Tuesday, November 14, 2006


A SUBSCRIPTION FOR DESPAIR
After many years of using the Internet, I think we forget that there was a time when people didn't have many ways reaching out to people. What would we do without our bulletin boards and personal blogs to spread our random thoughts like so many seeds to the masses? One of the relics of ephemera in my collection shows how it was done forty years ago.

Some time ago at a yard sale I came across a pile of magazines called "Women's Household". At first glance they just looked like your run of the mill women's recipe and crafts magazine, but with each one I picked up I was stunned; I had never seen such despair wrapped up in so much yarn. The woman running the sale, gave them all to me for a dollar, saying "Take them all, they are just going in the garbage." I knew I'd do something with them someday, I guess this blog is it.

"Women's Household" was a monthly crafts publication which sold for 25 cents an issue. Their slogan was "Meet Other Friendly Woman Just Like You". The key phrase being 'just like you'; middle aged women isolated in small towns across America. Every month readers were encouraged to participate in the writing of the articles, such as My Pet Peeve, or Words I Live By, My Diet or just to write a poem about Christ or their cat. Subscribers were able to read fascinating articles about fellow crafters such as in the column "Her Creative Busy Hands"



In the section, 'Calling Young Homemakers', you'll meet young woman who express the frustration with their new marriage, like my husband works too much, I can't get along with his mother, or my husband lost his leg in a boiler accident.

Or you can visit with the furry companions of the readers in the column 'All About Pets',

Granted some of the features are very informative such as Glamourizing Discards, Dishcloth Pillow, or learn to make a Rattle that won't rattle.


My favorite section is Missing Persons Corner. Here people ask for help in finding a long, long lost friend or relative. Usually the description of the person is vague at best, i.e., liked to drive cars; five foot five, last seen in Pensacola Florida. The most amazing thing is that they even have a section for people found.

Equally as sad, is the column, "Write to a Shut-in". Here people write details of their or some friend's illnesses pleading with people to write them. For example: This very sweet lady is a shut-in. She has a limb off below the knee and needs encouragement; Or this man is quite poor and ill with no cure in sight, he would dearly love a card. My heart bleeds and I just have to turn the page to be cheered up by a photo of a woman who collects antique ceramic toothpick holders. I had no idea that there was such a thing, let alone that there were people that collected them. I hope that when Mrs. Stinnett passed on someone worthy got this grand collection.

Nestled among the articles and patterns for knitted cozies are deceptive ads for diets and instant face lifts in a jar.

So like the internet not much has changed.

Someday, when I'm in my dotage (in 2-3 years from now) I'll sit and scan in all these Women's Household magazines and create a website. In the meantime, quilting circle anyone?

62 comments:

Aaron said...

Maybe Mrs. Stinnett isn't dead...maybe she's still alive, collecting toothpick holders.

Hopefully, however, she's changed that dress...

BC Kalz said...

That picture of Jan and her crown is priceless.

Anonymous said...

when i read this i felt sorry for the ladies featured. and then i wondered what they would think of me...typing away on my computer, making friends far away, who share interests others find boring, pointless or pathetic. and i saw that they were just pre-internet geeks who played "make a pencil holder from a can" instead of wowc. we're all the same monkey.

bcimhe@hotmail

Anonymous said...

The irony, it is too much.

Anonymous said...

Despair is right. Are you sure Edward Gorey had nothing to do with this?

Especially troubled by the 555-pound Dolly Dimples lifting her skirt, and by the 120-pound version suddenly sporting an afro (note that it hasn't increased her height though).

Note that this issue is from the same year as Eleanor Rigby: "Ah, look at all the lonely people."

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that this is the only life these women knew, and therefore they had no idea that they were missing anything (at least most didn't). There's something to be said for respecting all the hard work they did, and the simple life they led. Let's not degrade them with our pity. Maybe they would pity me with my lack of certain domestic savvy due to different priorities. It's all a matter of perspective

oldpunkkatie said...

why oh why oh WHY can't we have more magazines like this? And how does one lose a leg in a boiler accident?

Anonymous said...

To oldpunkkatie:

A boiler accident = explosion of a large, metallic structure (usually). Basically, it's a shrapnel bomb. Someone that is near a boiler when it explodes and loses only a limb would be considred "lucky".

Anonymous said...

Quoted from anonymous: "Let's not degrade them with our pity."

Better yet, let's not degrade them by assuming that the women depicted in the magazine were so lacking in imagination that they couldn't imagine a better life. Womens' sufferage and the Equal Rights movement came about because women were not satisfied with their opportunities.

