Jur-v3-f04 9_17_04.indd

The Progression of "Stress" in Ladies Home JournalJoy Newman, 2006 Advised by: Professor Theodore M. Brown, Ph.D.
Department of History n today's twenty-first century society it is difficult would seem, suffering from ‘neuroses' and an appalling to read a woman's magazine without coming upon proportion of our population from insanity."1a However, at least one article related to stress. Current women's just a few pages later Thompson describes "mental and magazines are filled with articles on how stress affects one's emotional stresses" in the context of introducing the love life, hair, skin, children, and overall well-being and growing field of psychosomatic medicine.1b Thompson's happiness. However, stress is not a new concept. Doctors article exemplifies the slow transformation from stress have been studying the mind-body relationship for over being viewed as a weakness to stress being viewed as a 2,000 years, but they used different vocabulary to describe disease. She introduces her article with the terminology of it. Stress, particularly in females, was often referred to as the time, which was, in the eyes of her middle class white "hysteria" or "nervousness." These terms imply that stress female readers, "neuroses," and then slowly introduces the was traditionally seen as a female problem that resulted concept of "stress" as an actual disease resulting from the from emotional weakness and lack of self-control. These physical effects of the mind-body relationship. However, traditional beliefs about the nature of stress were not Thompson ends her article by referring to "strain" as called into question until the mid 20th century, and it was opposed to "stress."1c It appears that although the concept not until the late 1970's that stress was openly discussed of emotional stresses was something that the public would in the classic women's magazine, Ladies Home Journal. be familiar with, or at least understand, the term "stress" It is interesting to observe how the term "stress" was itself did not yet exist in the everyday vocabulary of the introduced to the female public of the mid 20th century, 1955 female public. as well as what that introduction says about the nature of Just two years later Thompson once again focused stress in today's modern society.
her monthly column on stress, this time under the term Like most magazines, Ladies Home Journal (LHJ) is "anxiety." What is interesting about the word anxiety is a mixture of regular columns and guest features. One of that, unlike neuroses, anxiety began as a synonym for the regular columns in the 1950's was written by a woman stress but soon developed its own definition with a slightly named Dorothy Thompson. Traditionally printed in the different meaning. For example, Thompson's July 1957 beginning of the magazine, Thompson's articles were article was entitled "The Banishment of Anxiety." In this written for the female intellect and focused on current article Thompson used the term "anxiety" to refer to all international politics, domestic turmoil, interesting social kinds of emotional stresses and fears. However, in her phenomena, and medical discoveries. It is not surprising April 1960 column entitled "May I Tell You About My that the first references to stress printed in 1950's LHJ Heart Attack?" she referred to both "stress" and "anxiety" magazines were found in Thompson's column. The first of as separate but related concepts: "You are more likely to these articles, printed in April of 1955, was entitled "Are suffer [a heart attack] if your reaction to conditions of stress We Scaring Ourselves to Death?" This particular article is anxiety than if it is anger." This 1960 article is also the focused on an apparent increase in public education and first time that the term "stress" appeared on its own in a community awareness of serious diseases, as well as on Ladies Home Journal article. However, the majority of the medical studies being conducted in the hopes of changing article still traditionally referred to "tension" or "emotional such statistics. However, what is most fascinating about stresses," demonstrating how the term "stress" still had not this article is not what it says about mental disease as a yet truly emerged as an independent concept.2a,2bpublic affliction, but rather how it discusses the nature Thompson's articles presented the concept of stress of mental illness. For example, in the first paragraph as a disease. However, Thompson's intellectual articles Thompson writes, "As for mental disease, we are all, it represent only one way in which the concept of stress was introduced to the average American female reader. Walter E. O'Donnell, M.D., discussed a young housewife For example, medication ads were often an early forum who was suffering from "psychogenic fatigue," otherwise for the introduction of the concept of stress. Given the known as "nervous exhaustion" or "the tired housewife confines of this research, the earliest found ad related to syndrome."10 O'Donnell discussed how this housewife stress dates back to February of 1953, in which Anacin almost always felt as though she was in a "state of great was promoted to "Relieve Pain of Headache Neuralgia anxiety, almost panic."10 While on the surface this article Neuritis." In September 1955 the Anacin terminology seems to be explaining the daunting job of being a changed to "tense nervous headaches,"3 and by March 1959 housewife and how factors beyond her control may lead Anacin was advertising its ability to counteract "tension to fatigue and anxiety, when really examined this article headaches," a term which is still used today.4 Seven years seems more reflective of the traditional view that stress later Anacin's ad not only advertised its effectiveness in results from female disorganization and inability to control relieving headache pain, but also in backaches caused by one's own life. Most of O'Donnell's suggestions for how to "weak, tense muscles, emotional stress and strain."5 Like counteract "the tired housewife syndrome" involve having "tension headaches," Anacin took advantage of a new such women get up in the morning, shower and put disease as a means of advertising its product.
