Question of the Week
In what year did the Ladies' Home Journal make its debut?
Ladies’ Home Journal is one of the nation's most popular women's magazines with more than 3 million subscribers. The magazine, originally called The Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, had its start here in Philadelphia. Cyrus Hermann Kotzschmar Curtis, a pioneer of modern magazine publishing in the United States, started the journal in 1883 and his wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis, worked as its editor until 1889. Cyrus Curtis, who would later establish the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia, expected young couples to turn to the magazine regularly for housekeeping advice.
In 1889, Edward Bok, sometimes called the “father of the American women’s magazine” was named editor. It was under his guidance that the magazine hit its stride. Bok successfully toed the line between promoting conventional principles and new consumer values. The magazine contained articles on traditional housekeeping methods. But it also contained advertisements for the latest home inventions—from prepared meals to new laundry machines—that allowed women more leisure time and encouraged spending. In his editorials, Bok encouraged women to pass down traditional family values and housekeeping knowledge to subsequent generations of mothers and daughters.
Bok did accept, if reluctantly, the changing role of women in society. As more and more women wrote asking how they could make their own money, he published articles on the topic. He also created a Girl’s Club of LHJ that employed young women to sell magazine subscriptions. Yet, when it came to LHJ, he endeavored to always keep housekeeping principles and the traditional model of women as heads of the household front and center. Today’s version of the magazine, published by Meredith Corporation, focuses on health and relationships; beauty and style; food and finance.
HSP hold the records of the Curtis Publishing Company (#3115), as well as other collections of publishing houses such as Lea & Febiger (#227B), which help to illustrate and illuminate the role Philadelphia played in the early promotion of the printed word.
Image: Magazine cover, Ladies' Home Journal (September 1927)
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.