Book Reviews -- Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880-1910 by Helen Damon-Moore
Scanlon, Jennifer, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)
Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, IBBO-1910. Helen Damon-Moore. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994. 263 pp. $17.95 paper.
Turn-of-the-century gender construction in popular magazines, Damon-Moore tells us, was a significantly different process for women readers than it was for men, and for two important reasons. First, women far more than men were viewed as gendered beings with a shared set of interests. Second, the gendered nature of women's lives was intimately connected with their role as consumers. Magazines for the Millions traces the development of different roles for women and men in the pages of two of the most important magazines of the day, the Ladies' Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post. The magazines both responded to and influenced cultural ideas about gender and about consumption, emphasizing gender as a performative act: if one acted a certain way, one would be a man; if one acted another way, one would be a woman. As Damon-Moore argues, the magazines participated in creating a "gendered commercial discourse and a commercial gender discourse."
As someone who writes about the Ladies' Home Journal and consumer culture, I appreciate the contrasts Damon-Moore draws between the gendered nature of consumption in the Journal and the more problematic construction of consumption ideals in the Post. Both publications thrived in a cultural setting in which magazines addressing the middle class found allies in the advertising world. Magazines depended upon advertisers to keep subscription and sales costs down; advertisers depended upon magazines, especially women's magazines, to sell their products. A magazine like the Saturday Evening Post, initially targeting just men, complicated a formula that had worked: women purchased. Advertisers estimated that women purchased 80% of all goods purchased in the early twentieth century The Post, then, had a difficult task: creating consumers of men and/or drawing women to a men's magazine. They attempted both and succeeded best at the latter, ultimately making of the Post a family magazine whose advertisements targeted women consumers. Damon-Moore's work fills in the gaps in this history, providing analyses of the production as well as the consumption of these publications.
Magazines for the millions provides the early histories of the two magazines. …