Date of Award
Master of Arts
Ellery Sedgwick, Ph.D.
Robert L. Lynch, Ph.D.
Jena A. Burges, Ph.D.
This thesis compares the editorial strategies of the women's magazine Ladies' Home Journal in 1905 and 1955. Throughout the twentieth century, the. Journal rapidly became one of the first mass circulation magazines offering a newly affluent middle class low subscription prices supported by the advertisement of consumer products. It both reflected and sought to shape its readers' values, interests, and attitudes.
Throughout its history, beginning with its founding in 1879, the Journal advocated a conservative view womanhood, maintaining that women should feel fulfilled through their relationships with others, their domestic responsibilities, and their duties of childcare. As the culture changed, however, the magazine was forced to develop new strategies to maintain and expand readership. Advancements in the rights of women to lead lives which included more of the outside world threatened the Journal’s value system and its circulation. As. women began to seek a larger sense of self through non-domestic activities, the Journal sought to keep and expand its readership by giving domestic duties a patina of progressivism and glamour.
In 1905, the Journal sought to reaffirm family life while simultaneously convincing readers that they were keeping up with cultural changes. The Journal’s content was. a basic how to- guide for the domestic woman. But the advent of the New Woman at the tum of the century challenged Journal editors· who wanted to appear to keep up with the times but did not want to endorse the New Woman's- lifestyle. It did this by giving readers a sense of managerial professionalism in the home by incorporating current cultural trends such as home economics, sanitation, and child psychology into its domestic content and selling modern products to make women's duties seem progressive. The Journal’s essential strategy reflects its double motive: both to both promote a conservative view of womanhood and to increase readership while selling consumer products.
By 1955 more women were going to college and working before marriage; some put off marriage indefinitely. Despite women's progress, the Journal continued its basic strategy of trying to keep readers in the home living traditionally by portraying their lives as modem. But it also modified this strategy by discussing more. of the world beyond the home, such as celebrities, social issues, and worldwide events, while acknowledging some of the problems of family life. More than in 1905, many women in 1955 resented being constricted to domesticity. One sign of this growing restlessness in the Journal in 1955 was near perfection in personal appearance. But the Journal packaged this in a domestic and consumer context, promoting a perfect image that gave glamour to the traditional lifestyle. This new emphasis on personal glamour helped both to reconcile women to domesticity and to sell the Journal and the cosmetic products it advertised.
The fiction, advertisements, editorials, and columns in the Ladies ' Home Journal are analyzed as reflections of its moral and commercial values and its editorial strategies for slowing the women's movement and keeping American women confined to the domestic sphere despite cultural change.
Ellington, Amanda, "Selling the "Professional" Housewife: Editorial Strategy in Ladies Home Journal 1905 and 1955" (2003). Theses, Dissertations & Honors Papers. 101.