s stores layout of goods.  No matter what draws them in, they will soon forget they are engaging in a historical conversation!

Ad poster for Hill Brothers Millinery Goods salesroom interior, New York City, 1885

Search here for more examples!


Health, Youth and Beauty–Oh My!

Hinds skin cream ad

Ad: Hinds Honey and Almond Cream, ‘Don’t stare at me like that’ 1929

Today we have new commentary on advertisements from Katharine Kipp, graduate student in the History department at U.C. Davis

In searching through images to write a new blog, I wandered aimlessly through the thousands of ads that Roland Marchand expertly collected.  I amassed a list of at least twenty that were entertaining, astonishing, and thought-provoking or sometimes all three at once.  Ads for face creams, corsets, laundry services, laxatives, and cleaning products filled the pages but I remained stumped.  Which to write about and what to say?

Taking the advice of the expert History Project teachers I have watched over the years discuss strategies for engaging students with primary documents, I stood back and looked at the list as a whole.  I was struck by the obsession with health, youth, and beauty.  Unable to put my finger on exactly how to define this phenomenon, I turned to textbooks and articles to help answer my questions.  But they just did not get at the heart of what was happening in the 1920s.  Finally, I turned to my fellow History Project bloggers for help and it was Patricia Cohen’s post, From advertising to middle age that was ultimately the key.  She writes, “zeroing in on the physical body, the market whips up insecurities, creating a sense of inferiority, then sells the tools that promise to allay those fears.”  And this explains precisely the ads celebrating health, youth, and beauty in the carefree and liberating days of the interwar period.

For example, this 1929 ad for Hinds Honey and Almond Cream “Don’t stare at me like that…” features a husband and wife whose leisurely day at the beach.  Their outing is marred by the husband’s realization, “What’s the matter with your face?…Looks rough. Your face and neck used to be as smooth and young as your shoulders.”  The ad narrates the horrified response of his wife as she realizes “If he had noticed, what about the critical world? Was that why other men seemed less interested—why other women were no longer envious?”  Having established the problem, skin damage over time from exposure to the elements, the ad proceeds to provide the answer, in the form of Hinds Honey and Almond Cream that helps refresh skin exposed to the sun too long and even prevent sunburn.

His Empty Shoes

‘His Empty Shoes’, Lysol Disinfectant 1927

Advertisers of health products utilized the strategy of identifying a new insecurity their merchandise could solve.  For instance, Lysol Disinfectant’s 1927 ad “His empty shoes” is a startling and fear-producing ad. It advises mothers, “be sure—whatever may happen—that you have really done your best to protect your family against germ life.” Interestingly, this ad allows the reader to determine its meaning. For some, the empty shoes simply mean that at night, while children sleep, is the ideal time to ready their precious shoes for the next day of playing, doing one’s best to maintain healthy environments for children to grow and learn. For others, the empty shoes with laces untied, forlorn and forgotten, symbolizes the tragedy of losing a child.  The ad cautions mothers that this tragedy is avoidable if they use Lysol as part of their daily cleaning routine. Regardless of how the reader interprets the ad the end message remains the same: “have you done your best?”

Look here for more 1920s ads.

Advertisements Capture Cultural Norms

McCall's Magazine, 1946

Today we have new commentary on advertisements from Katharine Kipp, graduate student in the History department at U.C. Davis

Advertisements are an excellent way to engage students in historical thinking as they provide an opportunity for students to identify historical events and ideas and analyze their meaning.  In particular, ads are a great way to discuss cultural norms.  One example from the Marchand Collection, is the 1946 advertisement for McCall’s Magazine featuring a mother reading Lives of Great Men to her adolescent son all the while the father, perhaps, perches high above them both.  The caption reads, “HE shapes the mind” while “SHE shapes the character.”  It echoes perfectly the 1940s and 1950s reinforcement of traditional gender roles that followed the turmoil of World War II and reflects the anxieties of the conflict between the US and Soviet Union.  Stability was paramount during the Cold War.  Both sides vied for control of newly emerging free nations and sought to present their path—communism or capitalism—as the clear choice for rule.  To ensure stability at home during this tenuous time, a culture of consensus or conformity asked the population to agree on traditional gender roles for men and women that celebrated women’s domesticity.  This ‘domestic containment’ confined women to the home where they were charged with creating a safe haven for the family.  Linking national security and traditional gender roles, the United States sought safety both abroad and at home.  Men and women worked together for a singular purpose.  As the ad states, “Man and woman are in partnership—each with an essentially different role to play in preparing an oncoming generation for the business of living.”  Domestic containment of the 1940s-1950s did not necessarily relegate women to a subservient position to their husbands.  Rather, it attempted to create a partnership–women as experts of the domestic realm, men as the authority of the public sphere.

