Academic journal article Journalism History

Inarticulate Longings: The Ladies' Home Journal, Gender and the Promises of Consumer Culture

Academic journal article Journalism History

Inarticulate Longings: The Ladies' Home Journal, Gender and the Promises of Consumer Culture

Article excerpt

Scanlon, Jennifer. Inarticulate Longings: The Ladies' Home Journal, Gender and the Promises of Consumer Culture. New York: Routledge, 1995. 278 pp. $16.95.

The Ladies' Home Journal is one of the most studied and admired women's magazines ever published. Still a circulation and advertising giant, the Journal was the first magazine to exceed one million circulation, and it set many early advertising records. Editorially, the Journal invented the modern advice column, campaigned against worthless patent medicines and taught women home management. Jennifer Scanlon's Inarticulate Longings looks at the Journal as an artifact of popular culture, as well as both a shaper and reflector of womanhood and the emerging consumer culture from 1910-1930.

Using feminist thought, interdisciplinary texts, and census data, Scanlon analyzes the Journal's advice, fiction and advertisements to show how it presented a clear yet limited vision of womanhood and a "domestic ideology that defined editors as experts, advertisers as prophets, and, most importantly, women as consumers." She begins with Edward Bok's editorship and his belief that women were domestic creatures who could best serve the nation by influencing their husbands and sons. Along with this narrow sphere of influence, women also were the primary consumers for the family and a prime target of advertisers.

Turn-of-the-century Journal readers were white, American-born, middle-class women whose lives revolved around marriage and the family. According to Scanlon, these women had "inarticulate longings" for self-worth, personal and financial independence, sensuality, social recognition, and less drudgery in the home. The Journal's advertisers channeled these longings into consumption patterns. Ads for Woodbury's Facial Soap, Pond's Cold Cream, Wizard Triangle Mop and Seller's Kitchen Cabinet "promised not only the reward of less work but the implied rewards of greater autonomy, romance, and lasting youthfulness. …

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