Monday, April 16, 2012

Parenting in the 1930s

When I picked up my vintage office credenza/desk the other day, I also took the time to flip through a stack of old magazines that the second hand store had. I am curious about anything published in the 1930s, the decade in which my house was built.

So, if you shake together my love of the printed word, old illustrations, and the 1930s, you can imagine that it was unavoidable that I would come home with the November 1937 edition of National Parent-Teacher, "The only official magazine of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers."

What was interesting about the magazine?

How much things are the same as today:

1. Women and mothers who are portrayed as competent, knowing, and in control of their household and public affairs, like this elegant lady here:

If not for all the paperwork, Betty would already have served herself a cocktail.
2. Parents were, even in the 1930s, put out by the amount of time and resources local schools asked of their children, and worried that teachers' homework demands were taking up too much precious family time.

"Some of the parents protested that the tasks assigned by the teacher for out-of-school work consume so much time and energy that household tasks are impossible, if there is to be any time for rest or play."

I don't know if I find it comforting that this has always been a concern or whether it's just depressing. As a Mom I often bristle at all the extra things the school sometimes asks me to cram into the precious 5 to 8:30 p.m. bedtime hours of my children, in addition to that home cooked meal (families who eat together stick together!) cleaning up after said home cooked meal, packing lunches for tomorrow, allowing a little play time, time for reading (are you keeping up your reading chart?), bathtime, and tuck-in talks and snuggles. Can it be possible this was the same worry of mothers of school children in 1937?

3. Mothering concentrated heavily on cleanliness and good nutrition to raise healthy children. In the world before the polio vaccine and antibiotics, what other resources did they have?

The puppy chow came later. 

4. Sometimes the advertisements violate our 21st Century sensibilities:

Baby got Welded-Wire Seal. Daddy got the crush proof carton. Oh, and lung cancer.
A lot of advertisements from that era concentrated on the cleanliness, sterility, or safety of product packaging, but could you ever IMAGINE comparing a product for a baby in any way with cigarettes today? It make me cough and shudder both at the same time!

5. Women were supposed to keep spotless houses, raise intelligent, obedient, and clean children, all the while looking fantastic. Get a load of these swanky heels:

I believe women are still supposed to do all of that. I think the only difference may be the automatic washer and dryer, the more I consider it. What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment