A History of Popular Women's Magazines in the United States, 1792-1995

A History of Popular Women's Magazines in the United States, 1792-1995

A History of Popular Women's Magazines in the United States, 1792-1995

A History of Popular Women's Magazines in the United States, 1792-1995

Synopsis

Throughout their history, women's mass circulation journals have played a major role in the lives of millions of American women. Yet the women's magazines of the early 20th century were quite different from those perused by women today. This book looks at changes that occurred in these journals and offers insight into these changes. Business forces formed a key shaping mechanism, tempered by individual editors, readers, advertisers, technology, and cultural and social forces.

Excerpt

Women's magazines have long posed a mystery to me. I first became intrigued when I reviewed issues of Good Housekeeping and Delineator from the 1920s and 1930s for a project concerning investigative reporter Vera Connolly, who published her articles in mass circulation women's journals. Some items in these early twentieth-century titles seemed familiar (advice columns, fashion), but much about them appeared different from the publications my friends and I read. Some variations came from changes in styles and technology. But other alterations seemed more substantive. The earlier women's magazines were bigger. They carried lengthy articles on a broad range of social, political, and cultural topics. Famous writers, political figures, crusaders for social justice all appeared.

How did women's magazines change? Why? And with what effect on their readers? Seeking answers to these questions started me on a long journey, the results of which appear in this book. My primary purpose was to trace the development of popular women's journals and determine why they unfolded as they did. This led me to look at the creation and distribution of the publications, as well as the message they sent and how that message varied over time.

I soon realized that content alone did not spell success or failure for a publication; a broader framework was needed. I came to the view that business and industry forces formed essential shaping mechanisms for women's magazines. Individual editors, readers, advertisers, technology, and cultural and social forces also affected the creation of the journals, in diverse ways and with varying weight at different points in time. But from the rise of the mass circulation magazine industry in the post-Civil War years through the present, business pressures and industry competition have created the context against which these other elements have played out. Thus my approach has involved looking at the structure of the women's magazine industry over time and . . .

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