Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What was "Of Interest to Women" 100 Years Ago

It's become obvious to me that I would love to specialize in finding records for female ancestors. And if I ever get to conduct that research out of an actual office, these are the kind of newspaper articles that will be framed on my walls.

I have been using Google News Archive to do some client research, and in that search I found that the Pittsburgh Press (along with many other papers I'm sure) ran a regular column called "Of Interest to  Women." Out of curiosity, I decided to see what exactly that meant 100 years ago. Here's what I found.

Source: Betty Vincent, "Of Interest to Women," Pittsburgh Press, 4 May 1911; online images, Google News Archive ( : accessed 4 May 2011).

1911-speak for "She's just not that into you."

Remember, in this next one, they are engaged:

Now it's "proper" to friend someone on Facebook and tag them in your photos within minutes of meeting them. Apparently, receiving a photograph from someone was a big relationship step in 1911.

That's an interesting perspective to consider. It made me think about all of the extra etiquette rules my female ancestors had to know. It was apparently confusing for them also, given these frequent advice columns.

Now, below the advice column, is some "Health and Beauty Advice"  from Mrs. Mae Martyn. The second ingredient here, after sugar, is something called "kardene."

 This is supposed to cure "that sluggish, tired, half-sick feeling"? This all seems to be personal advice, designed to answer questions to specific women. This poor lady is only named "Too Fat:"

"Parnotis"? I had to stop and Google that, and "kardene." And behold. Think advertising aimed at women is manipulative now? Look at what appeared in the paper all the time, for our ancestors to read.

Source: Henry M. Whelpley, "Pharmacology," Journal of the American Medical Association 24 (11 Dec 1909): 2019-20; online archives,  JAMA ( : accessed 4 May 2011)

Basically, the AMA determined that this was an advertisement purporting to be an advice column, and that the "miracle drugs" mentioned were mostly common household products that were altered in a small way. "Nostrum," the article calls them - snake oil. Then they made up "medicinal-sounding" names for these drugs, and listed them as cures to what are still commonly preyed-upon insecurities: "tired eyes," blackheads, weight, "sallow complexion," etc.

Reading through this has made me appreciate even more that a woman's sphere of interests (or at least, what the media perceives as our interests) has expanded in the last 100 years beyond beauty tips and discussions of proper etiquette.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading through old newspapers!! Thanks for sharing. :)