Any 20th Century advertising portraying
“a woman’s place” would be politically incorrect today

Please review the adver­tise­ments in this post about advertising’s por­tray­al of “a woman’s place,” with a spe­cif­ic mind­set: that we reach out to dif­fer­ent media depend­ing upon the dif­fer­ent role we are in at any giv­en moment. 

A role is a state of mind. It can be dri­ven by occu­pa­tion or inter­ests, by pre­vail­ing cir­cum­stances or, yes, by gender. 

Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent roles at dif­fer­ent times of the day, the month or the year.  Peo­ple, male or female, will read busi­ness peri­od­i­cals when they are in an office and trav­el mag­a­zines when they plan a vaca­tion. An investor, who plays golf, will be attract­ed to finan­cial media when in the role of an investor; he or she will read sports mag­a­zines or sports pages when in the role of golfer. 

A man or woman—at one and the same time—can be an investor, a sports fan, a par­ent, a stu­dent, a vaca­tion­er, a home mak­er, a plan­ner of din­ner for the fam­i­ly or guests.  The role is dif­fer­ent for each state of mind. 

Adver­tis­ers pro­mot­ing con­sumer or indus­tri­al goods and services—be it advanced machin­ery or kitchen appli­ances, sport­ing goods or leisure activity—will cre­ate adver­tise­ments with appeal to poten­tial customers—men or women—when they are most like­ly to be in a pur­chas­ing role relat­ed to the prod­uct or ser­vice being offered. 

Mag­a­zine con­tent is direct­ed to read­ers in their roles at the time they hold the mag­a­zine in their hands. Engi­neer­ing Digest appeals to engi­neers when they are in that role where their tech­ni­cal knowl­edge and skills are being applied. Good House­keep­ing, as the title sug­gests, is direct­ed to the read­er when that read­er is in the role of home­mak­er, not when the read­er is in the role of investor, or vaca­tion­er, or sports fan, or engi­neer although they could be any or all of those some oth­er time. 

A woman would read Engi­neer­ing Digest in the role of engi­neer and Good House­keep­ing in the role of homemaker. 

These would be unacceptable today. They show that manufacturers and their creative advertising teams apparently believed there was “a woman’s place”

“For there,  in the sunny kitchen of the new home stands her gleaming Moffat “Golden Jubilee” Electric Range”

This was 1932.  Moffat had been making cooking ranges in Canada for fifty years. Their golden Jubilee!

Take a minute to read this advertisement in Maclean’s Magazine and wonder how the manufacturer’s advertising agency viewed women

“ HAPPY DAY!  Happy Bride! The kiss at the altar  .. . the triumphant strains of the “Wedding March … the flowers  … confetti … felicitations.  Then, the hurried leavetaking … the honeymoon … and, at last, the joy of coming home, to embark on the great adventure of housekeeping.

Wow! Just what every woman wants — housekeeping! But what a thrilling adventure housekeeping promises to be!

“ For there, in the sunny kitchen of her new home stands her gleaming Moffat “Golden Jubilee” Electric Range … her very own, for life! “

Sounds like a prison sentence. But wait, there’s more.

“What bride wouldn’t be proud of such a range? Beautiful  … immaculate … modern to the minute … a fast, sure efficient worker … with undreamed-of refinements and labour-lightening features, and a marvellous thermomatically-controlled oven that bakes and roasts without even watching!

Don’t you just love the phrase “labour-lightening? Wouldn’t you just love to cook with such a range?

No guessing, no uncertainty, no disappointments.

And here is the appealing pitch at the end of this —

Think what new laurels you could win … what delicious surprises you could offer the family … how much more delightful cooking could be!

All this and the new Moffats “cost no more than ordinary ranges.”

She was married six months and she wanted to give up housekeeping until she found Old Dutch


She said she want­ed a job that takes brains and the lit­tle Dutch girl told her house­keep­ing takes brains if you do it right. “Old Dutch gets you through yur work in half the time.”

In the final frame the new groom says: “No more com­plain­ing about the dai­ly grind of housekeeping”

And she says “I find it’s easy and inter­est­ing with Old Dutch.”

How well would this advertisement sell today?
printers devil

Fifty years ago, A Woman’s Place”, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Mar­ket­ing Research, sum­ma­rized a study of the roles por­trayed by women in mag­a­zine adver­tise­ments. Alice E. Court­ney, Sarah Wer­nick Lok­eretz, Fac­ul­ty of Admin­is­tra­tive Stud­ies, York Uni­ver­si­ty, Toron­to, Ontario, con­duct­ed the research.

They sought answers to the oft repeat­ed asser­tions that a woman’s place is in the home, or in the kitchen, or that women are depen­dant and need men’s pro­tec­tion.  Par­tic­u­lar atten­tion was con­cen­trat­ed on com­par­ing the occu­pa­tion­al and non-work­ing roles of men and women as por­trayed in advertisements.