themselves together, and then make a written schedule for Anacin was unusual in that, most likely for economic the day that they commit themselves to follow. O'Donnell reasons, it actually referred to "stress" in its mid-century seems to be suggesting, and rightly so, that "stress" can advertising campaigns. However, many other products be derived from a lack of things to do as well as from an referred to the effects of stress by using traditional overburdened schedule. It would be interesting to note if terminology. For example, an October 1960 advertisement Dr. O'Donnell would suggest these same stress treatments for BAN deodorant referred to the "highly offensive to women who worked outside the home, and therefore perspiration caused by nervous tension,"6 and an April presumably would already be familiar with the importance 1966 ad for a sleeping tablet called Sominex advertised to of routine.
help female sleeplessness that often arose from "a woman's In many ways O'Donnell's article is like Excedrin ads natural sensitivity and anxiety and simple ‘nerves' and of the mid 1960's. Although O'Donnell's article did not tensions."7 The Sominex ad is interesting because it used specifically use the term "stress," he discussed what we both traditional and slightly more modern terminology, but would today refer to as "stress" through more traditional did so in a manner that still insinuated female weakness. terminology such as "fatigue," "anxiety," and "panic." In fact, Sominex actually claimed that it was a "medical However, by 1969 the term "stress" was beginning to replace fact" that women had innate nervousness. It is ironic that such traditional terminology in both articles and ads. For in the midst of the feminist movement a product would example, in January 1969 LHJ published an article entitled advertise as being able to counter the effects of female "What ‘The Pill' Does to Husbands," written by Robert weakness. For obvious reasons, most other products began W. Kistner, M.D.11a Kistner's article discussed how a man's to steer away from referring to female neuroses even if they sperm count was lowered by "fatigue, tension, and worry weren't yet confident in the particular term "stress." For – all ingredients of a stressful situation."11b Furthermore, example, a March 1965 ad for Phillips' Milk of Magnesia Kistner's article exclaimed that "combining the problems asked its readers, "Does Tension Upset Your System?"8 In of stress with excessive smoking, overindulgence in alcohol July 1966 an Excedrin ad quoted a woman discussing her and the use of certain drugs such as amphetamines, the "headaches from tension or exhaustion," and in December American male is lucky if he can become aroused at all."11b of 1966 Midol advertised its ability to help comfort the However, while Kistner writes a very pointed article on tension that comes with monthly menstruation.9 Ads from the effects of stress on fertility, he interestingly enough products like Phillips' Milk of Magnesia and Excedrin help compares some of the male's "stress" symptoms to that of illustrate the beginning stages of the slow transformation a woman suffering from "acute anxiety or hysteria." It is from referring to female "neuroses", which implies female interesting that Kistner, a medical professional, would write weakness and lack of self-control, to referring to general an article for a women's magazine that explained "stress" as "tension" which implies that outside factors affect a a viable physical affliction for men, but still referred to women's mental and physical well-being. This change in women as suffering from "hysteria." Kistner's incongruence perception of the nature of stress helps to exemplify the in terminology reaffirms the fact that although "stress" increasing success of the gender equality movement, as was beginning to replace traditional terminology, that the well as the overall change in society's view of women at transformation was not yet complete.
the time.
