women's history housekeeping

Advice From 1960s Women’s Magazines

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Dec 2, 2013    •    992 Views

During the 1970s, Virginia Slims ads first told us, “You’ve come a long way baby” and a L’Oréal woman said, “I use the most expensive hair color in the world. Preference, by L’Oréal. It’s not that I care about money. It’s that I care about my hair…Because I’m worth it.”

Virginia Slims and Women's History


However, in 1963, typical features in Redbook and Ladies Home Journal headlined housekeeping, cooking and weight control.


  • Asked about “good housekeeping, one columnist replied, “I would say that any home needs to be straightened up every day, dusted, ash trays emptied, beds neatly made, clutter cleared away.”
  • For your floors:  “To apply a paste polishing wax, spread a small amount on the waxing brushes with a butter knife.”
  • In an infant’s room, the young mother was told to “wet-mop the floor at least once a week. Dry-mop it daily and be vigilant about wiping up spills and splashes after you feed or bathe the baby.”


  • One article suggested a “quartet of coffeecakes” women could prepare and freeze for unexpected guests.
  • Women could prepare a “molded three-fruit salad” that included mayonnaise, cream cheese canned pineapple and heavy cream.
  • Although many ads were for prepared food in a box or can, the recipes detailed how to combine them.  “…Our Beef Cottage Pie, for example, begins in a box—or rather boxes, plural—then materializes as hearty, fork-tender chunks of beef in a magic gravy (dry soups are the secret).”

Weight control:

  • “dine well on 300 calories”
  • “10-Day diet to help you recover from the holidays.”

Also though, a 1963 Betty Friedan article for Ladies Home Journal was titled, “Have American Housewives Traded Brains for Brooms?”

So, although the women’s history illustrated by magazine content conveys more than any chart, the following, from the Census Bureau, provides a legal framework for 1940-1997:

Women's History from the Census Bureau

PDA: Pregnancy Discrimination Act
FMLA: Family Medical Leave Act

Sources and resources: My women’s magazine information came from this article, you can read more of the Census Bureau’s report here, and the Virginia Slims ad was from Wikipedia.

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