Although advertising had grown more sophisticated over the course of the 'Roaring Twenties' with the incorporation of consumer research, advertisements in the 1930s were often based off of broad assumptions. Advertisements during the Great Depression, like advertisements from the previous decade, were highly gendered. The imagined female American consumer was a white, middle-class housewife who was both the "family purchasing agent" and easily manipulated.1 Women and girls were fickle, extravagant and irrational consumers compared with the depiction of "boy consumers" who were demanding and industrious.2
"The proper study of mankind is man ... but the proper study of markets is woman."3
Women were responsible for 75-85% of consumer spending in the 1930s.4 However, there were not many women in the advertising industry during this time period. The first female run advertising agency, M.C. Weil Agency, was founded in 1880 by Mathilde C. Weil,5 but by 1930, men still outnumbered women as advertising agents nearly 8-to-1.6 When women were hired, it was often related to accounts in beauty and household products. Women's advertising clubs, such as the Philadelphia Club of Advertising Women, monitored employment laws and sought to expand employment opportunities for women in advertising. They were formed in reaction to women excluded from the male dominated ad agencies.7 Christine Frederick founded the League of Advertising Women of New York, and went on to write Selling Mrs. Consumer. Although she herself worked in with the advertising industry as an expert on the needs and wants of the American housewife, Frederick believed women belonged in the home and supported consumerism related to domestic efficiency.8
The following are sources related to gender representation in advertisements, advertising to women and men as consumers, and women working in the advertising industry.
These historical items discuss gender in advertising and are primary sources published shortly before or during the Great Depression. These are historical sources related to gender in advertising. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.
A number of magazines that were published during the Great Depression provide insight into advertising to women and men, both in articles about consumerism and in their advertisements. Below are just a sample of magazines from that time period. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.
These are books published more recently about gender in advertising during the 1930s. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.
These are articles published more recently (at least decades after the Great Depression) about gender in advertising during the 1930s. The following articles are linked to their location on their journal's homepage or other stable URL. At times, a subscription may be required to access the full text of the article. When available, a link is provided to the journal's Library of Congress catalog record and/or subscription where the article can be found.