Women Accepting Their Roles Due to Consumerism

By Ryan Weiner

 

As more and more families moved out of the cities and into the suburbs, domestic roles started to develop. One of the most influential factors regarding domestic roles was consumerism, as “the amount spent on household furnishings and appliances rose 240 percent”  during that time (May, 157). The increase in such spending led to clear roles in the household as the wives became the ones who stayed home and dealt with all the appliances, while the husbands earned the money to buy the appliances by working. The role of housewife became important to women as “public opinion polls taken after the war indicate that both men and women were generally opposed to employment for women and believed that a woman who ran a home had a ‘more interesting time’ than did a woman with a full time job” (May, 159). This shows that due to the many appliances that were being added to households, lives were being made easier for women and therefore they became accepting of their roles as housewives. Also, women did not want to work in factories or other jobs because they felt that their role in the home was important: a woman could train her children to live in her particular way and she could create an atmosphere of manners around her own personality, which was the chief source of her effectiveness and power (Cowan, 113). Women’s roles in the home became important to them, and as Elaine Tyler May further argued, the home was the place where a man showed off his success by the accumulation of consumer goods and by surrounding their wives with the commodities, the wives lives became more efficient. The women would be content with their role as housewives because the “appliances would ease their burdens” (May, 156-157).  Therefore, consumerism was crucial to women accepting their roles in domestic life as housewives because the new appliances and goods made their lives easier around the house, which in turn gave them more pride in their housework. It allowed for women to focus more on domestic life and accept that the house is where they wanted to be, not in the work force.

 

The following Ivory Soap advertisement was posted in a magazine in 1925. It is directing the commodity, which is soap, toward the woman of the household. It states how the soap will make things a lot easier for the woman of the house, as her day-to-day activities of cleaning dishes, doing laundry and changing diapers, will be a lot more efficient. The ad also makes note of women’s beauty, as it discusses how the soap will preserve their hands. This ad is important because it promotes an important need for women to make most domestic chores easier for them to accomplish. Also, by discussing a woman’s appearance in the ad it allows women to actually have a sense of themselves and what they do.

Your hands can keep their good looks even though they work in the kitchen

 

“Your hands can keep their good looks even though they work in the kitchen,” 1925. Courtesy of Duke University Libraries.

 

The next advertisement was encouraging woman to go to cooking classes. They would not only learn how to use the many new appliances that are in a kitchen, but also gain home management skills. These type of classes were important for woman because with the extreme amount of new purchases taking place, a woman needed to know how to use them to maximize their efficiency. These classes were designed for the purpose of achieving efficiency.

 

Drawing of woman presenting a table filled with cooked foods. An electric range and a blackboard are behind the table.

“Come to Our Free Cooking School,” 1928. Courtesy of American History Classic Advertisements.

 

The final advertisement was encouraging men to treat their wives in a great way for the holidays by buying them cosmetics for their appearance. The ad preys on the fact that men are the ones who earn the money and can afford the cosmetics goods to make their wives look great. The ad wants the men to acknowledge that the women deserve to look good. And the reason they deserve to look good, even though it is not stated, is because the women work hard throughout the year in the home, so the ad is saying that because of all this hard work that their wives have been doing, the men should reward them.

 

This Christmas make a woman happy

 

“This Christmas Make a Woman Happy,” 1944. Courtesy of the Duke University Libraries.

 

This post was completed as part of assignment on how the idea of home and the concept of domesticity has been used in marketing during different historical moments and in the present. For additional information on the assignment, please visit:https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-selling-home/.

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