A Paradoxical Woman

The question is why she would propose to him.
The question is why she would propose to him.

Helen Rosen Woodward sure had strong opinions. She made a way for herself in the world of advertizing when most of her female co-workers at the office were against suffrage. She was the first female account executive in the US and credited her success to having marketable talents and a likeable personality.

This woman held no punches.
This woman held no punches.

In 1959 she wrote: “It is a mighty swing from this ‘legal “death’–the words are Blackstone’s–to the position that women occupied in 1959, when they controlled seventy percent of the wealth of the country and sometimes wrecked their marriages by earning more than their husbands. Without their understanding how it all came about, women ruled the roost. They had reached this position through fighting, scratching, screaming and also through every device of indirection and charm . . .

“In this climb the women’s magazines with their millions of readers played a major part. To the uninitiated, a woman’s magazine may seem a powdery bit of fluff. No notion could be more unreal or deceptive . . . these publications represent a giant business investment, and have an overwhelming influence on American life . . .

“Toward matriarchal power. Women’s magazines have played a major part in bringing about that “Momism” . . .They have steadily built up women’s authority . . .Slowly women took responsibility, dignity and authority away from men. The American male was portrayed as a kind of Dagwood Bumstead, likeable, lovable, but also foolish and irresponsible and in need of feminine management. But this propaganda had an unexpected result. Women themselves did not like what was happening  . . .it became important to lure men back into the fold with togetherness.”  The Lady Persuaders, Helen Woodward

We will have equality when we wear the same hats!
We will have equality when we wear the same hats!

One might be surprised at this attitude coming from a woman working in magazine advertizing–a woman who fought for unionizing women! But in her mind the magazines had ruined most women by keeping their minds on mush while giving them immense spending  and voting power.

When asked his opinion of women after many years at Ladies' Home Journal, Mr. Bok refused to answer.
When asked his opinion of women after many years at Ladies’ Home Journal, Mr. Bok refused to answer.

The Lady Persuaders is a fascinating look at women’s magazines from the early 1830’s (when Sarah Josepha Hale headed the  successful Godey’s Lady’s Book) through the 1950’s. It offers an interesting snapshot into the mind of a woman in the 1950’s just before the women’s movement of the late 60’s-70’s. Nothing much has changed in magazines from the scolding, advice-giving, judgmental style of these writings . Sex (once disguised as hygiene), before and after decorating, manners and fashion. Politics and deep reading never did well. In fact, Edward Bok, the long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal with an abiding respect for his strong mother, felt it his duty to educate women on important issues of the day. After a campaign highlighting the cruelty involved in obtaining egret feathers for women’s hats (they starved mother egrets to get the long feather) demand for the rare feathers went up.

This didn’t surprise Mrs. Woodward. Women had been made into silly, vain creatures by magazines. What might she say now?

Opinions galore!
Opinions galore!

11 thoughts on “A Paradoxical Woman

  1. My friend has an old book that tells women how to be a good wife. To summarize: wait on your husband hand and foot, he had a rough day out there in the world while you sat home and ate bon bons and only took care of the house and your 8 children. Well, something to that effect.

    Like

    • Funny stuff! I think the goal was to have enough money to have a wife who could sit there looking pretty. The magazines sold this idea to the masses and once women could get their hands on the patterns for clothing to imitate the rich, women ate it up. With new labor saving devices women had more time on their hands (at least in the cities) and a lot of women really were frightened by their changing roles.

      Maybe some of them liked the idea of a magazine telling them how to behave and what to do with themselves–but then if we look at magazines today–Martha Stewart Living, for instance–there’s no way you can do all that stuff (even with labor saving devises). Martha went a little overboard, I think. Though I used to love her old show, I knew that I could never be that driven in ALL things! LOL

      Like

      • My mother in law and I attempted to put up some curtains today. She ironed them, and wondered why they were still wrinkled and then realized she did not push the button for steam.
        We got thru that, and then I stood on a chair to put the curtain rod up, and fell off and fell on the floor.
        We are sooooo talented.

        Like

      • LOL. I used to love Martha Stewart’s chicken coop–she gave it a French name, of course. Two years ago we got chickens but in order to get to our coop in winter you had to carefully walk over ice. I made a beautiful dinner and it waited in the oven. Guess what happened? Yep I fell, broke my arm and dislocated my elbow. The injury was so bad I needed immediate Sunday night during the NFL play-offs surgery. I was supposed to take it easy for a week or so but I wanted to be useful so I ran down into the basement for something and on the way back up I tripped. I saved my bad arm by breaking the fall on my good one. Two years later and the second injury (on the good hand) still pains me at times! haha.

        My husband always says that God’s trying to get me to slow down. 🙂

        I hope you’ve recovered from your fall! And the curtains look nice.

        Like

      • thank you! My hip still hurts (I have an artificial hip on the left side) so of course I fell on my left side on my knee, which pushed my hip up. So it will probably be sore for a few days, but I’ll be ok.

        I think we ALL need to slow down. 😉

        Like

  2. Good Stuff. Marketing a “Do Everything ” lifestyle is much easier than being able to do everything. Bok seems to have realized hid good intent — went bad. Not every woman is his strong mother. You went into my territory — Florida — with mention of Bok. I need to rethink him . Thanks.

    Like

    • Thanks for the Florida connection! His gardens look lovely. He was obviously well-meaning but I’m always uncomfortable with people who think they know better about too many things. You’ve spurred my interest in him!

      Like

      • I have another Florida – New Jersey connection that may interest you — Henry Perrine. His family played significant roles in Staten Island and New Jersey. Henry died during a Seminole attack on Indian Key, so his life and death have historical note.

        Like

      • Oh, I like the way he looks–very studious and suffered from arsenic poisoning! he might have to make his way into one of my books. Always love the Jersey connections. And he helped with the underground railroad? More research to do!

        Thanks, mbracedefreak!

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s