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!

Desperately In Need of Someone To Make Supper . . .

Knowledge, uplift and a mutton chop.

Knowledge, uplift and a mutton chop.

We all agreed only yesterday that women should remain attractive in all they do. A well-made apron adds the perfect touch. The Delineator Magazine of January 1886 offers us some much needed further advice for planning our day. Slip out for a nice morning walk and then heat up the wood stove for an average day of cooking in your favorite dress–watch the ruffles and the trains! There are meals to be made:


Cooked Wheat with Cream

A Ragout or Mutton Chop

Lyonnaise Potatoes    Graham Gems

Home Baked White and Graham Breads



Warm Meat in Slices

Baked or Fried Potatoes   Canned or Cooked Fruit

Rebecca Cake

Tea or Coffee


Tomato or Bisque Soup

Baked Fish with Oyster Sauce

Roast Goose

Apple Sauce   Boiled Onions

Potato Puff   Celery Salad

Spanish Cream

Nuts   Fruit



Hmm, now where's my apron?

Hmm, now where’s my apron?

Contrary to popular belief many middle class women did not have servants but for the lucky ones here was some very useful advice:

“Pick a sturdy German girl for drudgery (Buck Crenshaw in my fifth novel picks a German girl to help his wife but she quits)

Where hours are irregular, and where the house mother needs sympathy . . .the warm-hearted Irish.

For loyalty and conscientious attention to duty . . . the Scotch cannot be surpassed.

Whatever the nationality of our domestics we are all one family and one in our Father.

In Englewood where my books take place it was more common to hire black servants since after the Civil War many settled in the Fourth Ward of the town. Margaret Crenshaw’s servant Lucretia is a trusted friend and Margaret promises Buck she will find the best house servant for Buck’s new wife even if it’s only an Irish girl.