The Feminine Mystique

Mother’s Little Helper

Glitz and glamour dominated the advertising of the 1930s, as the depression dragged on in the United States cigarette makers turned to movie stars to promote their products to a destitute nation. The Second World War would galvanize the nation behind its armed forces and the sacrifices of young men and women at home and abroad would feature prominently in many ads.

The years after World War II gave rise to a new Cult of Domesticity, an ideal of womanhood focused on subdued feminity and the highest aspirations being those of becoming a wife and mother to (at least) two and a half children. Advertising of this age aimed at women supported them in this climb to suburban sublimity with tobacco companies presenting their Norman Rockwell portraits of housewives swaddling cherubic children or sharing loving intimacy with impossibly handsome husbands.

The milieu of mid-20th-century life would eventually give way to growing dissatisfaction among women, and especially among their daughters who would go on to desire more from their lives than husbands, children, and white picketed fences. By the 1960s cigarette ads would reflect these desires depicting women in ads, often devoid of any male companionship, as free-spirited confident individuals always toting a cigarette.