Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies' Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880-1910

By Helen Damon-Moore | Go to book overview

6
Speaking to and about Men: The Content of the Post,
1897-1900

The Saturday Evening Post between 1897 and 1900 was a complicated publication. It was a weak, dying magazine given new life upon Curtis's acquiring it; it was a fledgling commercial magazine under Lorimer's early editorial leadership; and it came to be a magazine intended for men but speaking to some women's interests as well. The Post reflected its time, even as it attempted to comment on and to shape it. Lorimer shared with Knapp the challenge of interpreting his own gender role, albeit less consciously, to members of his own gender group. He shared with Bok the challenge of reacting as a man to the changes occurring in the lives of middle-class women at the turn of the century.

The Post's content focused on the public realm for the most part. Men were viewed primarily as breadwinners and as citizens concerned with public issues. Like Bok, Lorimer was informed by the concept of a clear division between public and private matters, but he employed that division very differently. Like Knapp, Lorimer believed that middle-class women had a right to expand their activity at the turn of the century. As a result, while he focused on public matters and on men mainly as public actors, Lorimer invited at least some women to join men in that public realm. The Post's commentary on women between 1897 and 1900 was distinctly affirming and supportive of change.

Moreover, the Post's commentary on women's lives in these years was direct and open, unlike its commentary on men. This contrast was a result largely of the fact that middle-class women who were seeking to improve their lot were working actively for change. In the main, middle-class men were simply seeking to preserve their power and privilege relative to women. Consequently, we see in the pages of the Post that men were defined less explicitly, that images of good men were conveyed most clearly in the magazine's fiction, and that the ideas the magazine did not contain were sometimes as important as those it did contain. We see, above all, the interactive nature of gender-role norms. Lorimer and his contributors were reacting to changes in women's lives in part by refining, slightly and subtly, images of masculinity.

Locating the Post in the gender culture of its early years is a necessary but difficult task. Our knowledge of interactive gender relations in the nineteenth century is still limited, as is our knowledge of ordinary men. Even when we

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