A FOOT IN EACH SPHERE: CHRISTINE FREDERICK AND EARLY TWENTIETH-CENTURY ADVERTISING.
Christine Frederick, 1929
As we enter the twenty-first century, Martha Stewart's web page proclaims her multi-million-dollar company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, to be a "leading creator of original `how to' content and related products for homemakers and other consumers."(2) Over the last 20 years, Stewart's enterprise, which targets primarily women consumers, has grown from a television show to an empire that includes books, magazines, radio broadcasts, a newspaper column, and Martha Stewart product lines sold in retail stores, through catalogs, and over the Internet.
Stewart, while one of the best known, is certainly not the first woman to build a successful business career by promoting domesticity. One of the earliest women to merge the public sphere of business and the private sphere of the home was Christine Frederick (1883-1970), who became an influential efficiency expert and avid promoter of new products for the home at the beginning of the last century. A popular lecturer and author of three books and numerous magazine articles and advertising pamphlets, Frederick defended and promoted advertising on the grounds that it affirmed women's role in the home by encouraging them to buy new labor-saving devices. Implicit in this position was the conflict between Frederick's stated belief that a woman's place was in the home and her own very public career, a duality faced by other women who straddled the private/public threshold as well. Careful examination of Frederick's career and publications, particularly her 1929 Selling Mrs. Consumer, reveals her conflicting attitudes regarding women's abilities and proper role, and a strong identification with the male business world.
Mid-twentieth-century American historians who retrieved women's history used the construct of gender-specific spheres to explore woman's place in the nineteenth century. That construct has been challenged as feminism's second wave has evolved and fragmented; it is now a well-accepted axiom that the spheres were never completely separate. Nevertheless, the concept of two domains, public and private, male and female, can still be useful largely because nineteenth-century social commentators themselves used the metaphor.(3)
Even the ways in which newly trained professional women breached both spheres as they emerged from the home and entered paid occupations during the early twentieth century reflect the staying power of the previous century's domestic ideology. Women used that ideology to justify their entry into the world outside the home. Support for woman suffrage, for example, owed much to the argument that voting women could "make the whole world Homelike," as Women's Christian Temperance Union leader Frances Willard put it.(4)
Catharine Beecher, the nineteenth-century educator who virtually defined domestic ideology, used it to promote teaching as the ideal profession for women who did not marry precisely because working with the young kept them in their proper sphere.(5) Dual sphere ideology also informed the new discipline of home economics, another outlet for public female activity. Home economists could teach, too, but they also helped manufacturers instruct housewives in the use of new homemaking products and unfamiliar processed foods. When domestic science emerged in the late nineteenth century, it was understood to be a peculiarly female calling because it would save the home from the perceived threats consequent to full industrialization. The home, some believed, had lost its primary function, the production of household goods. In 1899, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that education in domestic science would reduce "infant mortality, contagious diseases, intemperance, divorce, insanity, [and] pauperism," as well as "competition of labor between the sexes."(6) In 1910, Ellen Richards, a leading pioneer in the field, defined home economics as "the preservation of the home and the economics of living."(7) Thus, education and home economics were two paid occupations that women could assume freely because they provided the illusion that such women had not really left the domestic sphere.
Advertising, which emerged after the turn of the century as an integral part of the very public business arena, sometimes facilitated the same mobility between spheres, as women began to gain entry into this predominantly male profession under the mantle of domesticity. In 1911, the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston produced a pamphlet entitled "Advertising as a Vocation for Women." In 1916, one woman who had recently entered the field told a gathering of young women at a "Women in Industry" course in New York that advertising was a natural choice for them, since "ninety-five per cent of the purchasing power of the world is in women."(8) That vast army of female consumers was understood to be the majority of women who ran households. Another vocational conference for women held at Vassar College in 1917 featured lecturers who spoke on "Opportunities for the College Graduate in Department Store Education" and "The College Woman and the Magazine Game."(9) Female advertisers could readily promote the new products that enhanced homemaking. Women, of course, were a small minority among advertising professionals during this early period, but by 1919 one of the largest agencies in the nation, J. Walter Thompson, had begun to delegate "all material of interest to women" to female copy writers--though all other accounts were still handled by men.(10)
Christine Frederick's tireless service championing advertising from 1912 until 1940 serves as a primary example of these pioneering women. As an expert on the home, Frederick encouraged advertisers and manufacturers to appeal to women as homemakers. Disingenuously representing herself as a typical housewife, she appeared to remain in the domestic sphere while working in the public one.
Young Christine MacGaffey, like most middle-class American women of her generation, ostensibly chose homemaking as her life's work when she married advertising writer J. George Frederick in 1907. From the age of 11, she had lived in Chicago with her mother and stepfather, attorney Wyatt MacGaffey. One of the growing number of young women earning college degrees, she had graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern University in 1906. But after a year of teaching--the career that Catharine Beecher's mid-nineteenth-century campaign had made acceptable for women--Christine accepted J. George's proposal of marriage and settled into a homemaker's life in an apartment in the Bronx, New York City. There, within three years, she gave birth to two of their four children.(11)
Although the Fredericks could afford hired domestic help, Christine chafed at the toil and boredom she found in the housewife's lot. Casting about for relief from what she later called "drudgifying housework," she seized upon the new methodology then sweeping the industrial world.(12) Several of her husband's associates were promoting scientific management, Frederick Winslow Taylor's system of organizing production processes after conducting careful time and motion studies. Their accounts of vastly improved efficiency captured Frederick's imagination, and she set about applying scientific management to homemaking.(13) In 1912, the Ladies' Home Journal accepted her series of articles entitled "The New Housekeeping," and Christine Frederick began what was to become a stunningly successful career in home efficiency.(14)
Advising housewives on home management led quite naturally into the emerging field of advertising. Efficiency in homemaking, after all, implied the use of the new labor-saving devices such as fireless cookers, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines that were just then coming on the market. Frederick began to solicit sample wares from manufacturers to test in her own kitchen, and she wrote about them in her housekeeping articles. Who could convince women of new appliances' utility better than another homemaker who had proved their efficiency in her own home?
