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Milling through the ages: 19th and 20th century 

Women in advertising Part 2

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

This image is of the cover page of the November 26, 1924 edition of The Northwestern Miller. Whilst not strictly speaking an advertisement, it can still contribute to our understanding of women’s position in relation to the milling industry in the past. The woman in the background of the cover image, possibly the mother, is seen watching the boy eat the pie. Wearing an apron, she is presented as the provider of the food and is symbolised as the domestic carer, looking after the boy and giving him ‘his Christmas pie’.

These three advertisements or images represent women in such a way that their association with domesticity and homecare are played upon to bestow an image of quality on the products being promoted. What must be considered is the way in which women’s role in wider society was thought of in the 20th century. The idea of the male husband, ‘breadwinner’, who worked and provided the income for the family whilst the woman ‘housewife’ looked after the home and cared for the husband and family was prevalent in both the USA and the UK. The idealised housewife would cook for and feed her family with high quality, home-cooked food. The representation of women in the adverts discussed is building upon this stereotype, it draws upon ideas of women’s ‘traditional’ role as the providers of food and comfort and attempts to associate these values with the products being promoted.

This advertisement by The Raymond Bag Co. is relatively minimalist in design. It features the bag they sell, used by millers to package flour, labelled as ‘The Housewife’s Favorite’. Here, the evocation of women through the ‘housewife’ is used in a different way in comparison to the adverts seen above. Women become not the symbol of quality, but the judge of it. The advert relies upon the same assumptions as those that precede it, that women are the domestic carers, but expands this by positioning women as the primary purchaser of domestic goods. Supposedly it is women who will make the decision of which flour to buy, and it is to women that the product must therefore appeal.

This advertisement is a little different in nature. It is acting as an advert of an advert. Its intended audience is the average consumer, attempting to promote toast to them as a way of increasing bread sales, thus benefitting the flour milling and baking industry. The readership of the magazine is not, however, likely to be the average consumer, but more probably millers, bakers, and those in some way involved with the flour milling industry. The company that created the advert wants the readers of the magazine to help in the promotion of this campaign to increase bread consumption. This provides an interesting opportunity. In promoting their campaign, the General Mills company explains explicitly its goals and purposes, alongside how it will supposedly achieve them.

“Bread consumption goes up 39% when toast is on the breakfast table! That’s what General Mills’ recent home feeding surveys proved. And that’s the profitable extra business that the advertisement goes out to get – for you! Make the week of October 1 to 5 a “serve-more-toast” week in your community! Feature, in your own advertising, the 7 appealing ways to serve toast suggested in this Saturday Evening Post advertisement sponsored for you by General Mills, Inc. By applying the sound selling ideas given here to your own market… by pointing out to consumers why your bread makes delicious, tender toast… by suggesting to women new ways to serve toast, you can double the effectiveness of this powerful advertising in your market. The oftener toast is served in your customers’ homes, the more bread will be eaten – and the greater your sales and profits!”

The text is clear in how this campaign’s success can be realised. It is hinged on women’s attitudes toward toast; ‘By suggesting to women new ways to serve toast, you can double the effectiveness of this powerful advertising in your market.’ Indeed, it seems that the target of the advert is women. This is reinforced by the presentation of the hand in the principal image of the advert, the painted nails playing upon gender stereotypes to mark it as a woman’s hand. It seems that again it is women who are presumed to be the principal purchasers of domestic goods such as bread and it is women who are thus the main targets of advertising.


Women in advertising Part 2

Figure 4) The Northwestern Miller, 26th November 1924.

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