"The Tragic Failure of America's Women": Studies in Crap Presents Coronet magazine
Date: September, 1947
Discovered at: Estate sale
The Cover Promises: "The tragic failure of America's women. A shocking indictment by a noted woman physician."
ALSO: Ain't nothing wrong with America's boys, with their Archie hair-cuts, superhero socks, and narcoleptic harmonica playing.
Representative Quotes: "There is one type of woman rarely seen in a psychiatrist's office. That is the woman who is glad she is a woman." (page 4)
"Unhappy and neurotic, they may confess to breathlessness, heartburn, muscle twitching, spells of faintness, and continual fatigue. And the more they are involved with careers, the more they are idle, the more they are childless, the more they are fashionably dressed and elaborately made up, the longer is the list of their troubles." (page 3)
Despite the hysterics of the cover, this issue of the Readers' Digest-y Coronet offers much more than just Maryina F. Farnham's screed against post-war ladyhood - a screed, incidentally, that charges career-minded mothers with nothing less than the breakdown of society:
"The spawning ground for most neuroses in our civilization is the home nursery. And the principal agent is rejecting, or otherwise emotionally disordered, mother. It is she who is largely responsible for most of our 750,000 confirmed alcoholics, for millions of other neurotics, for our increasing number of criminals and truants."
More on Farnham in a bit.
First, let's sample Coronet's other riches, such as this glimpse of healthy domestic life.
Coronet breaks all the tough stories.
And asks all the right questions.
And would never limit its misogyny to the ranting of that "noted woman physician."
That brings us back to Farnham. In "the Tragic Failure of America's Women," she contends that feminists had "masculinized" women, convincing them that raising children and tending the home no longer held any prestige.
"Acclaim goes to the woman who acquires two college degrees, becomes a foreign correspondent, emerges from three marriages, brings one neurotic brat into the world, and sounds off regularly on current affairs, just like a man."
That Americans no longer exalt motherhood remains a point worth discussing. Unfortunately, Farnham's ulterior motive seems to be demonstrating that women are too keyed-up to have such a discussion. Every couple of paragraphs she blurts some rancorous anecdote about a mother who "loathes" her baby or some generalization like "Few men like a masculinized wife, and few children can thrive under a masculinized mother."
Her finest claim:
"The pet fantasy of the feminists is that childbirth is a period of horrible agony to which women must submit while their carefree husbands pass out cigars. Actually, the entire process is as natural as breathing. The healthy, normal young woman feels little pain, even without anesthesia, unless she has had her wits scared out of her by the warnings of emotionally unstable female acquaintances."
For real women, pain don't hurt.
Farnham concludes "Our young women must be attracted into reconstructing the home as an institution that will give the female sex a sense of importance again." This does not preclude working outside the home. She recommends many "splendid" careers, all part-time, "which may make them even better mothers."
"Such careers are those which do not require antagonistic virtues, but in which feminine skills or viewpoints are urgently needed; for example, nursing, social-service work, child guidance, catering, decorating, play-direction - and, above all, teaching."
Of course, in 1947, as Farnham points out, most states banned married women from teaching! Good luck out there, ladies!
From the back cover:
Look what question Coronet would ask all those school kids just three years later.
"Only after considering all the relevant factors will you be in a position to decide for yourself whether the rhythm theory is the right or wrong method to use in your own family planning."
This is the Coronet: if it can't talk you into having baby after baby, it'll trick you into it!
The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice's sister paper, The Pitch.