These were the years of Progressive reform, when Americans were turning to experts to solve problems resulting from the rapid changes wrought by industrialization. The perceived threat to the traditional home was among those problems. The future of the home was fiercely debated throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century. In 1912, economist Martha Bruere announced that Americans "may as well face the fact cheerfully that industry in the home is doomed," since household goods were now being produced in factories.(15) Chicago educators Marion Talbot and Sophonisba Breckinridge agreed that the home was no longer the center of production it had been throughout history. Instead of producing necessities, they counseled, the housewife must learn to consume them efficiently. It was clear to these experts that homemakers needed instruction in how to assume this new role. "I believe that many a home ... is not what it ought to be, not because the woman is not trying to do her part," wrote the president of the Woman's Department of the Southeastern Fair Association in 1916, "but because she does not know how."(16) If the home was in danger, Progressive thinking held, expertise would save it.
By the time her fourth "New Housekeeping" article appeared, Christine Frederick was heralded as one of the new experts who could teach the consuming housewife scientific management. Home efficiency was closely related to the new profession of home economics, another field of expertise that offered participation in the public sphere for women who professed to work for the preservation of the home even as they worked outside it.
The new fields of home economics and home efficiency resolved an emerging conflict for some women, as the Progressive era was also witness to the first wave of feminism, which encouraged educated, middle-class American women to consider professions other than homemaking. But feminism was seen by many as one of the home's greatest threats; "If the woman were to take up man's duties," worried the New York Times in 1915, "who is to assume the women's duties?"(17) Ladies' Home Journal editor Edward Bok cautioned that "normal" wives remained "at the side of man as the worker."(18) While dual sphere ideology sparked debate and engendered fear over the fate of the traditional home, many women were attracted to new opportunities outside it, and practitioners of home-related professions like Christine Frederick could enjoy entree into the world outside the home while seeming to remain within it.
Christine Frederick began her home-centered writing career when household technology was just emerging and comfortable middle-class families with incomes of $3,000 to $4,000 a year could afford washing machines, electric irons, fireless cookers, gas ranges, and vacuum cleaners.(19) Her housekeeping experiments in efficiency also fostered enthusiasm for the new labor-saving devices among families with more modest incomes. In her first Ladies' Home Journal article, Frederick addressed a large readership who, she acknowledged, washed their families' clothes "without a washing-machine and with only a common boiler,"(20) She knew that many women did not have hot water piped into their kitchens, nor could they easily afford the new appliances that their more fortunate sisters were buying. Nevertheless, Frederick urged these women to modernize their homes too. Assuming that most of her readers used at least some household help, she counseled the housewife of lesser means to lay out money for "every device she can afford," as dishwashers, bread mixers, and electric washing machines would save the family the wages of part-time help. If money were to be spent on home care, Frederick argued, it should be spent in the marketplace of industry, not on personal service.(21)
From the first, Christine Frederick was helping to create a market for manufactured goods. This was, of course, advertising's primary function. Presenting herself as an ordinary housewife helping other women overcome the drudgery of housework, she eagerly promoted the agenda of those who wished to sell products to them. Frederick believed that advertising could teach women how to improve their housekeeping while alleviating arduous labor. In 1914, she published The New Housekeeping: Efficiency Studies in Home Management, which expanded the scientific management principles she had developed in the Ladies' Home Journal articles of 1912. In a chapter entitled "Business and Economics," Frederick defended advertising as a valuable educational tool. In response to critics who blamed advertisers for encouraging extravagance, she wrote,
The shop windows and the advertising simply prove how tremendously efficient they are in their duty of informing us.... Through advertising, you hear very quickly now when something new and good appears; whereas without advertising, you might never hear of it.(22)
Five years later, the American School of Home Economics published her Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home, a 12-part correspondence course. In this volume, she promoted such brand name goods as Kitchencraft cabinets, Simplex ironers, and Walker electric dishwashers.(23)
In 1912, soon after publishing the Ladies' Home Journal articles, Frederick and her husband had moved the family from the Bronx into an aging house situated on a neglected apple orchard near Greenlawn, Long Island. Two more babies would eventually join the family at "Applecroft." Although J. George would have to commute to his recently established New York market research firm, the Business Bourse, the couple wanted to rear the family in a rural setting. The country homestead also offered greater opportunity for experimenting with new appliances. It was at Applecroft that product-testing became an integral part of Frederick's work.(24)
When Edward Bok suggested that she set up an experiment station for this purpose, she established the Applecroft Efficiency Kitchen, later the Applecroft Experiment Station, in her home. Neither the demonstration kitchen nor the use of scientific management to operate it were original ideas; domestic experiment stations had surfaced several years earlier, and two of them were operating in neighboring communities. Charles and Mary Barnard conducted a home experiment station just across Long Island Sound on the outskirts of Darien, Connecticut. They had built a country home there in 1908 with the intention of demonstrating a "simple servantless life" on "the principles of scientific management that rule the business world."(25) Another nearby station had been established by the New Jersey Federation of Women's Clubs in 1909. The federation's experiment station was "an attempt to standardize the demands at least of the club women of New Jersey for labor-saving devices and pure economical foods." The New Jersey project, unlike the Barnards', was established to test new products. Christine Frederick's experiment station would serve the same purpose while she also worked out and promoted domestic routines based on the principles of scientific management.(26)
At Applecroft, Frederick quickly established a reputation among manufacturers. She wrote that one of the main functions she performed was to keep a file on every manufacturer of every piece of equipment she used so that she could serve as a "clearing house between the manufacturer and the homemaker."(27) In this way, she served not only the consumer but the manufacturer as well; "Manufacturers, too," she explained, "often care to have a practical test of their devices before they are put on the market; already, several have received helpful criticism of their products."(28)
