The book Women's Magazines 1940-1960 gives us a good image into what the daily life of women in these era's was like. Their were hero's like Rosie the Riveter, that told you to be pretty, but strong. Then there was the ideal women who was a perfect entertainer and always dressed accordingly. The magazines were also littered with what would today be considered offensive advertisements for items like vacuums and panty hose. The magazines primarily advertised domestic goods and were a way of oppressing women without their being aware of it. Most magazines were run and edited by men who decided what should be written and what advertisements should be used. The deepest issue they get into is that of war, and whether or not America should become involved. But this issue is quickly put to the side when more important things like how to wear your uniform or make your husband more successful.
In an article from Ladies Home Journal titled "Women and War," the author audaciously says, "I believe that the whole question of war and peace is a women's question, and we can decide it as we will. If the thirty-seven million women of the United States should will not to go to war on a particular occasion, there should be no war." (p 31) This would be very motivating for women, to assign that much power to them, if the author did not finish up her thought with, "since not all of us are given to thought."
Many articles focus on how to be a good wife. One gave suggestions to women on how she could please her husband. Before her husband came home from work, she was expected to have dinner ready and on the table. She was also anticipated to prepare herself by putting make up on, doing her hair, anything that could make her look refreshed upon his arrival. Not only was she to pamper herself, but she was supposed to pamper her children, whether it be giving them a bath or changing their clothes. Since she was a housewife, she was to insure the house was spotless. The noise level was to be minimized. It was the women's responsibility to keep the marriage together, not the mans. He had to work. Articles like, "Making Marriage Work" and "How to Help Your Husband Get Ahead" helped with those problems.
Women had to remember that their husband's just spent a long, hard day at work. If he wasn't present, she would have no source of income and therefore would be at a state of financial ruin. Before the war women did not have very many opportunities of employment, and after the war they were encouraged to return to the home. Women's working was becoming the cause of teenage delinquency. In "Mothers Our Only Hope" a desperate J. Edgar Hoover begs the parents to raise their children well, and if not absolutely necessary for financial means, the mother should stay at home. (p 45)
Women's roles were confined to a small list of responsibilities. As a result, they were seen as a minority. Society convinced women that they weren't capable of performing any work outside of the home. They were to stay home to cook, clean, take care of the children, and any other aspect involving the home. This was their sole responsibility. There wasn't anything else they were allowed or expected to do.
It had been implicitly preached to the woman of these eras that men and women were not equal intellectually. These ideologies held not only be men were being reinforced as early as 1912 when good housekeeping published "A Prophecy of the Future" by Thomas A Edison called the women of the future. It foreshadowed a day when a housewife should be "neither a slave to servants or herself a drudge" but instead a "domestic engineer" assisted by "the greatest of all hand maidens, electricity." (p 145) In the time saved with electrical appliances, women would "allow their brains to evolve, finally, equal those of men" (p. 145)
The magazines stress the need for women to be educated and even are so radical as to say that they should be involved in politics. But they contradict themselves by writing my favorite article, "Are You Too Educated to be a Mother?" According to the article, a woman who goes to college is far less likely to have kids. More dramatically, its states a geneticists' opinion that, "there is danger of outright decline in the physical and mental make-up of our population. We are not reproducing the best of ourselves." (p 115)
The magazines also talk about women being important in the work place, encouraging women to be working, but only for a very short while. The most significant article that refutes this is titled, "You Can't Have a Career and be a Good Wife." At one point it says of the relationships between two people with careers: "The picture of this ideal relationship has a deceptive and meretricious brightness. It is only after years of observation and experience that one realizes how superficial that brightness is; realizes, too, that the best marriages do not necessarily glitter on the surface at all, but are solid affairs built on time-tested tradition." (p 71-72) Just reading this sentence makes me angry. Its hard to imagine how far we have progressed as a sex in what really isn't that much time. The magazines, though many articles are written by women, still put females into one group, instead of letting them be individuals. They group ideas by saying "we" should or should not feel a certain way. The voice of the individual women in suppressed by the voice of the majority, or at least the pen holder. Women were told their role and these articles supported their strides toward becoming a good wife, mother, and hostess. When a need for women in the work force appeared, the articles took a "call of duty" approach and were empowering women to contribute and be good wives in a new way. These magazines don't show the an independent women of the times, but a women always trying to better herself for marriage. The magazines are a reflection of a patriarchal society because it clearly and continuously reinforces ideas that had a Y-chromosomal bias.