Consuming Angels: Advertising and Victorian Women

By Lori Anne Loeb | Go to book overview
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2 Commercial Interpretations of the Domestic Ideology

A woman, eyes shielded from the sun by her bonnet, sleeves rolled up past her elbows, and dress carefully protected by a pristine white apron, does her laundry. Her arms look strong and capable as she wrings a garment into a sturdy wooden bucket. Her attention is diverted toward two young children, a boy and a girl, who peer over the sides of the laundry tub to blow at a toy boat floating alongside the laundry. The woman smiles benignly at the children at play. Another woman emerges in the foreground. With a broad back, one arm bent and the other carrying a bucket, she presents a stereotypical image of the washerwoman. Behind them, a basket of laundry lies carefully folded. A Chinese man draws water from the well. The garden is bordered by a white picket fence. A single sun. flower rises above it. Two doves circle a church tower in the background Overhead, dark clouds have opened up to reveal a piercing ray of light and a winged angel. Incongruously, an oversized box of Sinclair's Cold Water Soap is slashed across the scene. The caption reads, "Saves Money, Saves Labour, Saves Time, Saves Fuel . . . the Family Wash without the Miser of a Steamy House."

This advertisement, widely reprinted in the middle-class press in 18851 draws on a heavily romanticized view of domestic toil. Clearly, the manufacturer intended the consumer to imagine that washing would be an esy, indeed a relaxing and pleasurable task with Sinclair's Soap. He hoped associate his product with positive imagery--angelic children, the wholesome outdoors, peaceful doves, even heavenly angels.

But this advertisement also conveys, along with other suggestive

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