Frederick's papers contain scant information about her pecuniary arrangements with the manufacturers she served, but there is no doubt that she was operating a business. By 1919, Applecroft letterhead offered "Lectures, Tests, and Consultations," and in the 1928 version of the experiment station's brochure Frederick advertised "Analysis of foods, household appliances and products, and women's purchases."(29) The sidebar accompanying her regular 1920s column for Shrine Magazine suggests that the publishers paid her for such services: "Manufacturers, desiring to have their products or appliances tested for the benefit of Shrine readers, can send their consignments to Mrs. Christine Frederick, Greenlawn, Long Island. Electrical appliances must be outfitted with 32-volt motor."(30) In Selling Mrs. Consumer, she indicated her displeasure with manufacturers who were surprised to learn that she charged a fee for testing their appliances.(31)
Many of Frederick's assessments would soon appear in advertising pamphlets, the purpose of which certainly did not escape her: she knew that her services were hired to sell specific products. Frederick became a full-fledged advertising copywriter when she took commissions to write publications for manufacturers. In 1914, she wrote a pamphlet promoting the Hoosier kitchen cabinet. The next year, she produced a booklet that described the advantages of owning a fireless cooker manufactured by Sentinel. During the following three decades, she wrote the copy for pamphlets promoting a variety of manufactured and processed goods. Her clientele included the Hurley Washing Machine Company, Vollrath Enamelware, the Florida Citrus Exchange, and Hershey Chocolate Corporation, to name just a few. Some of these booklets were published by magazines and covered an entire genre of goods. Farm and Home Magazine, for example, commissioned Frederick to write about a variety of household appliances, and the Ladies' Home Journal published her booklet on planning and equipping a kitchen.(32)
Thus, a career in home efficiency evolved into a career in advertising. Because the two aspects of Frederick's career developed in tandem, she could use domestic sphere ideology, posing as a housewife, to pursue a career in the public marketplace. Unlike some of the promoters of efficiency who touted it as an avenue out of the home, Frederick encouraged women to remain there. The conflict between the two spheres was clear.
But there were other conflicts, too. Some advertising professionals worried about the ethics of their emerging industry. A window dresser for Macy's department store wondered if his work might tempt people to want things they could not afford.(33) As early as 1904, the Atlantic Monthly published an article that suggested regulating advertising in order to avoid unsightly posters tacked to trees and churches.(34) Feminist and social commentator Charlotte Perkins Gilman argued that advertising was the "ceaseless, desperate effort to compel patronage." Thanks to advertising, she wrote, American cities had become "hideous with signs and posters," and "the face of Nature" disfigured with "huge, begging boards."(35)
Frederick shared none of these misgivings; she considered advertising a positive social force. The interests of manufacturers and consumers were identical, she argued, so by writing promotional pamphlets she was helping both the producers of modern goods and the women who would buy them. In her view, billboards were not unsightly, they provided the housewife with important information. Advertising also eliminated business costs associated with older methods of promotion:
Modern advertising in periodicals, on billboards, cards, etc., is another means of bringing goods of all kinds to the consumer's attention. The costs of advertising must be included in the general cost of distribution of an article, and do not add any more to the price of an article than any other means of display, such as store window exhibits, circular letters, and the older forms of traveling salesmen.(36)
Frederick's advertising activities were governed by prevailing concepts of gender. When the occasion seemed to warrant it, she might refer to herself as a feminist, as she did in a 1938 speech before the New York Rotary Club.(37) On the other hand, some female contemporaries believed she pandered to the desires of advertisers at the expense of women. Was Frederick really interested in solving the problems of homemaking women, they wondered, or was she motivated by her desire to participate in the male sphere of business? Home economist Day Monroe called Selling Mrs. Consumer, Frederick's third book, a "guide for the manufacturer who wishes to sell his wares to Mrs. Consumer." She hoped Frederick was "wrong in her diagnosis of Mrs. Consumer's characteristics,"(38) which included jealousy, ignorance, rivalry, and childishness. In response to an article reporting a speech Frederick made to the National Retail Institute in 1930, Anna Burdick of the Federal Bureau of Vocational Education wrote to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Home Economics chief, Louise Stanley, that she was "quite wrought up over having women exploit their own kind."(39)
Although her mission ostensibly was to alleviate women's work, Frederick rarely sought advice from other women. She rejected the ideas of contemporary feminists such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who had written a searing critique of the single family home a decade before Frederick's own first works appeared. In fact, Frederick spoke out sharply against the cooperative efforts to free women from housework that Gilman and others advocated. Her models were men and, paradoxically, the workplace she sought to emulate in the home was the predominantly male factory.(40)
Besides her husband, three other male mentors figured prominently in Frederick's career. She dedicated the 1919 edition of Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home to Edward Bok, "to whose encouragement and progressive leadership in reaching the mass of American homemakers with the gospel of home efficiency," she wrote, "I owe much inspiration." Harrington Emerson, another efficiency engineer who had done much to interest Frederick in applying scientific management to housework, contributed a foreword that commended her for "specializing and standardizing the tools and methods for the many ever changing occupations of the home." Frank Gilbreth, the foremost disciple and popularizer of Frederick Taylor's scientific management, wrote a brief preface praising Frederick for eliminating "from housework that monotony that comes from doing uninteresting and repetitive work without an incentive."(41)
There was curious irony in Frederick's reliance on Frank Gilbreth, whose wife Lillian was an efficiency expert in her own right and continued her husband's consulting business after his death in 1924. Frederick knew her, but they never worked together, and their relationship was not particularly close.(42) Frederick had the opportunity to associate with the Gilbreths after they moved to New Jersey at war's end in 1918, but it was Frank, not Lillian, to whom she looked for professional camaraderie.
Another paradox emerged when Frederick defended women's right to enter fully into the field of advertising. In 1912, when Frederick began her career, women were barred from the meetings of the Advertising Men's League of New York. Early that year, the female advertising manager at Macy's asked J. George Frederick if she could attend a meeting of the all-male advertising group. Although that was impossible, he told her, he suggested she organize an advertising club for women. Christine became involved with the project, and in March of that year, the couple invited all the advertising women they knew to a dinner at Reisenweber's restaurant on Eighth Avenue. More than 40 women attended, and the gathering appointed an organizing committee that would go on to create the League of Advertising Women of New York.(43) But despite her prominent role in establishing this pioneer organization, Christine Frederick never became a dues-paying member. She had, by her own account, led the campaign to strike a blow for women's rights in the advertising field, yet she &dined the opportunity to participate fully in the victory. Rather, Frederick's participation in the advertising industry was primarily in venues dominated by men.
Frederick had launched a successful speaking career as soon as her first book on home efficiency was published, and she seemed to prefer male audiences. In 1921, when asked to list her hobbies for an upcoming brochure on women in advertising, she replied that second only to her family, her favorite hobby was "addressing 3000 men."(44) Frederick spoke before many advertising groups, usually representing herself as a spokesperson for the female consumer. During the 1920s, she cultivated a wide audience among advertisers, always promising to help them sell new products to Mrs. Consumer. In 1920, as "the first woman to address a general session" at the annual convention of the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World, she argued that a woman's viewpoint was necessary to create advertising for home products. She also suggested that she could help advertisers "create good-will for advertising" among women.(45) In a similar speech that year, she warned that unless women understood why advertising was important to them, they were likely to blame advertisers for cost of living increases. Frederick assured the New York Men's Advertising Club that she knew women well, having lectured to "every type of woman's club and consumer league" during the previous five years.(46) She always claimed to be a typical female consumer even as she operated expertly in a male world.
Frederick also entered fully into the male sphere of market research; she boasted of having helped Columbia professor Harry Hollingworth compile figures on how much purchasing power women exercised in the United States in 1912, figures that she unfortunately continued to use unchanged for years afterward.(47) A promotional piece for one of her lectures to a male advertising group in 1921 billed her as an "economist" who gave "brilliant, practical and illuminating talks on retail salesmanship, advertising, and kindred topics, before business organizations the country over." Building on her reputation as a broker between advertisers and women, Frederick promised to teach "men in business how to advertise `in the feminine gender,' how to make their advertising appeal to the average feminine mind, in short, how to sell to the American woman."(48) But she also tried to straddle the gender line. On the other side, she told the Toledo, Ohio, Women's Club that women could acquire better homes and clothes by expressing "a consumer demand."(49) Cooperation between consumer and advertiser was the key to a better America for everyone, she claimed.(50)
Large numbers of male retailers listened to what Frederick had to say. An audience of over 1,000 businessmen heard one of her speeches before the Louisville, Kentucky, Retail Institute in the mid-twenties, and she was often quoted on advertising posters and in copy that appeared in periodicals.(51) Expanding her area of expertise, she joined over 20 prominent advertising executives--Bruce Barton, the author of The Man Nobody Knows, among them--in contributing to a book on writing advertising copy edited by her husband in 1925. In her essay, Frederick set forth her notion of the "Average Woman," an image she wished to convey to the male advertiser who, she claimed, visualized women as a "cross between [silent film star] Pola Negri and his stenographer." This knowledge, Frederick wrote, would enable advertisers to appeal to the typical American housewife.(52)
Laden with contradictions, Christine Frederick's article, "Advertising and the So-Called Average Woman," painfully illustrates her ambivalence regarding women and their abilities. Frederick belittled American housewives while at the same time claiming that they wielded great power as rational shoppers. Expensive advertising, she counseled, was often "pathetically over [the housewife's] pretty head." Most women, she wrote, wanted to wear what was in "`the mode,'" trying to "imitate the `best people.'" Frederick's average woman "accept[ed] authority readily" and was not "alert to new ideas."(53) Yet Frederick recognized very early that women consumers would be the target of manufacturers, advertisers, and retailers, and she understood that this gave women power: "The hand that rocks the cradle," she wrote in 1913, "also rocks most of the world's industries, and ... [life] will be as deeply affected by the manner in which we, as women, rock the world's industries, through the influence we wield as purchasers, as the manner in which we rock the cradle."(54)
Frederick assumed the role of consumer advocate for the American housewife because, like others, she understood that the home had been transformed from a place of production to an agent of consumption. Far from being alarmed at this development, she celebrated it, using the new emphasis on consumption to ensure the housewife's sense of importance--and therefore satisfaction--in her domestic role. When Frederick portrayed herself as a spokesperson for and adviser to the female consumer, her arguments were bolstered by a strong faith in American business, and she firmly believed that it had an unfailingly beneficial impact on the American home.
