From Betty Crocker to Mildred Pierce: representations of working women in depression-era America

Dunbar, Rebecca (2019) From Betty Crocker to Mildred Pierce: representations of working women in depression-era America. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines representations of working women in popular culture in Depression-era America. Throughout the decade, women who worked were castigated by society at large. This new study maintains that this phenomenon is best probed by an interdisciplinary approach, with a focus on the most commercially successful and widely disseminated products of the 1930s. In recent years, the scholarly trend has been to focus on forgotten texts of the era. I reverse this process, taking mainstream “bestsellers” or mass-market products of the 1930s as my primary sources of analysis. Literature, film, comic books, documentary photography and advertising are discussed comprehensively, by way of demonstrating the multi-frontal assault faced by women in popular culture. This project is informed by extensive archival research and original material, all of which illustrate the extent that, across multiple genres, conservative gender models were pushed whilst professional women with an aptitude for business were feared. Betty Crocker advertising campaigns are examined alongside Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Lois Lane in the early Superman comics, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (1936), Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ photograph, John S. Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath (1939), and James M. Cain’s 1930s literary output. This American Studies thesis illuminates the ways in which fictional representations consistently characterised women who excelled in business as dangerous, whilst those who upheld traditional notions of femininity were celebrated and, in some cases, iconised.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: American studies, gender, American literature, history, the Great Depression, film studies, food studies, advertising.
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Rattray, Dr. Laura
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Miss Rebecca Dunbar
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-75132
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2019 13:36
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2019 12:28
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.75132

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