In the 1950's LHJ had published a 200+ page magazine By the late 1960's the concept of stress was becoming every month. However by the mid 1960's the magazines well-known to the American public. Products felt became progressively thinner. The intellectual articles comfortable advertising their ability to counteract the of the 50's written by women like Margaret Hickey and effects of "tension" and "anxiety," and actual articles and Dorothy Thompson became hard to find, and were columns began to appear that specifically focused on instead replaced with a smattering of articles on fashion, issues of mental and emotional well-being. One of the cooking, dieting, and home-crafts. Monthly editions first of these articles was printed in April 1967 and was would feature a specific food such as "mayonnaise," and entitled "Finally a Sure Cure for Housewife Fatigue."10 devote pages to recipes that could be made with that This lengthy article, written by medical professional product. As televisions became more common, women no Volume 3 • Issue 1 • F olume 3 • Issue 1 • F

longer relied on magazines like LHJ had led to night-eating and therefore to provide them with lengthy stories chronic obesity, and the December to pass the time and the number 1973 "Your Questions Answered" of fictional stories published each (the new title for the traditional month slowly dwindled. By the end "Dr Rubin" column) stated that of the 1960's, in effect, LHJ became a "anxious, tense people actually do fad magazine, where women could go have a problem with how they smell to find out about the latest trends but because anxiety brings on excessive not much else. The articles by Drs. perspiration and an ammonia-like Kistner and O'Donnell signify a new odor."15 Early 1970's columns like era for LHJ. "Dr. Rubin" and "Medicine Today" The dawn of the 1970's saw new show how the public was not only monthly columns written by medical becoming aware of stress as a specific professionals, such as "Medicine "disease," but also as a trigger and Today," written by Phyllis Wright, explanation for other physical M.D. and David Zimmerman, problems. The discussion of stress as which focused on medical discoveries an underlying factor in many common affecting one's physical health. health problems signifies that the Another new column, "Dr Rubin," public was fairly comfortable with the written by Theodore I. Rubin, concept of stress as a disease and was M.D., focused on one's mental and now ready to learn and explore how emotional health. Throughout most personal stress was affecting their lives of the 1970's these medical columns overall, and most importantly, what discussed "stress" and its effects on a they could do to prevent it. stress focused on heart disease, a person's overall well-being, but still In addition to these columns concept that the public had been shied away from the actual term. For which broadly discussed mental and slowly exposed to for almost two example, one of the first "Medicine emotional health concerns, the 1970's decades. In January 1972 Christiaan Today" articles featured a section on saw a rise in the number of actual Barnard, M.D., one of the most airline stewardesses and how they articles written on stress and related respected heart surgeons at the time, often suffered from "emotional crises topics. Similar to later columns, many wrote an article for LHJ entitled and breakdowns" due to "anxiety, of these articles not only specifically "What Women Should Know About gloom or depression."12 A section discussed "stress," but did so in the Heart Attacks."19a Unlike previous of May 1971's "Medicine Today" context of its effects on other medical articles in which the effects of stress discussed how more and more young problems. One of the first such articles were merely mentioned in passing, women were experiencing "emotional on stress and its physical effects was Barnard dedicated an entire section of difficulties" and "anxiousness,"13 and published in September 1970 and his article to "Stress and Your Heart", the July 1972 "Dr. Rubin" article entitled "Don't Let Tension Destroy where he discussed how the stress of explained most people have suffered Your Looks."16 This article focused modern living had a detrimental effect from a least one period of "emotional on how living with high tension is on the function of one's heart, thereby distress" and that many people pay an the "arch enemy" of beauty, and how increasing one's chances of suffering "emotional price for hidden anger."14 "nervously tense people seem to have from a heart attack.19b In April 1973 Ironically, the July 1972 "Dr. Rubin" more hair problems than their fair Lynda Johnson Robb, the daughter article also stated that many men share."16 More importantly, the article of the recently deceased President and women are "anxious about their explained how warm baths with light Lyndon B. Johnson, wrote an article own psychological well-being."14 steam and scented water would banish entitled "How to Prevent Heart While from one perspective it seems "stress," and quite possibly old "stress Attacks" in which she encouraged humorous that people were stressed marks" as well.16 This article was only people to be wary of built up tension about being stressed, on the other the beginning of LHJ educating its and stress.20a Robb encouraged people hand that conundrum signifies that readership on the effects of "stress" on to make time for rest, and shy away concepts of emotional health and one's personal appearance. In October from temporary tension-relieving stress were truly becoming part of 1972 Dr. Rubin confirmed a reader's activities such as smoking in favor of Americans' way of thinking about suspicions that "skin conditions have true life-style changes.20btheir overall well-being. emotional origin"17 and the August By the late 1970's stress and As these two sister columns 1973 "Medicine Today" discussed its effects were well-known to the continued throughout the early how "stress and strain" affect the American public. Although it had 1970's they continually discussed the strength of hair.18 taken over two decades, the term mind-body relationship and physical Although stress was discussed in "stress" had definitively replaced symptoms of one's emotional health. more superfluous contexts such as traditional terminology such as For example, a December 1972 "Dr. hair strength and skin conditions, "hysteria" and "nervousness." In Rubin" article discussed how anxiety most of the early 1970's articles on October 1978 LHJ published a feature article entitled "Children People are often wary of new 13. Wright, Phyllis. "Medicine Today." Ladies Under Stress: How Our Schools Fail" medical especially Home Journal May 1971: 28.