This position revealed yet another contradiction in Frederick's career that, like the others, affirmed entrenched gender roles. Frederick consistently opposed legislation that might impinge on business interests. She was, in fact, a great ally of the manufacturers who were then wrestling with regulatory reform. For years, she urged her readers to buy only brand names and supported manufacturers' right to determine the prices at which their products should be sold. She wrote, lectured, and testified in favor of "price maintenance" on numerous occasions during the first decade and a half of her career. By doing so, she put herself in the middle of a longstanding battle between manufacturers and retailers on the issue of fixed pricing. Most manufacturers, Frederick wrote, were honest businessmen who desired to produce reliable consumer goods. They would not be able to maintain the quality of their products, she argued, if retailers cut their suggested prices. She insisted that housewives could help manufacturers maintain reasonable prices by buying only brand name products, although she was unable to explain precisely why this should be so. Counseling her readers to avoid discounted prices, she argued that the imitators were stealing the good names of the manufacturers of trademarked items.(55)
Frederick believed that by supporting price maintenance, she was supporting an orderly market, a market in which manufacturer, retailer, and consumer all received fair value. Over the course of several years, she testified for price maintenance on behalf of manufacturers before the House Committee on the Judiciary, the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, and the Federal Trade Commission. Her frequent assertion that she cared only for the housewife belied most of her efforts, which to the modern observer seem clearly in the interests of business and against the interests of the predominantly female consumers.(56)
Frederick's 1929 manual for advertisers, Selling Mrs. Consumer, was the culmination of 15 years of promoting advertising, largely a male pursuit, and consumerism, largely a female one, in the interest of saving the home and keeping women within it. Selling anthologized Frederick's previous advice on these subjects, reiterating that the "trinity of consumer/distributor/producer" had helped raise the standard of living for all Americans and that increased consumption relieved America's industry of surplus goods. Frederick praised advertising as a reliable source of information, comparing it to motion pictures that showed "all the good things that manufacturers make everywhere, set in ... dramatic scenario."(57)
Frederick's adherence in Selling Mrs. Consumer to her standard arguments of years before sometimes trapped her in absurd contradictions. For instance, although she championed big business, she disapproved of the new chain stores on the grounds that they cut prices and threatened independent retailers. When 71 percent of housewives responding to a survey reported that they got better prices in the chains, Frederick explained that the chain stores "appealed to the poorer and lower middle classes who do not think very logically and who have always until recent years been short-sighted buyers." Clearly, class as well as gender influenced Frederick's views. In Selling, she repeated the observations she had made earlier, again describing the average female consumer as a poorly educated, emotionally and mentally immature housewife who could not remember seven digits and who probably did not brush her teeth. Yet this same Mrs. Consumer knew what she wanted, decided trends, and possessed both common sense and "selective thought processes." She was more alert, more sophisticated, and more powerful than previous generations of American women.(58)
In a review for the Journal of Home Economics, Day Monroe pointed out that Frederick based her conclusions on good, bad, and indifferent investigations that she "quoted indiscriminately." Monroe took umbrage at Frederick's description of Mrs. Consumer as the emotional, volatile, and suggestible creature advertising copywriters wanted her to be. It was clear, she thought, that Frederick's advice was unsound for any but the manufacturer.(59) Frederick had, in fact, cast her lot with commercial interests, and she frankly marketed the book as a manual for advertisers and manufacturers despite her claims to represent "the" Mrs. Consumer. She devoted one chapter of the manual to her perennial cause, price maintenance, and encouraged loyal patronage to trademarked goods as a way to induce cost decreases through mass production.(60)
Selling Mrs. Consumer offered a theory of consumer economics that would ensure increased consumption. For the first time, Frederick outlined her "policy of creative waste in spending,"(61) building upon the argument for "progressive obsolescence" that her husband had posed the year before. J. George Frederick had argued that Americans must be taught to trade in or discard manufactured items "when new or more attractive goods or models come out." This was the key to solving manufacturers' problem of disposing of surplus.(62) Although Christine Frederick had urged readers to make 1928 "a saving year" just nine months before J. George's article appeared, she now took up and elaborated upon his theme, even using the same words:
Mrs. Jones [or Mrs. Consumer] no longer takes pride in the great square ebony piano of excellent tone her mother handed down to her, but on the contrary, unsentimentally considers it a horror, and has perhaps bought several pianos of different shapes and woods in recent years.(63)
Frederick took great delight in the "Consumer-Jones" family's progression through three homes, each more modern than the previous one because it "seemed obsolescent to this family so rapidly moving up on the social scale."(64) Borrowing what she called "[Thorstein] Veblen's excellent phrase," Frederick condoned Americans' "conspicuous consumption" of clothing, furnishings, jewelry, automobiles, and houses. Misunderstanding his indictment of the middle class's "emulation" of the wealthy, she encouraged the practice because it would lead to more purchases, an "important means of expressing the family's wealth."(65)
As Frederick put the finishing touches on the manuscript for Selling Mrs. Consumer in the fall of 1929, the stock market was teetering on the brink of collapse, and in October it crashed. Curiously, Frederick virtually ignored the crash in subsequent writings, and she paid scant attention to the Great Depression during the thirties. The publication of Selling Mrs. Consumer secured her reputation as Mrs. Consumer's representative, and business groups were now more interested than ever in hearing what she had to say. For the next few years, she spoke on themes she had developed in the book in cities across the country.(66)
