Women’s magazines from the 1930’s were filled with stereotypes and misogyny, according to a researcher.
In this programme, Helen Wills-Jones investigates the stories behind some of the most iconic magazines from that era.
Wills has written about magazines and their influence on society since her PhD research on the history of the fashion industry was published in 1984.
She said: “I think women’s publications were an important part of a society that was already being challenged in the late 19th century, and they were a very male-dominated field.”
I think a lot of the women’s-only magazines were very overtly political, and often quite sexist.
“Women’s publications, and particularly women’s fashion, were very much an alternative to the traditional male-led industry, and many of them had their roots in the Victorian era.”
‘They were the source of inspiration’A number of publications were influenced by women’s issues, including the women-owned New Yorker and the Woman’s Liberation movement, which was formed in the US by a group of female writers.
These publications were also influential in shaping the fashion and beauty industries of the 20th century.
“One of the main sources of inspiration for me is The New Yorker, which is the magazine of choice for the magazine industry, as well as the New York Times, which has a great interest in women’s beauty and beauty science,” Wills told Al Jazeera.
“A lot of what the magazines were trying to do was to break down the male-centric world, and women’s work was at the forefront of that.”
The women’s liberation movement in the United States, the magazine argued, had to be a response to the economic and social oppression of women.
“It was the first magazine that was really about women,” Wampers said.
So the suffragan movement was very much about breaking down those male-dominant institutions, and that’s why the magazines had to change to reflect that.””
What happened in the U.S. after the Second World War was that the suffragists and the women in the civil rights movement were actually trying to break out of the suffrage system.
So the suffragan movement was very much about breaking down those male-dominant institutions, and that’s why the magazines had to change to reflect that.”
Wampers has written a book called The Women’s Liberation Movement: A History of Women’s Suffrage in America, which traces the origins of the magazine and the suffracist movement.
“The suffraga movement was really a response,” she said.
‘It was women who wrote it’A key element of the magazines’ mission was to educate the public about women’s empowerment, and it was women, in particular, who wrote some of its most powerful articles, she said, and a lot was made about what women should look like.
“They were often very, very tall, very pretty, very athletic, and their clothes were often pretty much like women’s clothing in the 19th and 20th centuries,” she explained.
“In fact, there were a lot more women in those magazines than there were men.”
Women’s bodies are still a target of ridiculeToday, Wampings said, women are still subject to the stigma of their bodies and how they look.
“That is one of the reasons why women are so scared of their own bodies.
It’s a way of saying, ‘We’re not your equals’,” she said to Al Jazeera, explaining that in the early 1900s, magazines like the New Yorker were a popular source of women’s stories.
“Because the newspapers didn’t have enough women writers, and the magazines didn’t publish enough women,” she told Al Jazeeras.
“There was this idea that women were not supposed to be sexy, and in fact that they were too ugly.”
Wills- Jones is currently writing a book about the history and impact of the New Republic, a pioneering magazine in the 1960s and 1970s.
“I am also interested in the fact that the magazine was very feminist, and had a feminist view of women,” said Wamphers.
“We have a long history of feminism and social justice, and I think that the NewRepublic was a key source of that, as it was the magazine that championed the social and economic equality of women, as opposed to the men’s movement.”
The magazine that helped break down those [male-dominated] male-only structures was The New Republic.
They would say, ‘No, I’m not a woman’,” Wampkins explained.””
There were a few women who had very long hair, and if you looked at them and said, ‘What do you look like, do you like to be called?’
They would say, ‘No, I’m not a woman’,” Wampkins explained.”
If you asked them if they thought it was sexy, they would say that they liked it