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Serial and Government Publications Division



Using the Newspaper Collection
Women and the News Business
PATHFINDER: Women's Editions of Daily Newspapers
Finding Women in Newspapers
arrow graphicWomen as Audience






Women as Audience
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“Madam C.J. Walker Preparations,” Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, Indianapolis, Indiana, advertisement. From New York Age, January 17, 1920 (bound newspaper, no. 10330). Serial and Government Publications Division.

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Newspaper publishers and advertisers were quick to realize the purchasing power of women. In the nineteenth century, sections of the newspaper were directed to women in their roles as homemakers and mothers. Eliza Jane Poitevent Holbrook Nicholson (1849-1896) increased readership when she added women's and children's features to the New Orleans Daily Picayune (News MF 1167) after becoming the publisher in 1876.

The women's pages that originated in the late nineteenth century targeted the women's market and quickly became ubiquitous, appearing in ethnic and small town newspapers as well as those of large metropolitan areas. To attract women readers, publishers hired women reporters to report on society news, community projects, homemaking tips, fashion, and recipes.

Many prominent women reporters got their start on the women's page and then moved on to investigative journalism, but others found their niche in covering women's issues. Inez Callaway Robb (1901-1979) was a society editor for the New York Daily News (News MF 1343) in the 1920s, but earned a 1957 Newspaper Women's Club award with her syndicated news column “Assignment America.” In the 1920s, Helen Rowland (1875-1950) attained great popularity with her column, variously titled “Widow Wordalogues,” “Meditations of a Married Woman,” and “Marry-Go-Round.” Helen Worden also found great success in the women's pages of the New York World (News MF 1363) and World-Telegram (News MF 1365) with her “Sally Lunn” cooking column and “What Society Is Wearing.” Although often dismissed as fluff, the women's pages provide a picture of what family and household life was like over time. Beginning in the mid-twentieth century, women's pages began to disappear, replaced by lifestyle and entertainment sections of more general interest. More recently, women's pages are being reinvented again to target an important audience. In 1990, the American Society of Newspaper Editors produced “Womenews,” a prototype section, and the Chicago Tribune followed with a weekly Sunday section called “Womanews.”

In addition, advertisers deliberately appealed to women (see Advertisements). Although little quantitative research has been done on this subject, it is clear that nineteenth- and twentieth-century newspaper ads targeted women as customers. In contrast, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century newspapers lacked illustrated advertisements or were limited to announcements. Even though advertisements are not indexed, they, like the women's pages themselves, illustrate the varied interests of women over time and assist researchers who are reconstructing the daily life of women in the past. Nineteenth-century advertisements for corsets, sewing machines, and medicinal cures can be found next to those for plows and wagons.

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