But by the end of the decade, Frederick's career as an advertising expert languished as corporations hired in-house home economists formally trained to sell new products to homemakers. Her marriage had finally failed in the face of her husband's continued philandering, and she moved from Applecroft to Manhattan in 1939. For the next decade, she taught interior decorating and served as a consultant until New York's weather and her own health convinced her to move West. At the age of 59, Christine Frederick reinvented herself as a reasonably successful decorator in Laguna Beach, California. She died at the age of 87 in 1970.(67)
Christine Frederick's work in advertising supported business by promoting the technology and consumerism that she believed would relieve the housewife's burden and thus help preserve the home. The American woman would be happier in her traditional role as homemaker if she purchased the many labor-saving devices that American industry was producing. Frederick's career, framed as it was by definitions of gender, symbolizes both change and continuity. She visited factories, mastered the intricacies of scientific management, conferred with manufacturers and retailers, studied the art of advertising, and spoke to huge audiences of businessmen. Yet her advice to other women reflected the traditional belief that the world should remain divided into two sex-defined spheres. In fact, Frederick's work allowed her to keep a foot in each. On the one hand, she promoted nineteenth-century ideology insofar as it prescribed homemaking as the ideal occupation for women; on the other, she moved freely in the male-dominated realm of business. Her lectures were divided into two categories: those offered to women's clubs and those appropriate for business groups. By the late twenties, most of her services as a consultant were offered not to housewives but to businesses.
Christine Frederick was a pioneer in promoting the field of advertising, and her participation in the formation of the League of Advertising Women of New York places her in the vanguard of those who opened the field to women. Whether she truly intended to help open this traditionally male occupation to women is debatable. Still, she was, in fact, an advertiser herself. But when she portrayed herself to advertisers and manufacturers as an expert on female consumers, Frederick broadcast mixed messages about the role of women.
Christine Frederick might have been an efficiency engineer, an advertising executive, or even a manufacturer. As a woman, she chose instead to apply modernization to the home. Arguably, Frederick used her penchant for efficiency, her enthusiasm for technology, and her keen interest in business matters to promote homemaking because she knew that it was only from the domestic sphere that a woman's voice would be heeded. Like the teachers and home economists, she used domestic ideology to further a public career. When Frederick discovered scientific management as a young housewife, she was delighted that it provided a way to use the analytical skills she had "applied many a time" in her college courses. Scientific management, she wrote, would enable her to bring efficiency to "my factory, my business, my home."(68) Because Christine Frederick was the product of a society in which the doctrine of two spheres had prevailed, she believed that the application of her talents was circumscribed by her gender. She was aware that while women such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman had breached that circumscription, the majority of Americans were neither listening to nor concurring with the feminists.(69) Although she enjoyed the satisfaction of a successful career outside the home, when she advised her readers on how best to use their leisure time, she never suggested paid employment.(70)
Nevertheless, by engaging in efficiency, consumerism, and advertising, Christine Frederick managed to participate in the public sphere by encouraging other women to learn to live within the domestic one. As we enter the twenty-first century, most Americans no longer fully support the idea that we should divide labor by gender. But the belief that women, not men, are primarily responsible for the care of the home is still not uncommon. Martha Stewart's success in forging a multimillion-dollar business around domestic pursuits reflects the fact that at least to some extent, the nineteenth-century ideology on which Christine Frederick based her career still obtains.
(1) Christine Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer (New York, 1929), 52.
(2) "Corporate Profile," available online at http://www.marthastewart.com/Path: About MSLO/Investor Relations [20 April 2000].
(3) See Linda K. Kerber, "Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman's Place: The Rhetoric of Women's History," Journal of American History 75 (June 1988): 9-39; and Christine MacGaffey [Frederick], "The Genius of Women," manuscript, file folder 14, Christine MacGaffey Frederick Papers, MC-261 (hereafter Frederick Papers), Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in American History, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University (hereafter Schlesinger Library).
(4) [France Willard], Minutes of the National Women's Christian Temperance Union at Its 11th Meeting (Chicago, 1884), 50-51, quoted in Mari Jo Buhle, Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920 (Chicago, 1983), 65.
(5) Kathryn Kish Sklar, Catharine Beecher: A Study in American Domesticity (New Haven, 1973).
(6) "Public School Instruction in Cooking," Journal of the American Medical Association 32 (1899): 1183, quoted in Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts' Advice to Women (New York, 1989), 156.
(7) Ellen H. Richards, "The Outlook in Home Economics," Journal of Home Economics 2 (February 1910): 17.
(8) "Advertising as a Vocation for Women," 1911, booklet, box 1, file folder 9, B-8, Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Boston Papers (hereafter WEIU Papers), Schlesinger Library; "Business Advertising," Women in Industry Lecture no. 12, 4 January 1916, 43-45, carton 1, file folder 13, Bureau of Vocational Information, New York City Papers (hereafter BVI Papers), Schlesinger Library.
(9) "Vocational Conference," 22-24 February 1917, Vassar College, program, carton 4, file folder 225, B-3, BVI Papers.
