Rewriting Mrs. Consumer: Class, Gender, and Consumption

Ellen Gruber Garvey

in The Adman in the Parlor

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780195108224
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855070 | DOI:
Rewriting Mrs. Consumer: Class, Gender, and Consumption

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This chapter looks at a larger pattern of changes in women's relationship to commodities and their purchase. It shows that as advertisers increasingly defined women as their target audience, advertising-dependent magazines presented their women readers with fiction that encouraged them in their role as consumers. This encouragement took different forms depending on the class of women addressed. Magazines addressed to cash-poor women presented ways to earn money to buy advertised goods and helped to justify their purchase, while suggesting that such consumption could be consistent with their values of thrift and moral responsibility. Magazines addressed to middle-class women, on the other hand, discouraged autonomous work for married women and encouraged them to seek fulfillment in shopping and the emotional caretaking of their families. These magazines valorized the apparent power available to women as shoppers through courtship stories that were allegories of shopping, and which featured women choosing wisely between offered choices.

Keywords: magazine advertising; fiction; consumption; readers; women; social class

Chapter.  14512 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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