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A history of the woman’s magazine

Posted by: | November 10, 2014 | No Comment |

Long before America was declared an independent country, the first magazines were being published.  From these beginnings, they largely covered the following topics: commerce, politics, manners, society, and women.

Why did magazines discuss women so much?

Articles about women were largely published because in both the pre and post decades of revolutionary America, where were ever changing ideas about the role of the woman in society.  The woman’s role inside and outside of the home was especially debated.  From this debate, emerged a market of magazines aimed directly toward women. 

The earliest woman’s magazine in America was the Lady’s Magazine and Repository of Entertaining Knowledge, which was first published in 1792 in Philadelphia.  This particular magazine focused on housework, a topic that would continue to maintain future women’s magazines.

The trend of keeping good housework and “female improvement” continued in the first real successful magazine, Goodey’s Lady’s Book, which was first published by Sarah Josepha Hale in 1837.  Goodey’s laid the foundation for the “big six” women’s magazines: Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Home Companion, Good Housekeeping, Delineator, McCall’s, and the Pictorial Review.

goedys1

Image from: http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess/images/goedys1.gif

These woman’s magazines were not largely political, though through them, one can really track the changing attitudes towards women during the 19th and 20th centuries. Woman’s magazines during this time however, were more advice and lifestyle driven.

Commercial magazines, like Cosmopolitan, that we are familiar with today, did not emerge as successful until the 1960s.  Such magazines became a success during this time, because for the first time, it was acceptable to flaunt their feminism and sexuality.  Where magazines could not address such topics before, they now could, and the gap in the market rapidly filled with printed issues featuring the free, modern woman.

early cosmo

Image from: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/news/g2151/helen-gurley-brown-cosmo-covers/?slide=1

 

under: Comm 455
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