Book Reviews -- Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post by Helen Damon-Moore

Article excerpt

Damon-Moore, Helen. Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. 263 pp. $17.95.

Magazines for the Millions is a detailed comparative analysis of the editorial and advertising content of seventeen years of the Ladies Homes Journal and The Saturday Evening Post. The book provides interesting reading for magazine history buffs and presents insightful details about the editorial philosophies of three important editors from 1883 to 1910.

The author's stated goal is to study how the two Curtis Publishing Company magazines constructed public and private spheres for men and women and thereby created an interdependent relationship between gender and commerce. The goals are laudable, and the research methodology is solid. The problem is that the book does not adequately deal with obvious questions.

The author exhibits a case of presentism and gives slight attention to the roles that reader acceptance and editorial realities play in the power of any medium to inculcate values. While, in today's society, we may deplore the gender limitations created by the role assignments reflected in these two important magazines, editors striving to establish new mass communication media seldom understand the repercussions of their actions as they struggle to meet marketing demands.

The book touches on the fact that readers could have rejected the ideas but never discusses the complexity of the editorial and marketing processes. In the epilogue, the author shows a clearly present-day feminist vision that clouds historical study. The author presents the magazines' portrayals of "woman as consumer and man as provider" as somehow sinister rather than as a reflection of the times. An equally valid interpretation of establishing women as consumers could be that editors saw this as a historically possible emowerment tool to help women gain more control of economics and subsequently gain more control over other areas of their lives. …