(10) Dorothy Dignam, "More Women in Advertising Now than in World War I," Printers' Ink, 29 May 1942, 16, clipping, carton 3, file folder 18, A-114, Dorothy Dignam Papers, Schlesinger Library.
(11) Marriage license, Justus George Frederick and Christine Isobel McGaffey, 29 June 1907, Cook County, Ill.; Marriage certificate of Wyatt McGaffey and Mimie S. Campbell, 7 August 1894; "Phi Beta Kappa Notice of Election," 25 May 1906, file folder 14, Frederick Papers; "Christine MacGaffey (Now Mrs. Christine Frederick)," copy of transcript from 1902-1906, 14 September 1949, Alumni Biographical Files, Northwestern University Archives; "Northwestern University College of Liberal Arts Entrance Statistics," entry form, 2 September 1902, series 51/12, box 18, Alumni Biographical Files; Jean Joyce (Frederick's daughter), interviews by the author, tape recording, Washington, D.C., 14-16 September 1994.
(12) Christine Frederick, The New Housekeeping: Efficiency Studies in Home Management (Garden City, 1914), viii.
(13) Ibid.; see also Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York, 1913).
(14) Christine Frederick, "The New Housekeeping," Ladies' Home Journal (hereafter LHJ), September 1912, 13; October 1912, 20; November 1912, 19; December 1912, 16.
(15) Martha Bruere, "The New Homemaking," Outlook, 16 March 1912, 595.
(16) Marion Talbot and Sophonisba Breckinridge, The Modern Household (Boston, 1912), 10; "A World of Woman's Work," (Atlanta) City Builder, May 1916, 14.
(17) "The Woman Suffrage Crisis," New York Times (hereafter NYT), 7 February 1915, sec. 3, p. 2, col. 1.
(18) LHJ, May 1914, 5.
(19) Bruere, "The New Home-Making," 592-93; see also Christine Frederick, Meals That Cook Themselves and Cut the Costs (New Haven, 1915), 17-18.
(20) Christine Frederick, "The New Housekeeping," LHJ, September 1912, 13.
(21) Frederick, Household Engineering: Scientific Management in the Home (Chicago, 1919), 391-92.
(22) Frederick, New Housekeeping, 214, 216-17 (emphasis in original).
(23) Frederick, Household Engineering, 116, 135, 203, 240-41.
(24) Deed Liber 762, pp. 251-53 (Suffolk County Clerk's Office, Riverhead, N.Y., photocopy); Joyce interviews, 14-15 September 1994; Park Mathewson, Vice President, Business Bourse to Beatrice Doerschuk, Assistant Director, BVI, 2 April 1921, carton 7, file folder 347, BVI Papers; "J. G. Frederick, 82, a Writer, Is Dead," NYT, 24 March 1964, p. 33, col. 1.
(25) "An Experiment Station for Making Housekeeping Easy," NYT, 7 May 1911, sec. 5, p. 13.
(26) "Experiment Station to Solve Housekeepers' Problems," NYT, 26 March 1911, sec. 5, p. 4; Mrs. Frank A. Pattison, "Scientific Management in Home-Making," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (hereafter AAAPSS) 48 (July 1913): 96-98.
(27) Frederick, New Housekeeping, 256.
(28) Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer, 167.
(29) Christine Frederick to W. E. Loucks, 3 April 1919, file folder 2; "Greetings from the Applecroft Home Experiment Station," [1928?], brochure, file folder 15, Frederick Papers.
(30) "Devices Tested by Shrine Service," Shrine Magazine, n.d., microfilm M-107, Frederick Papers.
(31) Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer, 224-25.
(32) Christine Frederick, You and Your Kitchen (New Castle, Ind., 1914); Frederick, Meals That Cook Themselves and Cut the Costs. The following pamphlets by Christine Frederick can be found in file folder 12 of the Frederick Papers: The Efficient Kitchen and Laundry (New York, 1914); How to Plan and Equip the Efficient Kitchen (Philadelphia, n.d.); You and Your Laundry (New York, 1920); Woman as Bait in Advertising (New York, 1921); Come into My Kitchen (Sheboygan, Wis., 1922); Tested and Recommended Household Equipment (Springfield, Mass., n.d.); Seald Sweet Cook Book (Tampa, n.d.); Parties All the Year Round (New York, 1928); Frankfurters as You Like Them (New York, 1931); Hershey's Favorite Recipes (Hershey, Penn., 1937); Let's Bring the Kitchen Up-to-Date (New York, n.d.); see also The Ignoramus Book of Housekeeping (New York, 1932).
(33) William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture (New York, 1993), 67-68.
(34) Charles Mulford Robinson, "Abuses of Public Advertising," Atlantic Monthly, March 1904, 289-92.
(35) Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The End of the Advertising Nuisance," Forerunner, December 1912, 327.
(36) Frederick, Household Engineering, 357.
(37) Christine Frederick, "Mrs. Consumer Speaks Up," speech before New York Rotary Club, 10 March 1938, file folder 10, Frederick Papers.
(38) Day Monroe, "New Books," review of Selling Mrs. Consumer by Christine Frederick, JHE 21 (November 1929): 856-57; Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer, 21-22, 45.
(39) Anna Burdick to Louise Stanley, 21 October 1930, box 564, file folder "Federal Board for Vocational Edu., 1929-32" (Record Group 176), General Records, Correspondence with Other Government Departments and Bureaus, 1923-37, Records of the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics, National Archives at College Park, Md.
