August 28, 2018

Hi friends,

At a church bazaar in Pittsburgh last month, I purchased several copies of Woman’s Day from the 1940’s and 1950’s. Many of these issues inexplicably used kittens as cover models and ran SO many Jello recipes.

There was also a riveting editor’s letter in the February 1940 issue, which addressed a previous article that readers declared a pro-Nazi diatribe "edited by some Moscow stooge." The piece, “We Who Have Sons,” advocated for American neutrality and was written by Rose Wilder Lane — a sometimes communist and the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The letter maintained that Woman’s Day held "no stand on one side or another of Europe’s war today." That statement is wild (it was the HOLOCAUST), but it’s also not entirely accurate.

This week’s Clipped focuses on propaganda in women’s magazines during WWII, but first — this is is our twentieth issue! Thank you all for joining us on this journey. You're the friggen best.

xx Danielle

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reporting on propaganda

In response to backlash against Lane's story, the magazine published an article by Mark Sullivan, entitled "Propaganda — An Emotional Trap." Sullivan's story is a reminder that media at the time was much better at distributing propaganda than it was at identifying it. 

Sullivan urges readers to not believe the "atrocity stories" coming from across the pond. The spread shows a picture of a Polish girl crying over the body of her "machine-gunned sister" but dismisses it as a play on emotions:

"If the situation in Europe becomes violent, we will hear of atrocities that will make our blood boil. Then, as in the last war, false propaganda may pour gasoline on smouldering rage and hate and fear and sympathy." 

Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) had happened over a year before this article was published. But Sullivan doesn't mention any specific atrocities. He talks only of America's need to mind its own business and let Europe destroy itself, if it must. 

This opinion was fairly commonplace in media — until Pearl Harbor. 

September 1943 issue of Vogue
auntie samantha wants you

Today's political leaders are trying to ostracize the media anywhere they can, but, after Pearl Harbor, the Magazine Bureau and the War Advertising Council ensured that women’s magazines pretty much acted as arms of the government.

The Magazine Bureau released a “Magazine War Guide” to guide editors through employment recruitment themes and distributed information booklets — such as, "War Jobs for Women" in 1942. These booklets sought to convince these editors that women could do jobs traditionally seen as men’s work and glamorized these industries. Welding — but make it fashion!

"War Jobs for Women" was also super upfront about that fact that once the boys came home, women must return to their roles as wives and homemakers. “All positions on the federal payroll are quite literally wartime jobs,” this booklet read. Employment was meant to last “for the duration of the war and not to exceed six months thereafter.”

Advertisements and editorial spreads urged women to take these temporary jobs, follow ration guidelines and curl their hair and put on bright red lipstick to boost morale (yes, seriously). The Office of War Information and War Manpower Commision also orchestrated a run of patriotic-themed covers across the industry for the September 1943 issues to “make their readers aware of their ‘patriotic duty.’”

Uncle Sam isn’t so visibly involved with magazine covers anymore — unless you count this Nicki Minaj Cosmo cover asking readers to report to "Booty Boot Camp."

WWII propaganda & gender 

Ads and editorials didn’t just urge women to take factory jobs. They also reinforced a few major themes about femininity and gender: Women are the weaker and ditzier sex, women’s most important role is to stay beautiful and feminine in any situation and women ultimately belong at home.

Many of the women in war jobs had been employed before Pearl Harbor, as the Great Depression led to a rise in lower-paid female employees. Advertisements about buying fridges to help war reconstruction efforts reflected "a search for a return to order” to satisfy men struck by “diminished ego capacity.”

The effect of this propaganda is outlined in Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, where she points the finger at magazines for creating the stereotype of homemakers perfectly content to  mind families and husbands.

These campaigns also had racist implications. In Bitter Fruit: African American women in World War II, Maureen Honey writes about the lack of media representing the 600,000 African American women in the labor force.

“[The] sea of white faces erased the contributions of African American women made to the home front war on racism, while it left for posterity the white images of Rosie the Riveter, the glamorous pinup, the female soldier, the compassionate nurse, and the brave mother.”

So, propaganda preached that "You Can Do It." But, not forever and you may not get credit for it. 

in other magazine news
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Thanks for reading, and hit us up! We want to know your memories with magazines, including what you loved and hated. And if you’ve never read a women’s mag, welcome. Send notes and scans:

Copyright © 2018 CLIPPED, All rights reserved.
Written by
Natalie Daher and Danielle Fox. Designed by Martina Ibanez-Baldor.
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