Scanning Around With Gene: The Era of "Mad" Women
I haven’t had a television for the last couple of years, so I’ve never seen the series "Mad Men," though from all the media reports I feel like I have. Everywhere I turn these days it seems like there’s some nostalgia (good and bad) for the era of heavy drinking, heavy smoking, racism and sexism, at least as reflected by the show that takes place in the Madison Avenue advertising industry.
I have no idea if "Mad Men" is accurate or not in its portrayal of the times, and particularly the role that women played, so I thought I’d look today at some images from Family Circle and Woman’s Day magazines, circa 1963 and 1964. And since I was 7 in 1963, I also can’t vouch that these magazines were at all reflective of the times, although they had large circulations and were very popular. I’m guessing they at least represented a large portion of the population. Click on any image for a larger version.
I do suspect that these magazines were fairly accurate in their portrayal of the fashions of the time, which were very colorful, and many of the articles point to the needs of working women. But plenty of the ads also assume that women were responsible for the domestic work as well.
There are many references to things like “poise” and “charm,” and articles describing the proper way, for example, to exit a swimming pool or sit on a cushion at a barbeque without losing your dignity.
Women in 1963 had their share of problems, too, of course, and many articles focus on weight loss and mood shifts, and the various remedies available.
Do women still wear curlers? One thing I do remember from 1963 was the ritual of curlers, which seemed to be an important part of life for my two sisters and mom. Hairstyles come and go, but I think its safe to say that, in general, women spend less total time on their hair these days then they did back then.
Perhaps it was because more women were, indeed, working outside of the home, but food enjoyed one of its poorest periods in those days — focus was on convenience and less on taste or nutrition.
We clearly had not yet entered the era of wine appreciation. Here’s one of my favorite ads from the times for Gallo when wine came pretty much in three flavors: red, white, and rosé. But the bottles were pretty. I think hard alcohol was more popular then. In my house wine was only served to dinner guests — otherwise the menu was purely any variety of “booze,” which went better with the non-stop cigarettes (that part of "Mad Men" is apparently accurate from my experience).
The early Sixties were certainly a time of transition for both women and men, though Family Circle and Woman’s Day were clearly not reflecting some of the changes going on in larger society. Lots of things were about to break loose.
It’s hard not to resort to clichés when looking back at any period, and I suspect the TV show "Mad Men" has fallen into that trap. Surely for every gross behavior of the time there were progressive views and examples of more modern thinking. But at least in the pages of these magazines, some cliché’s are clearly supported.