(40) Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Home: Its Work and Influence (1903; reprint, New York, 1970); see also Frederick, Household Engineering, 405-8.
(41) Frederick, Household Engineering, , , .
(42) Joyce interview, 15 September 1994.
(43) "Beginnings--Formation of the League," n.d., typescript; J. George Frederick, "Notes on the Formation of the Advertising Women's Club of New York," October 1961, typescript; "Founders' Section," n.d., typescript; "History of Club," n.d., typescript, all in carton 2, file folder 1, B-29, Advertising Women of New York Papers (hereafter AWNY Papers), Schlesinger Library.
(44) League of Advertising Women, "Advertising Women Minus Blue Spectacles," 1921, , carton 1, file folder 2, AWNY Papers.
(45) "Urges Advertisers to Tell the Truth," NYT 10 June 1920, p. 16, col. 2.
(46) "Mrs. Frederick Scores a Hit," Advertising Club News, 8 November 1920, dipping, microfilm M-107, Frederick Papers.
(47) "Urges Advertisers to Tell the Truth."
(48) "Ad-vance," Advertisers' Club of Cincinnati, 19 November 1921, clipping, microfilm M-107, Frederick Papers.
(49) "They `Learned About Women from Her,'" Ohio Woman's Magazine, November 1921, 38.
(50) "Calls Frying Pan the U. S. Emblem," n. d., clipping, microfilm M-107, Frederick Papers.
(51) "Merchandising Is Topic of Address at Institute," Louisville Courier-Journal, n.d., clipping; "What Do the Experts Say?" advertisement, microfilm M-107; "Mrs. Frederick Says," poster, oversize folder 1, Frederick Papers.
(52) Christine Frederick, "Advertising and the So-Called Average Woman," in Masters of Advertising Copy: Principles and Practice of Copy Writing According to Its Leading Practitioners, ed. J. George Frederick
(53) Frederick, "Advertising and the So-Called Average Woman," 225-41.
(54) Christine Frederick, "The Woman Who Buys Wisely," LHJ, November 1913, 95.
(55) Frederick, New Housekeeping, 205-12; House Committee on the Judiciary, Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary on Trust Legislation, 63rd Cong., 2d sess., 18 February 1914, 725-33; "Brands Needed by Consumer," 29 October 1917, clipping, microfilm M-107, Frederick Papers.
(56) See, e.g., Frederick, New Housekeeping, 205-19; Household Engineering, 318-58; Selling, 334-37, 369-78.
(57) Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer, 3-8, 334-37.
(58) Ibid., 19-23, 29, 308, 377.
(59) Day Monroe, "New Books," 856-57.
(60) Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer, 334-37, 369-78.
(61) Ibid., 79.
(62) J. George Frederick, "Is Progressive Obsolescence the Path toward Increased Consumption?" Advertising and Selling, 5 September 1928, 19-20 (emphasis in original).
(63) Ibid., 44, and C. Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer, 252-53.
(64) Frederick, Selling Mrs. Consumer, 253.
(65) Ibid., 128; Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class (1899; reprint, with an introduction by C. Wright Mills, New York, 1953), 66-69.
(66) "Mrs. Christine Frederick, Internationally Famous Home Economics Authority Will Speak on `Selling Mrs. Consumer,'" (Minneapolis, 16 November 1929) clipping; "Find U. S. Women Spend $350,000 a Minute," Chicago American, 29 January 1930, clipping; "Mrs. Frederick Hit at Institute," Retail Advertising Institute Bulletin, 30 January 1930, clipping; David Brickman, "You May Think Your Children Are Bad But Their Youngsters Will `Explode' If You Don't Watch Out--Should Marry When Young, Claims Mrs. Frederick," n.p. (1930), clipping, microfilm M-107; Adcrafter, 27 January 1931, clipping; "Mrs. Frederick to Speak at Retail Institute Tuesday Night, Louisville [Ky] Courier-Journal, [22 February 1931], clipping; "Mrs. Frederick to Speak Here" Cincinnati Post, 19 February 1931, clipping; "'Selling Mrs. Consumer,'" Spokes, 24 January 1933, clipping; "Selling to Women Outlined by Editor," Miami Herald Telephone, 9 February 1934, clipping, microfilm M-107; O. A. Bursiel, memo to Members of the New England Division of the National Electric Light Association, 7 February 1931, file folder 3; "Boston Conference on Retail Distribution," 22-24 September 1930, program, file folder 17, all in Frederick Papers.
(67) See Janice Williams Rutherford, "`Only a Girl': Christine Frederick, Efficiency, Consumerism, and Woman's Sphere" (Ph.D. diss., Louisiana State University, 1996).
(68) Frederick, New Housekeeping, viii-ix, 10 (emphasis in original).
(69) See e.g., Frederick, Household Engineering, 405-6.
(70) See Frederick's list of "Ten Things to Do in Leisure Time," Household Engineering, 509.
Janice W. Rutherford is an assistant professor of history at Washington State University.
In the early 1900s, women who had been reared in the dual-sphere gender ideology of the nineteenth century began to enter the public sphere through professions that appeared to reside in the domestic arena: teaching and home economics, for example. Chronicling the career of Christine Frederick, an early home efficiency expert who bridged the public and domestic spheres by advertising newly developed labor-saving products for the home, Janice Williams Rutherford reveals the implicit conflicts between Frederick's own career and the homemaker role she advocated for other women.
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|Author:||RUTHERFORD, JANICE WILLIAMS|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2000|
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