In addition to domestic containment, the ad addresses the presence of specialist and self-help literature in the 1940s and 1950s.  The ad argues, “McCall’s is a magazine women really live by—and for that reason, a potent medium for moving ideas into women’s minds,” a sentiment shared by other advertisers and writers of popular help books of the era.  Magazines such as McCall’s and books such as Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care (1946) found a ready and willing audience of women searching for help in ‘professionalizing’ their role as wife and mother.  McCall’s Magazine guided “Women’s Thinking” as it served “her specialized interests in homemaking and family life” just as Dr. Spock appealed to women’s interest in child rearing.

Finally, the ad is also useful for reviewing important roles for women throughout US history.  Examples include republican motherhood, the cult of domesticity, and separate spheres.  Revolutionary ideas of republican motherhood are echoed here, as mothers (the purveyors of morality and responsibility) were tasked with creating good Republican citizens.  It also harks back to the cult of domesticity and separate spheres of the middle nineteenth century that gave women power and influence over the private sphere or the home.  Linking ideas across time helps students see patterns in history and aids information retention.

For more from Katharine Kipp, see Enlisting the Citizen Consumer in World War II


From advertising to middle age

Today’s post comes to us from Patricia Cohen, a reporter for the New York Times and the author of the new book, In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age. She has previously worked at the Washington Post and Rolling Stone magazine.

After finishing Roland Marchand’s Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, I felt that distinct combination of admiration and envy: I wished I had written it. When I did get around to writing my own book, a social and cultural history of middle age titled  In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age, I found his research extraordinarily useful. His insights informed a lot of my own thinking about how advertising helped shape views of what life’s middle years were supposed to look and act like.

This imagined midlife lies at the intersection of self-improvement and mass consumption, two of the most powerful movements of the twentieth century. Faith in the perfectibility of man through his own efforts, combined with the promise of the marketplace’s transformative abilities have created what I call (to crib President Eisenhower’s phrase) the Midlife Industrial Complex.

This amalgam is a complex in both the institutional and emotional sense: a massive industrial network that manufactures and sells products and procedures to combat supposed afflictions associated with middle age; and a mental syndrome that exaggerates angst about waning powers, failure, and uselessness in one’s middle years. Zeroing in on the physical body, the market whips up insecurities, creating a sense of inferiority, then sells the tools that promise to allay those fears.

The origins of the Midlife Industrial Complex date back to the 1920s, when America became a visual culture – what the poet Vachel Lindsay called a “hieroglyphic civilization” – and consumerism attached itself to the growing self-help movement. A perfect example can be found in the Marchand archives. “She looks old enough to be his mother,” two women remark about a friend in a 1928 advertisement for Lysol disinfectant. “And the pity of it is that, in this enlightened age, so often a woman has only herself to blame if she fails to stay young with her husband and with her women friends.”

The poor Lysol-less woman was not fated to a life of neglect and aging: she could have done something about it. In this democratic arena, youthful beauty is not confined to genetic luck or wealthy pampering; it is within everyone’s reach, part of an individual’s inalienable right to pursue happiness. As Helena Rubinstein reputedly said, there are no ugly women, only lazy ones. In the language of self-improvement, middle age doesn’t simply happen to you; it is what you make of it.

What reviewers are saying about In Our Prime:

“A brilliant, wide-ranging book…Cohen’s lively prose and thoughtful insights make this a joy to read.”—Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

“Very fine…lucid, straightforward and conversational… a thorough—and thoroughly fascinating—cultural history of aging.”—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

“Her book is a fascinating biography of the idea of middle age, ‘a story we tell about ourselves.’  — Gail Sheehy, The New York Times. 

Unpacking Imagery from a Book of Hours

Title: The Holy Family at Work

The Holy Family at Work. From the Book of Hours of Catherine of Clèves

Here’s what Shennan Hutton, author of Women and Economic Activities in Late Medieval Ghent, had to say about this image:

This image of the “Holy Family at Work” comes from the book of hours of Catherine of Clèves.  One of my favorite medieval visuals, it depicts the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and the toddler Jesus.  Mary is weaving, Joseph is working wood, and Jesus is toddling around in his wooden walker.  The ribbon extending upwards from his mouth is the medieval equivalent of a “thought bubble.”  It reads, “This is my beloved mother.”  Although groupings of the Holy Family was a popular theme in medieval art, it is a bit unusual to see the adults at work.  In typical medieval fashion, Mary, Joseph and Jesus appear dressed in burgher clothing (like the urban workers Catherine of Clèves might have glimpsed as she shopped in one of the cities of her tiny principality.)  Either her father or her husband commissioned this book of hours for Duchess Catherine of Clèves, as a wedding gift for her marriage to Duke Arnold of Guelders.