Sure, we can respect hard work, but let's also not forget how isolating and difficult life has been at different times in history, how far we have come, and how far we have to go.

And "Don't forget that this is the only life these women knew, and therefore they had no idea that they were missing anything "

WTF? During this time more women were going to college than ever before, only to toss it all and stay home once they got married and were therefore "un-hirable". I think LOTS of women knew what they were missing.

Anonymous said...

More scans please!

Judy said...

Oh, my God! What I'd give to be able to sit around and make novelty crafts instead of spending my life in an office! My mother and her friends used to spend weeks making Christmas ornaments from Styrofoam balls, sequins and straight pins. Of course those were the days when you had "one for the road" and everyone thought smoking relaxed your lungs. Ah, for the good old days!

Oh, and what's the point exactly of a "quiet rattle"?

Anonymous said...

Oh,the power of the internet!
Dolly Dimples never did lose those pounds...
http://dimensionsmagazine.com/images/circus/dolly/dolly_diet.html

Frogstar said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celesta_Geyer

Chris said...

How strange. I picked up a stack of these that my mother-in-law had bought at a rummage sale with the intent of scanning them and blogging about them (or creating a website).

As sad and depressing as many of these are, I saw them as another commented had said - this was a pre-Internet way of women to share interests, make "pen pals", and find some ways to share their crafts and skills.

My favorite story (and the first I'll scan) was in the "My Pets" section about a women and her one legged pet chicken.

Hapto said...

update the design, and and you've got livejournal.

Stevie D. said...

What a funny find. I like the non-rattle...

Do you think the Circus Fat Lady lost her job when it dipped to 554? 499? I wonder when being overweight stops being profitable?

Great post!
- Steve D.

Anonymous said...

I found it to be interesting that the rattle that doesnt rattle is made with a 'can' most like type of can used????? probably tin with those ungoddly sharp edges that make grown men cringe while tossing the trash. I wonder how many infants severed their fingers or gums playing with that home made rattle....

Debbie said...

Sweet fancy Moses, it's the perfect backdrop to a Tim Burton movie!

My favorites are the ads for foundation garments that wouldn't even pass muster at Abu Ghraib. And pet monkeys.

Great find!

karamcnair said...

Interesting. I don't find it depressing at all - I find it quite hopeful and inspiring that there was such a magazine for these people. It gave them a sense of connectedness and inclusion and gave them a place to write to.

Now, if they were all all alone and didn't have this kind of 'social networking' device, that would be bleak.

quadpus said...

The Jan Nordine article, has "boy" pasted over the "men" in "department" - is this a clever gimmick of the magazine, or somebody's art project?

Rev. T. Monkey said...

It makes me wonder what our grandkids will think of Hip Mama.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure afro skinny woman is actually wearing a hat.

Mike Lynch said...

Good Lord. There was so much bleakness in those "states the planes fly over," where I was raised in the 1960s. That "Missing Persons" graphic of the bodies floating up, emitting rows of black bubbles: chilling.

Regardless, thanks for this. And post more if you can.

Anonymous said...

Notice the missing guy had "tips of fingers missing from right hand". Whoa!

There's More To Life Than Shoes said...

It just makes me want to read the rest of the articles.

Anonymous said...

You know what? I don't see what's so sad and depressing about these articles or this magazine. What's so different from this magazine than the lonely or isolated person today joining MySpace? These women were trying to create a sense of community for themselves in the only way they could at the time, I don't see what's wrong with that.

They deserve the same respect and dignity as everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Several posts here pity these women for being homemakers and for being similar, etc. I think this is a narrow-minded view for 2 reasons.

First, women (and men) always tend to form communities with each other, including the way they dress. Do you pity women who follow current fashions?

Secondly, I think condeming a woman because she is a homemaker (and not all women then were...like my own grandmother) is ridiculous. One should have great respect for these kind of women.

You may find these kind of magazines "non-chic", but take your pity elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

No. Let's mock them, it's funnier.

Anonymous said...

Don't delude yourself: this is all of us. As the Gang of Four said: 'We live as we dream -- alone'

Anonymous said...

You know what's mind-bogglingly sad and depressing? 1)The magazines in circulation now. 2)People who think they're so very different from everyone else. We're all on different roads, but we're all headed to the same fucking place.

Primitive Nerd said...

Wow, what a great find. I suppose those ladies would've loved The Internets. And The Internets certainly would've loved them back.

Infocrat said...

I like the two schools of thought so far in these comments:

1. "They're sad and we should feel pity for them."

2. "They're just like us web-geeks."

We should consider the possibility that both are true.

jayKayEss said...

