The 7 Most Horrifying things in McCall’s (Sept 1949)

Last weekend, I found myself in an antique store, and came across a stack of old McCall’s magazines from 1949.  I had completely forgotten that this magazine even existed, and since I wasn’t interested in sewing when they stopped publishing it over 10 years ago I never connected the dots between the magazine and the pattern company.

I decided to buy one, and thought it would be fun to peruse the pages of what your average housewife would read for funsies 64 years ago.

My how times have changed.  THANK GOD!

First off, that iconic ad image of the 1950’s woman that has become almost a cliche at this point- the huge bright smile, wide eyes, giant full skirt- it must have started sometime in the 40’s because this thing was so full of that it was almost unreal.  I had a few “is this real life?” moments because while I knew that character must have been used, for whatever reason I didn’t expect to see it on almost every page.  It was very surreal.

Also- there are NO makeup ads, but if you take a modern women’s magazine, and replace every makeup ad with an ad for deodorant, you’ll have a sense of how weirdly prevalent those types of ads were.  Apparently late 1940’s/early 1950’s women were naturally gorgeous, but they smelled REALLY bad (or, at least, that’s what advertisers wanted them to believe).  Kind of makes you wonder about the things they advertise in those magazines today.

As I flipped through the pages of brightly smiling, malodorous women, I became more and more glad I am in my 30’s today, not 60 years ago.  Because as beautiful and fun as some of those outfits were, there’s a lot from back then that I have absolutely no desire to remake as “vintage modern”.

Presenting….  The 7 most awful and horrifying things I saw in the September 1949 McCalls (or- why I feel sorry for my grandmothers)

#1  Crisco- it’s digestable!

Let’s start off with an easy one. This was early in the magazine, and is the sort of whimsical and humorous tag line we like to expect. Digestible! How quaint!

#2 Green food coloring = instant pistachio!

Yeah…. I don’t buy it. And I’m starting to doubt the image of the mid-century housewife that was an amazing homemaker and cook that they would even suggest such a thing.

#3 You’re a bad mom if you don’t buy our product!

Gee- thanks for the guilt trip, McCalls. Not only do I not have any oil-o-sol in my medicine cabinet, I had never heard of it until now. Consider my children, unloved :(

#4- You can never be too clean!

Can you read the subheading? This is number ELEVEN in a series. I don’t want to know how long that series was. This article was several pages long :(

#5 You are getting sleepy….

This article was about 6 pages long, and “Cook it for him good” was splattered across every page in large font. One page even had it twice. Brainwashing by repetition? It is my womanly duty, after all…

#6 I’m not even going to try to make this one entertaining. It’s that awful.

Think twice before you tell the man “make yourself at home” I can’t even put into words… The man is actually the “hero” of this story. That girl is supposed to be 11 years old. I only skimmed the story, and what’s implied by this picture doesn’t happen (which kind of makes it even worse that they would dream this up to lure in readers). The gist of the story is- man gets invited to dinner at his high-school girlfriend’s house. He is completely disgusted by how unkempt the place is (there are crumbs on the kitchen counter!). He says some borderline inappropriate things to the daughter. Later the mom propositions him, but can’t decide if he can be with someone that keeps such a filthy house (crumbs!!! on the counter!!!!) . He later decides to call the mom and take her up on the offer, and she pretends he dialed the wrong number. The whole thing was just weird, and the mediocre housekeeping seemed like the real point of the story. Or maybe that unclean houses are magnets for pedophiles? I thought this might be something of a Lolita rip off since the mom in that book was kind of a slob, but that wasn’t published until 1955. Maybe this was just an ongoing theme until that book defined it. Whatever it is, it’s gross on several levels.

#7 The woman today is as bright as a toilet

Bright? You’re right! That goes for the lady- and the toilet bowl too!

Really, McCall’s?  REALLY?  Let’s compare our readers to a toilet!  That’s a great idea!
This is the one that really infuriates me.  This is 1949.  Only a few years ago, the women that were reading this magazine were keeping calm and carrying on.  They were making do and mending.  They were planting victory gardens to feed their family, and hoarding their rations so they could be lucky enough to buy one of those brand new sewing machines that you charmingly advertise in this magazine!
They were Rosie the Riveter, and you just made a buck on an advertiser that compared them to a toilet!?  REALLY???

Fucking hell, it sucked to be a woman back then….


3 thoughts on “The 7 Most Horrifying things in McCall’s (Sept 1949)

  1. Ugh! I think this is just proof that men were still writing all the women’s articles back then.

    I have to admit that Crisco’s tagline of “it’s digestible” does make me laugh though! I would hope that anything you put in your mouth to consume is digestible! lol!

    • I know! What does that say when “digestible” is the most positive quality you can mention about a food product?

      I bet you’re right that men were writing that stuff (or at least paying for it), but women were buying the magazine… It was very popular, and Eleanor Roosevelt had a regular column, so I suspect that despite all this stuff, it was probably a fairly progressive magazine compared to others. Ick.

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