Clèves was a tiny county in the Low Countries, to the east of Flanders, north of France, and on the western edge of the Holy Roman Empire.  Today part of it is in Germany and part in the Netherlands.  Guelders was another small principality, entirely within the Netherlands today.  In the Late Middle Ages, books of hours were prized possessions of wealthy nobles and urban elites.  Many books of hours were made by artisans in the Low Countries, modern-day Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.  An unknown artist (probably several artists in a workshop) in Utrecht (the Netherlands) completed this one for Catherine in 1440.  The Book of Hours contained little prayers to be said at certain hours of the day, hence the term “hours.”  Most of the pages were decorated with brightly painted illustrations, sometimes called illuminations or miniatures, of portraits of saints, visions of hell, and scenes from Jesus’s life, all drawn by hand.  Production and consumption of these books served many functions.  Owners displayed their books of hours as a sign of wealth, but also used the books for private religious meditation in their homes.  Often the books were decorated with the coat of arms of the owner intertwining with religious symbolism.  For this reason, books of hours exemplify the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century movement called the “laicization of spirituality,” a time when lay people were increasingly practicing their faith outside of the church setting, without the mediation of a clergyman.  This was an important precursor to the Reformation.  At the same time, this image depicts a very pre-Reformation subject, complete with an aged Joseph (medieval people usually thought of Joseph as an old man) and halos of sainthood.  I like to use this image to show how rich nobles and elites displayed their family background and prestige, and how spiritual practices were moving out of the church into private spaces.  However, this image is most useful for its unique background.  Although only the wealthiest people could afford to purchase books of hours, this image does not show the interior of a lavish townhouse or rich castle.  The room surrounding the Holy Family is the main room of a house that might have been owned by a late medieval burgher (a solid urban citizen.)  It is the kind of house that the artist might have lived in.  This little illumination might even have been drawn by a woman.  In fifteenth-century Bruges (just to southwest of Utrecht), there was a guild for artists who drew illuminations.  One of every four members of this guild was a woman.  Whether or not the artist was a woman, she or he drew a scene from daily life to surround the Holy Family.  As such, it gives us a fascinating glimpse into daily life in the Late Middle Ages.

You can see more images from the Book of Hours of Catherine of Clèves here.

Shennan Hutton is a Program Coordinator for the California History Social Science Project. She taught world history in high school for 15 years, before entering the graduate program at UC Davis.  She earned a Ph.D. in medieval European history in 2006.  She teaches medieval, European and world history at various colleges and universities, as well as promoting K-16 collaboration at the California History-Social Science Project. You can read more from Shennan at Blueprint for History Education.

Depicting “The Drunkard’s Progress”

Title: “The Drunkard’s Progress,” 1846

About the image: Step 1: A glass with a friend. Step 2: A glass to keep the cold out. Step 3: A glass too much (weaving). Step 4: Drunk and riotous (policeman with club”). Step 5: The summit attained…Jolly companions…A confirmed drunkard. Step 6: Poverty and Disease (with cane). Step 7: Forsaken by Friends. Step 8: Desperation and crime (with gun). Step 9: Death by suicide.” Early 19th century Temperance painting.  Fear, laced with appeals to the conscience, was the main weapon of temperance leaders of this period and later who endeavored to make Americans forswear the bottle.   The rise of social disorder, with burgeoning slums, impoverished families, increases in crime, prostitution and Sabbath-breaking, was seen by many as the result of drink.  Aside from the penitentiary and its supposed influence through fear, another means of crime prevention was the temperance movement.  “Drink is the cause: stop crime and poverty at their source.”  Temperance tales paint the drinker as not only immoral and sinful but also unsuccessful: the drunkard loses devotion to work, his reputation for reliability, and his job.

Why does American River College faculty member, Camille Leonhardt, find this image interesting?

Images of the Drunkard’s Progress are very useful in helping students to understand the Temperance Movement of the nineteenth-century.  The Temperance Movement arose within the broader context of economic and geographic transformations underway.  Alcohol consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth-century, with distilled liquor consumption peaking in the early 1830s.  The Drunkard’s Progress image serves as a useful tool for beginning to explore these trends during the era.  Why were Americans drinking more distilled liquor?  (Cultural changes underway and increased anxiety).   Why did they have access to more distilled liquor?  (Physical expansion and the ease of transporting a concentrated form of their crops, such as grains and barley).

The image also serves as a very useful tool for exploring how Americans sought to establish order within a period of cultural and economic change.  The two-pronged strategy pursued by temperance societies reveals how Americans sought to establish social order by imposing legal sanctions prohibiting the sale and manufacture of liquor, in addition to encouraging individuals to take oaths of abstinence.  Advocates of temperance signed pledges to abstain from liquor consumption.  Temperance advocates achieved a legal victory in Maine in 1851, with passage of the first statewide prohibition statute.

