American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Mothers, Militants, Martyrs, & "M’m! M’m! Good!" Taming the New Woman: Campbell Soup Advertising in Good Housekeeping, 1905 – 1920

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies/History

First Advisor

Marilyn Motz


Various scholars have examined the historical development of women's consumer magazines, the advertisements of product manufacturers, and the social construction of the idealized American woman. This study is a qualitative historical analysis of the dramatic cultural turn that took place during the early decades of the twentieth century and how those changes were expressed within the editorial content of Good Housekeeping and the advertisements of iconic food producer, the Campbell Soup Company. Both positioned themselves as vital to women's education, thereby having a significant effect on the traditional private sphere of womanhood and the male-dominated public sphere. During the years of this study, 1905-1920, the United States was in the midst of rapidly transforming from a small-scale agricultural economy to consumer capitalism, which profoundly reshaped the essential structure of society and changed the fundamental nature of everyday life. The mass production and wide distribution of goods created new public concerns, such as the safety of the food supply and the veracity of advertising claims made by product manufacturers. On the surface, it appeared that Good Housekeeping and Campbell Soup primarily intended to inculcate white, middle-class women in a discourse of consumerism, most often represented by idealized images of the modern New Woman. However, as this study demonstrates, the cultural work done by both entities was far more complex than just instilling consumerist behavior in women. Early on, Good Housekeeping tapped into women's desire for political participation, and the magazine actively encouraged their mobilization in order to tackle significant national issues, such as purifying the food supply, lowering the infant mortality rate, promoting temperance, maintaining the home front during war, and supporting suffrage. While these efforts were supposed to take place in a manner not detrimental to home life, they did in fact provide an opening for women to have demonstrable impact on American culture and history. Campbell Soup typically promoted traditional roles for women, but it too became a vital component in shaping attitudes about what it meant to be a modern woman, wife, and mother in the early twentieth century – "most often embodied in the idealized images of the New Woman.