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Book Review: Good Housekeeping Wartime Scrapbook

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Here is an advert from Good Housekeeping: Wartime Scrapbook, Barbara Dixon (ed), Collins £ Brown, 2005. Today the tampon adverts show windsurfing and rock-climbing; this was the 1940s equivalent.

The book – of reproduced extracts from the British magazine (which is still going), both editorial and adverts – contains all the “housekeeping” things you’d expect, from how to make “delicious nutiritious meals out of powder egg” (which I doubt is really possible, having tasted them once, in a “five-star” hotel in North Korea) to the best ways to ensure your woollens survive the wash.

But the book shows that during the war years the magazine also had a serious, if often highly paternalistic, side, with discussion of venereal disease, abandoned children, and other somewhat surprising outbreaks of social honesty.

(There’s an interesting blog post on such social realities here. Found on the latest History Carnival.)

The modern commentary in Good Housekeeping is brief, but informative. I was surprised to learn that: “By 1944 almost one baby in three was born illegitimately.” (Interesting light on the babyboomers there.)

If you’re looking for a Christmas present for an elderly female relative – particularly one who doesn’t read a lot but would enjoy looking at the pictures – this would be just the ticket.

(This is a review of the British edition, which has a different cover, and may otherwise vary from the US edition on the Amazon link here.)

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.