Thursday, June 20, 2013

Comparing women’s magazines, then and now, shows how much America has changed.

Journey Through the Checkout Racks - Laura Vanderkam/City Journal

Some of the most venerable brands in your grocery store sit not on the shelf but on the checkout line, where magazines like Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Redbook have been reflecting women’s lives for decades. From one month to the next, little seems to vary; the celebrity interviews and fashion spreads blend into one another, creating the impression of a seamless, unchanging world.

Yet if you compare the women’s magazines of today with their counterparts of 50 years ago, you’ll find it impossible to miss how dramatically different they are—and how daily life has transformed along with them. For example, in 1963, Good Housekeeping could report that 40 percent of its readers were in the workforce; by 2010, roughly 75 percent of women aged 25 to 54 were. In 1963, the average age of first marriage for women hovered around 20.5; by 2012, it had risen to 26.6. Clearly, women’s lives have changed enormously. But a historical journey through the checkout racks suggests that they haven’t always changed in the ways you’d think....

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