SPCH 350

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As our society modernizes it’s
forgotten the struggles that the woman used to face in the early 1900’s. Women in
the early 1900’s was to be the “perfect” housewife that was the main goal of
every woman it was even more important than being a mother. Men looked for a
housewife in a potential spouse in whatever woman who fulfill the role. In
Cather’s novel Mrs. Forrester’s relationship with Mr. Forrester depicts her as
the model wife. Cather writes that men “…could not imagine Mrs.Forrester in
any dress or situation in which she would not be charming.” (Cather 6). The men
in the town have a mindset of how women should look and behave, and Mrs.
Forrester was the pure essence of those beliefs. Wife’s were viewed as property
more than a person; their sole existence was to serve them”
(“Women’s History in America”). On June 4th 1919 the 19th
Amendment to the U.S Constitution was passed and woman got the right to vote an
America started seeing woman as the “New Woman”. Women started exploring their
role in society as beneficial contributors

By the time woman got the right to
vote, America was going thru great changes the economy was at a rise, there
were better wages, less working hours. America was turning into a consumer
society. A new sense of the traditional family was forming in America; The
working girl image became very popular as well. Women often worked as
salesclerks, secretaries and telephone operators. The “flapper” image was also
popular, a strong economy and a new sense of morality is what made this period
the “Roaring Twenties”.

 A new generation of women was starting, issues
such as women’s suffrage, women in the work force, and hope of equality began
to rise in the air in world overpowered by men.  America viewed woman as strong independent and
equal to men everyway. Critics compared their ideals to that of men with the
drinking, smoking and sexual experimentation they took part in. Flappers pushed
the envelope for social norms of woman flappers. “I pay our woman so they can
dress attractively and get married” – Henry Ford, single woman were considered
working woman.

Manufacturers, distributors, and
retailers realize significance of using their advertising to target woman. Ads
were designed and published to speak primarily for women, not that in the
preceding years ads were not for woman. The ads speak to house wives, saying
that they have a wide variety of products to choose from. Ranging from a polish
to protect her floor wood and furniture, dusting pads and mops that, according
to their ad “reduce cleaning, dusting and polishing to almost nothing”.  A
good illustration of the life of women early during those days can be seen in
the advertisement O-cedar print ad year 1900 (fig. 1 below).  This
advertisement reflects the stereotypical depictions of women as a “Happy
Homemaker”, apron-clad and committed mothers portrayed in self-promotional ads.

Strathmore Paper company published
in the periodical “Appealing to Women in Advertising”; fifty percent of all
advertising appeal and targeted women. In addition, Hill notes that a number of
sources suggested that 85 percent of all manufactured consumer goods were
purchased by women in the early nineteenth century. The concept in the
Strathmore paper ad also reflects a fundamental change in advertising at this
time. By 1920’s marketing techniques for targeting women become sophisticated
and effective. Advertising helped convert a population of homemade products to
consumers of mass-produced goods. With the growing inventions of new products
and services, women also were the dominating consumer population. Self-promotional
ads by agencies began to emphasize that they understood the target marketing,
and that the most important target for advertising was women. The idea of
target marketing to women and using the images of women in various print ads
even became a theme used in consumer ad campaign. According to Charles Daniel
Frey, author of the poetic ad in the Hollow of her Hand expressed that “She is
the spender of the nation”. Which means that even when advertising was for
men’s products, the women must be the goal consumers. Frey’s ad extended the
message to the manufacturers and advertisers that “whatever they have to sell,
the message should be aim at the American women.

Consequently, the effects and
impact of this was truly life changing. According to the article History of the
19th Amendment, “By the beginning of the 20th century, the role of women in
American society was changing drastically; women were working more, receiving a
better education, bearing fewer children, and several states had authorized
female suffrage.” It gave women equal authority and control that men had. It
was a period of confidence and a sense that they could achieve more and thirst
for more liberty in a world where in the past, they were considered
subordinated and only as a man’s property. The societal relationship between
the woman of the house/homemaker and domestic help obviously had shifted. With
the growth of industrial jobs to attract the young, single, middle class white
women and an increase in immigration, a strict distinction between employer and
employee emerged. Women went not only from homebound producers to wage-earning
consumers but also got involved in political and social reforms in the short
course of twenty years. Though these women were not always seen as politically
productive by men of their time, many women became successful in their
new-found roles.

The status of women drastically
shifted from homebound producers to an independent wage-earning consumers. They
even succeeded working traditional male jobs and demand more wages and
political rights. Clearly, Women’s roles were constantly evolving. Their lives
were shaped by extraordinary events from traditional beliefs, political and
economic upheavals, religious conflict, and intellectual transformation.
Women’s roles evolved from local to widespread, from producer to consumer, and
from homebound to community oriented.

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