Participation in the Temperance Movement proved to be very validating for women and provided many women with opportunities to develop skills and confidence needed to demand political rights of their own. Established in 1874, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, WCTU, became one of the largest female organizations in the United States.  Even before the formation of the WCTU, other temperance societies provided women with the rare opportunity to participate in meetings, plan strategies, and gain experience with leadership.

View more temperance images from before 1870 here.

Related Topics/Themed Collections:  Nineteenth Century, Liquor, Temperance to 1870′s

Lessons in the Marchand Collection:

  • Northern Reform Communities Town Hall Meeting by Jeff Pollard, CHSS 8.6 & 8.9, IN PRINT – AVAILABLE IN THE MARCHAND ROOM

Related Resources Available in the Marchand Collection:

  • Susan Leighow,  Rita Sterner-Hine, The Antebellum Women’s Movement, 1820 to 1860: A Unit of Study for Grades 8-11,Organization of American Historians and the Regents, University of California, 1998.
  • Elisabeth Griffith, In Her own Right: The Life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Share your ideas! How would you use this image?

Click here to let us know.

Enlisting the Citizen Consumer in World War II

Del Monte Ad Katharine Kipp, graduate student in the History department at U.C. Davis, shares her thoughts about using advertisements to teach history.

The Marchand Collection features a vast selection of advertisements from various eras. I particularly like those printed during WWII by Del Monte Foods that asked the average citizen, women in particular, to help with the war effort through their consumption habits. I find these ads appealing because they offer an engaging and useful way to discuss the WWII home front. They provide a significant amount of material for students to examine, and do not require reading all of the text in order to fully understand the meaning of the ad as a whole. These images can help enhance lessons covering a wide range of issues.

First, they provide an opportunity for teachers to talk about the role of women on the home front. Typically, classroom discussions draw upon Rosie the Riveter as the primary example of women’s participation in WWII. These ads provide an opportunity to widen the scope on women’s lives during the war. The ads “drafted” female consumers by targeting their domestic sensibilities. They were asked to “Enlist Now!” in an effort to combat the challenges of rationing. Specifically, the ads argue that “Unless You Do Your Part” the rationing system will not work. Essentially these ads help demonstrate the link between a consumer and a patriotic citizen by reminding the audience that purchasing for one’s own self-interest would undermine the war effort. Consumers had to work together with producers to see the nation through the war. Use these ads alone or coupled with war industry ads to discuss the variety of ways women were called upon to contribute to the war effort.

Secondly, teachers can use these ads to help transition to Cold War lessons. They help transition the discussion from self-interest consumption as a potential danger during WWII, to consumption as vital for national stability during the Cold War era.

Finally, I think these ads combined with others from the 1940s and beyond offer an appealing way for students to discuss advertising in general—the importance, pitfalls, and significance. I find ads are a great way to engage students in discussion as they often portray stereotypes and gender roles, provide insight to socioeconomic issues of the era, and offer a glimpse into the mindsets of both the producer and consumer.

Click here to explore more advertising images in the Marchand Archive. How do you use advertisements to teach history? Share your thoughts here.

What does it mean to "Keep within compass?"

Keep within Compass

Title:  “Keep within compass,” 1785-1805

About the image: Contemporary English print advising women to “Keep within compass.”

Suggestions for Using this Image in the Classroom:

This image could spur a class discussion about how society viewed women at the turn of the eighteenth century.  After having students engage in a close observation of it lead the class in a discussion of the following:

  • What do you see outside of the circle? What stands out to you?
  • What is a compass, what is it used for, and what does it mean to “Keep within Compass?”
  • What does this image suggest about societal expectations of women in the late 1700s and early 1800s?
  • Expand the discussion by looking at similar images that include men found here or by finding other examples of the use of the proverb “Keep within compass.”
  • Compare the image with ones from later time periods and discuss what has changed in the way society defines the roles of it’s members.
  • Ask students to create a drawing interpreting their modern day compass.

For more on women’s roles in society during the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century see the resources in the National Humanities Center Toolbox Library .

Related Topics/Themed Collections: Eighteenth Century, Women in the Revolution

Related Lessons in the Marchand Collection:

  • Women Outside the Compass 1880-1922 by Sarah Scheeline, ONLINE – AVAILABLE ON THE HISTORY PROJECT WEBSITE
  • The Lowell Mills & the Women Who Worked There by Pamela Tindall, IN PRINT – AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE MARCHAND LIBRARY
  • Northern Reform Communities’ Town Hall Meeting by Jeff Pollard, IN PRINT – AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE MARCHAND LIBRARY

Related  Resources Available in the Marchand Collection:

  • Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience
  • Miriam Gurko, The Ladies of Seneca Falls: The Birth of the Woman’s Rights Movement

Share your ideas! How would you use this image? Let us know here.