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Ideologies of Womanhood

Automobile Industry Photograph Collection
Mss 543 1931-1944 A939
Publicity photographs of American automobile manufacturers include images of models posed with automobiles, as well as photographs of plants, war work, and industry stunts and events.

Brighton Beach Music Hall Collection
Mss 694 1908-1914
Programs and contracts of a vaudeville theatre in Brooklyn, New York, from 1908 to 1914 document women singers, dancers, and other vaudeville and music hall performers.

Eli Goldston Collection
Mss 351 1961-1974
The papers of a Boston, Massachusetts, executive include materials on family social policy; women artists, writers, editors, and office workers; and Elaine Goldston's activities in her husband's career.

Ipswich Mills Collection
Mss 440 1868-1929
Includes employee relations materials concerning women factory workers and company nurses in an early twentieth-century New England textile factory.

Plymouth Cordage Company Collection
Mss 463 1824-1966 P738
The records of a rope manufacturer include employment records for women workers and information on company welfare systems and medical care.

Raymond's Collection
Mss 776 1956-1972
Copy ads, 1956 to 1972, of a Boston, Massachusetts, discount warehouse that provide insight into American gender imagery and family consumption patterns.

Resseguie Collection
Mss 776 c.1945-1966
Contains the research files of Harry E. Resseguie for a publication on the history of the department store in the second half of the twentieth century. Clippings from Women's Wear Daily and other newspapers, as well as manuscript notes, offer a wealth of information on all aspects of the history of the department stores and the retail industry.

E. H. Stewart/Higbee Company Collection
Mss 776 1932-1944
Survey records for a Cleveland, Ohio, department store contain information on salary ranges, a poll of buying habits in the area, as well as reports and manuals for a company whose business was dominated by women.

Trade Card Collection
Collection of nineteenth-century trade cards provides insight into American gender imagery and family consumption patterns, and includes several cards advertising businesses owned by women.

Trade Catalog Collection
Collection of nineteenth-century trade catalogs provides insight into the development of domestic technology and the emergence of consumer products, and includes catalogs for businesses owned by women.

Western Electric Hawthorne Studies Collection
Mss 583 1924-1934
Records of a Chicago study in industrial and employee relations (from 1924 to 1934) include productivity measurements, reports, research papers, transcripts of conversations, and extensive interviews with women workers in an electrical plant.

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"Mary Pickford applies make-up in special-issue Chevrolet," promotional photograph.

The use of images of women to promote commerce became commonplace in mainstream America early in the twentieth century, particularly as advertisers began to market directly to women. Baker Library holds substantial collections of advertising and public relations materials, including promotional photographs for varying industries from the 1920s and 1930s, a number of which feature women. These photographs are a rich source of information about changing ideas of womanhood.

"It would be hard to find a more thoroughly 'personalized' car than this new Chevrolet in which Mary Pickford is shown applying a touch of make-up," reads the text on the back of the 1938 Chevrolet publicity photograph shown above. Interestingly, the "special kit" that "folds up neatly into the glove compartment when not in use," holds Mary Pickford's own line of cosmetics. Featuring a famous actress as a businesswoman, Chevrolet adds more than a touch of glamour to the purchase of a new automobile. Clearly, Madison Avenue was well aware that women were major consumers by the late 1930's.

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Eli Goldston delivering the 1971 Fairless lecture with the help of a chart titled, "The Sultan's Wives—but Can They Cook?"

The manuscript collections at Baker Library also include a number of collections that offer an especially rich source of records and photographs that document twentieth-century cultural assumptions about gender roles and imagery. Eli Goldston, President and CEO of Eastern Gas and Fuel Associates of Boston from 1961 to 1974, wrote numerous letters and speeches about social policies of interest to women, including corporate financing of inner-city housing, the federal Family Assistance Act of 1970, and gender equity in corporate boardrooms. His records contain a wealth of letters to and from women artists, writers, and activists.

In 1971, Goldston delivered an important lecture series on social welfare and the measuring of the Gross National Product. In the photo above, Goldston uses a cartoon image of the multiple wives of an imaginary sultan to illustrate statistical measuring of social responsibility, showing his audience how to determine what importance his sultan assigned to good cooking in relation to hair color. Goldston probably did not see any contradiction between his tongue-in-cheek example and his deeply held convictions about gender equality.

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