These ladies all look pretty happy to me.

Anonymous said...

Being a homemaker is an honorable, wonderful profession. Remember the principle of "Kill the Buddha" - what a person thinks about something might indicate more about the person judging than the thing being judged.

Could it be that OUR lives are the ones that are "depressing", and we're projecting that on these women because - GASP - they might have actually been quite happy? How could they possibly have been happy, if they didn't go out and have careers?

Get over yourselves. Just because you're special, medicated, Web 2.0 enabled, torrentified and Torified, you came from these women. A little respect, please.

Anonymous said...

My mom tells me that if you were too upity at that time they either gave you a hysterectomy or lots and lots of heavy duty tanquelizers. She was given the drugs for a long time.

I can remember the almost compulsive crafting that my mom and her friends did when I was a kid, but I guess at least they were not sitting on thier butts in front of LJ....

Anonymous said...

"We live as we dream, alone" -- that wasn't just the Gang of Four; it is attributed to Joseph Conrad. So whether these magazines are a heart of darkness, or yer ray of light, that's in the eye of the beholder.

Jim said...

Too funny. Perhaps a future generation will be laughing at my clothes and behavior. Fine with me.

I'm a 48 year old male professional. Tonight, for the first time in my life, I'm learning how to bake bread, and I completed an oil painting last week. I could easily give up my job for a domestic life. In some ways, those women had alot of freedom.

Anonymous said...

The mention of diets is the only part that depresses me. Dieting was poorly understood in that era. People- mostly women - did a lot of damage to their bodies by going on wildly unbalanced diets that actually caused their health to worsen.

Anonymous said...

Do you suppose this is the missing person?

Anonymous said...

Miss Dolly Dimples was a real person and set a world record for weight loss. Check this out.

Laurie said...

I wonder how many unfortunate babies choked on the little baubles sewn to the fake rattle? Or how many of them came loose and ended up in tiny eyes, ears and noses?

And yes, the Weight Watchers Queen looks really thrilled with her lot in life. Yikes.

Diane said...

Regarding the boiler explosion, my great-grandfather, whom I never met (obviously)was a fireman on a locomotive. He was scalded to death in a boiler explosion. Nasty things, those. :(

Anonymous said...

here's a thought to chew on.

Maybe we pity these ladies and/or they make us feel sad BECAUSE they are just like us.

Whoa.

asha said...

Grim grim grim grim grim....

Liza's Pills said...

Hi there! I have a radio show in Canada and am going to play a couple of the songs you've posted on your site.

Feel free to email me more. They're groovy.

Meredith said...

This is a great historical document. Let me explain. It shows the unvarnished lives of ordinary women in the era between the automation of most household work and the acceptance of women's careers. All of that creativity busting out! This is John Water's world!

Make sure these get to an archive at some point.

Anonymous said...

Sa-ah-aad.

kat said...

I like the cake made out of towels.

Anonymous said...

I think Real Simple is much scarier than these women's magazines from the 1960s. If I don't have my children's shoes put away in monogrammed Hold Everything canvas shoe organizers, then I am a bad mom. (Uh-oh, I don't even have children! Horrors!)

Taylor said...

I have been refered to as a "homemaker". I hate this term.... I am not a homemaker... I am a 22 year old mother who loves sex, pot and dirty magazines. Maybe I should start a magazine for the "homemaker" of the new century... dirty little secrets of homemakers. I know I have a few.... yes that is me who ansers the door butt naked when the mailman delivers a package, yes it is I who proudly walks out of sex stores arms laden with bags, finally, yes it is I who has a subscription to 8 different porno magazines, not my boyfriend like I pretend. So here is my message to all the "homemakers" out there.... BREAK YOUR FUCKING CHAINS!!!!

Anonymous said...

It was the end of the world when women earned the right to vote, at least they used to know their place. you girls are far to opinionated these days and reverting back to the good old days would be much better for society. There would be more jobs for men and you girls could look after the kids and have our dinner ready for us when we arrived home after a hard days slog. Go back to fluffy bunnies and baking cakes ;)

Anonymous said...

I completely support a woman's modern right to work at Wall Mart! Good thing the chains of home making have at last been broken so that our economy can be thrust into high gear with all that extra labor. No longer do only men need enjoy the high energy risk of losing a leg in a boiler accident. Thank God for apple pie, Jesus, tea cozies, the equal right ammendment, porno, and y2k compliance.

C said...

Johnny C: 40-ish GWM, part-time singer, part-time music collector, part-time home projectionist.
-- That, to me, is quiet desperation.

Lynn said...

As a woman who grew up in a tiny rural town, I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments. Occasionally my mother read Women's Household and thought these ladies were celebrities :) Many people in my village didn't have a phone or a car (which my grandmother called a "machine") and we were very happy and self-sufficient. Writing letters was the big form of communication and I can still remember the excitement of anyone in the family getting a letter in the mail. We grew everything we ate, made most of what we wore, and enjoyed lovely visits from friends and neighbors. Everyone knew everyone else and life was much slower than it is now. And, believe it or not, "us girls" were pretty independent. We controlled the food :)

Johnny C said...

Hey Lynn... thanks for your comments... you should repeat them on my latest issue post so more people can read them... I'm so happy that someone wrote who actually remembers this magazine and the fact that the ladies were considered celebrities makes me very happy. The more I read these the more respect I had for these women who were like you said, 'self-sufficient".

Anonymous said...

Hey...what's the deal!! I actually purchased and enjoyed these magazines when they were on the market, and I was then, and stil am, a career woman. I did not pity the contributors then, and do not pity them now. As one post said, they all looked pretty happy. I found some of the aticles silly and otherwise, and, also, some of the ads. But nothing has changed in that regard. Magazines today still have material which could be described the same. And, in fact, a lot on the internet can be described in that manner. Nothing has changed really...only the medium we use. Internet bloggers are no different than those "homemakers." Subjects may vary, etc., but underlying basis is the same.

ndnolagrl said...

I use to buy this magazine as well as Women's Circle. I loved the articles, recipes and crafts that each contained. I miss these types of magazines. I still have a few of my copies on hand, from the 1980's and early 1990's, before the magazines were discontinued. Thank you for sharing this older copy with us.

gustygrl said...

I remember this magazine, as well as Women's Circle. I have several copies of each in my magazine stash. My copies are from the 1980's and 1990's. I miss this type of magazine. Thank you for sharing this on your blog.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the 60's and learned to can my own foods, cook, clean, sew, etc. I used to write alot of letters. I do not find anything depressing about these magazines and in fact, I wish they were still available. I have two copies from 1965 and the letters in them are very interesting. Many of the people who wrote them included their date of birth to find a "birthday buddy". Seeing those dates of birth I think of all the letters in these old magazines that were some of our ancestors who are now undoubtedly deceased. Think of all they saw when they lived. So much of our countries' history occurred between 1900-1965. I think they were the lucky ones. They most likely did not live in the rat race we call everyday life. I'm sure there were plenty of hardships but look at what we have to put up with now. As another blogger stated, they stayed home all day and made crafts. How many women would not want to have the choice to stay home or work? I am not a lazy person but I feel a loss that that choice has been taken away from us along with priveleges such as men opening our doors and being verbally respectful.

I was raised partly by my grandmother who was a true lady. She worked part-time and was a vice president of a local bank. My grandfather was a mailman who walked his route every day. She still had the choice to stay home if she wanted and was able to spend alot of time with her children and grandchildren. It was her influence on my life that caused me to feel connected to the past. I miss her and I miss the times when things were not as rushed. I wish this magazine was still in print for I would subscribe if it were. If anyone out there has the June 1965 issue I would be interested in purchasing it.

Thanks,
D. Bart
MD

Johnny C said...

Dear D. Bart MD... thanks for your lovely comment. This post has gotten a lot attention over the years. I've posted many more on this magazine and will do so again in the future.

The magazine I think is an interesting look at times gone by, for better or for worse. I think I've always felt a little sad about these magazines because they are basically craft magazines, but their letters do have the longing of reaching out to someone. And as one poster said, very similiar to the Internet today.

I don't have the particular issue you are looking for... but I'm in the future looking to scan full issues. At least for posterity's sake, my collection is crumbling to pieces... Let me know if you'd be interested.

johnny c.

alicornmoon said...

It was not just a 60's magazine, I have a copy my aunt had from 1981. Really, it was just the stay at home ma/grandma/aunt's internet of its time..at least in my town where internet was not common until 1997.
I really don't pity them one bit :)

Unknown said...

This is when it is important to a little research before you post something. The Celesta Herrmann Geyer story, Dolly Dimples the Fat Lady who lost 433 lbs, is a true story of a woman who grew up overweight, married and then during the 1920's - Great Depression when her husband lost his job, they had an opportunity with the circus as part of a side show. Later, after suffering a near fatal heart attack, her doctor told her she must lose weight or die. She did in fact go on a very low calorie diet, lost all that weight in little over a year and then wrote a book about it and toured, advocating a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise. She died at the age of 70 and never regained the weight. I would say she is a success story... and it is true, not a gimmick.