top of page

Milling through the ages: 19th and 20th century 

Women in advertising Part 1

(Credit: Jake Banyard, Garfield Weston Foundation intern at the Mills Archive)

The social history of milling expands beyond the physical structure of the mill. As a highly important part of the food production process, milling appears in many ways throughout history. One of those ways, and an angle from which a women’s history of flour milling can be approached, is through advertising. As mills grew larger in size and production capacity, they began to not just serve their local communities, but to try and sell flour to other markets. As competition grew, milling companies promoted their product in an attempt to sell more of it, a concept that would have been entirely alien to the medieval miller.

Here at the Mills Archive we have a fantastic collection of magazines and journals published during the 20th century, including a publication from the USA called The Northwestern Miller, and Milling, a UK magazine. Both the publications contain a wealth of information; discussions of contemporary debates, new milling methods, and law changes relating to milling. In this case, we will focus on the advertisements that complete their pages.

Using advertising as a historical approach can be illuminating because it can tell us a lot about the values and culture of the society that produced it, but also about the specific industry it comes from. The Northwestern Miller is richer in advertisements referencing women and the adverts in general are more developed, both technically and conceptually. Milling gives a UK perspective and by comparing the two, we may make some conclusions about women’s relationship to flour and its advertising in the 20th century.

The first advert chosen was produced by the Hubbard Milling company in the early 20th century. While simple in design, there is a clear reference to women in the branding of the flour as ‘Mother Hubbard’ Flour. The advert also contains a picture of a flour sack, branded with the same ‘Mother Hubbard’ name and illustrated with an image of a woman using a mixing bowl. In this advert women are referenced as mothers, a representation that at the time would have been strongly accompanied by ideas of domesticity.

This advertisement is more technically complicated, containing multiple different elements; a drawing of the mill, two slogans, and an image of three women promoting the flour. The three women, wearing very similar outfits, have the words ‘The’, ‘Quality’, and ‘Flour’, printed across the front of their dresses. Again, women are represented in association with ideas of high-quality flour.


Women in advertising Part 1

Figure 1) The Northwestern Miller, 5th November 1924.

bottom of page