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.

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Posted on: April 22, 2012

Gene Gable

Gene Gable has spent a lifetime in publishing, editing and the graphic arts and is currently a technology consultant and writer. After a decade in commercial typesetting and design services, he chronicled the desktop-publishing revolution from his post as publisher and president of Publish magazine. With nine international editions, Publish became the leading global resource on the use of digital technology for print and Web production. Gable served on the operational boards of International Data Group's PCWorld, The Web and PC Games magazines and was earlier publisher of Sporting Times magazine. During his tenure at Ziff-Davis Gable was on the executive team responsible for major business events such as Comdex, Networld+Interop and JavaOne. As president of Seybold Seminars and publisher of The Seybold Report, Gable managed a global slate of conferences, trade shows and other graphic-arts educational products. During his leadership Seybold events featured prominent speakers such as Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer, Christie Hefner, president of Playboy Enterprises, Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe Systems, and Daniel Carp, CEO of Eastman Kodak. Gable has spoken at events around the world and has written extensively on graphic design, intellectual-property rights, and publishing production in books and for magazines such as Print, U&lc, ID, Macworld, Graphic Exchange, AGI, and The Seybold Report. His clients have included A-list brands in technology and financial services. Gable's interest in graphic design history and letterpress printing resulted in his popular columns "Heavy Metal Madness" and "Scanning Around with Gene" here on CreativePro.com. Follow Gene on Twitter

10 Comments on Scanning Around With Gene: The Era of "Mad" Women

  1. So you start off by confessing that you’ve never actually seen Mad Men, and then draw the conclusion that it’s clichéd and has fallen into some “trap” of looking at a bygone era through rose colored glasses? You’d have been better off to simply look back at the print ads of the time, reminisce fondly, and leave out trying to capitalize on a popular show’s name for a few hits from a Twitter mention.

    Maybe go back, rent the first Season and then see if it holds up to your grueling standards. Although I suspect that since you feel the need to drop the line that you “haven’t had a television for the last couple of years” that’s not likely to happen.

  2. Thanks, Gene, for the images and the commentary. I enjoyed both!

    Terri Stone

  3. There was no conclusion drawn by Gene that “it’s clichéd and has fallen into some “trap” of looking at a bygone era through rose colored glasses?” He clearly says, “I have no idea if “Mad Men” is accurate or not in its portrayal of the times, and particularly the role that women played..”
    Maybe try reading the article and retain what you just read before acting like an ass.

  4. Deleting posts? Classy.

  5. We don’t delete posts unless they are spam or in any way offensive. However since we delete posts MANUALLY it’s entirely possible that something was deleted by accident. Also, when people use indistinct subject likes like “Wow” it’s easy to mistake it for the gazillions of posts that have similar subject lines like “Yes” or “Love it” that are indeed spam.

    Note that I didn’t delete your message.

    Pamela Pfiffner

  6. Gene, I so enjoy your insights. We’re about the same age and I remember growing up in Chicago during the ’60s. My dad was in advertising and I made that my career too (I watch Mad Men even though it makes me “mad” sometimes). But as far as women in the workforce, they still earn less than men and are predominantly still in “female” careers (healthcare, education, etc.). So, in those respects, I guess not much has changed. When Virginia Slims cigarettes were introduced in 1968 with the tag line “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” I suspect that many women did feel that way. But, aside from still being stuck in a time warp when it comes to careers and wages, we have gone too far, I think. I am truly appalled at the graphic language that many younger women these days use and the way they dress (or don’t dress). Your comment about gross behavior of the time applies to today too. Human nature doesn’t change too much, be it 1963 or 2012.

  7. Gene, I so enjoy your insights. We’re about the same age and I remember growing up in Chicago during the ’60s. My dad was in advertising and I made that my career too (I watch Mad Men even though it makes me “mad” sometimes). But as far as women in the workforce, they still earn less than men and are predominantly still in “female” careers (healthcare, education, etc.). So, in those respects, I guess not much has changed. When Virginia Slims cigarettes were introduced in 1968 with the tag line “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” I suspect that many women did feel that way. But, aside from still being stuck in a time warp when it comes to careers and wages, we have gone too far, I think. I am truly appalled at the graphic language that many younger women these days use and the way they dress (or don’t dress). Your comment about gross behavior of the time applies to today too. Human nature doesn’t change too much, be it 1963 or 2012.

  8. Hadise Biz Burdayız Şarkı SözüÇak, çak diyoruz ben diyene Vah, vah diyoruz bilmeyene Herkes duysun biz burdayız Ve de durmayız Soner Sarıkabadayı Muhatap Şarkı Sözü Boşluklar ve can alıcı sorular olursa Çekinme sor tabi hesabı Geride bi muhatap bulabilirsen Gerçeği göreceksin eminim Soner Sarıkabadayı Pişman Değilim Şarkı Sözü Pişman değilim düşman değilim Kaderime ben… Kaderime ben Taştan değilim sil baştan değilim Giderim ben… Soner Sarıkabadayı Burda Biri Var Şarkı Sözü
    Burda Biri Var … Sirkesi küpüne zarar Hiç durmadan seni arıyor… Bildiği kadar Belki yolları dar hepsinin sonu sana çıkar… Yerli ve yabancı albümler müzik marketlerde yerini aldığın andan itibaren yerli albümler Şarkı Sözleri ekibimiz tarafında şarkı titizlikle dinlenerek sözleri yazılmakta olup, Türkçe Şarkı Sözünün Doğru yazılması konusunda bu işin önderi durumuna gelmiş bulunmaktayız. Evde iş yerinde canınız sıkıldığında Radyo Dinle sayfamızdan Sendeyim Radyoyu dinleyerek güzel vakitler geçirebilirsiniz. Ayrıca sitemizde gördüğünüz rüyanın ne anlama geldiğini Rüya TabirleriŞiir bölümümüzden ünlü şairlerin ve amatör şairlerin şiirlerini okuyabilir, Flash Şiir bölümümüzden özel olarak yapılmış flash şiirleri izleyebilirsiniz. Kandil Mesajları bölümümüzden sevdiklerinize güzel ve anlamlı kandil mesajları yollayabilirsiniz. Ev hanımları Yemek Tarifleri bölümümüzden beğendikleri yemeklerin tariflerini okuyup akşam eşine ve çocuklarına güzel yemekler hazırlayabilirler. Her yaştan oyun severler için Oyun sayfamızı ziyaret edebilir güzel vakitler geçirebilirsiniz. Güzel geçmeyen bir gününüzde Fıkra bölümümüzden komik bir fıkra okuyarak kötü giden bir günde yüzünüzün gülümsemesine yardımcı olabiliriz ve birçok kategoride hizmetlerimiz sizleri bekliyor.

  9. I just have to say WOW what a perfect SPAM control by You people. A lot of people still spamming the comments area. I have been very frustrated what LED Advice is doing in comments 😛

  10. Gene, I so enjoy your insights genshchina.ruWe’re about the same age and I remember growing up in Chicago during the ’60s. My dad was in advertising and I made that my career too (I watch Mad Men even though it makes me “mad” sometimes). But as far as women in the workforce, they still earn less than men and are predominantly still in “female” careers (healthcare, education, etc.). So, in those respects, I guess not much has changed. When Virginia Slims cigarettes were introduced in 1968

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