written by Mary Susan Miller. Not when they relate to their own 14. Rubin, Theodore I. "Dr. Rubin." Ladies only did Miller specifically discuss the lives. Although people had always Home Journal July 1972: 46.
nature of both positive and negative been familiar with the concepts of stress as discussed in Hans Selye's "hysteria" and "nervousness," these 15. "Your Questions Answered." Ladies Home Journal Dec. 1973: 24.
book Stress Without Distress, she terms were mainly used to describe explained how all children, on some female weakness and females' inability 16. "Don't Let Tension Destroy Your Looks." level, are suffering from classroom to control their own lives. "Stress" Ladies Home Journal Sep. 1970: 121.
stress and the high expectations of changed that image because it did not 17. Rubin, Theodore I. "Dr. Rubin." Ladies their role models.21a Miller stated imply innate female weakness, but Home Journal Oct. 1972: 50.
that "perhaps the single most stressful rather helped to justify and explain element in our education system is how outside factors play a role in 18. Wright, Phyllis. "Medicine Today." Ladies competitiveness."21b Miller explained the mental and physical health of all Home Journal Aug. 1973: 38.
that while some competition is Americans. The 1970's was a decade of 19. Barnard, Christiaan. "What Women inevitable, the goal of the classroom feminism and increased opportunities Should Know About Heart Attacks." Ladies should be to help children experience for women. In many ways, "stress" as a Home Journal Jan. 1972.
positive stress as they learn to reach disease that affected men and women a. Pg. 92.
b. Pg. 50.
their own highest potential. Most alike became just another component importantly, Miller concluded her of that gender equality.
20. Robb, Lynda Johnson. "How to Prevent article by stating that "schools alone Heart Attacks." Ladies Home Journal Apr. don't create stress in children, nor are they solely responsible for solving the 1. Thompson, Dorothy. "Are We Scaring problem."21c Miller then proceeded to Ourselves to Death?" Ladies Home Journal provide parents with a list of "stress 21. Miller, Mary Susan. "Children Under signals," as well as ways to counteract Stress: How Our Schools Fail." Ladies Home Journal Oct. 1978.
and prevent stress in their children's 2. Thompson, Dorothy. "May I Tell You About In December 1978, just two My Heart Attack?" Ladies Home Journal Apr. months after Miller's article was 1960.
published, a reader wrote into Joy Newman is a member of the University of LHJ. "How terrible to think that Rochester's Class of 2006. She is majoring in children are just as subject to stress 3. Anacin Headache Reliever. Advertisement. History with minors in Health and Society and and depression as grownups are," Ladies Home Journal Sep. 1955: 42.
Judaic Studies. Deeply committed to health promotion and education, Joy is a New York State Cynthia Graham of San Francisco Emergency Medical Technician and a seasoned wrote. She continued by saying 4. Anacin Headache Reliever. Advertisement. Ladies Home Journal Mar. 1959: 37.
American Red Cross instructor. This particular that "the article was a shocker, but article on stress, written under the guidance of perhaps if we become better aware 5. Anacin Headache Reliever. Advertisement. Professor Theodore Brown, Ph.D. as part of the History Department's HOUR program, reflects of our children's tensions and anger, Ladies Home Journal Mar. 1966: 177.
that committment to community health. She we can work to give them the carefree 6. BAN Deoderant. Advertisement. Ladies plans to pursue a career in health education and childhood that they are entitled to." Home Journal Oct. 1960: 1.
Graham's comments demonstrate the culmination of "stress" becoming part 7. Sominex Sleeping Tablet. Advertisement. of the American female vocabulary. Ladies Home Journal Apr. 1966: 72.
Although women sometimes found 8. Phillips' Milk of Magnesia. Advertisement. new developments on stress hard to Ladies Home Journal Mar. 1965: 52.
believe, they understood articles like the one published in March 1979 9. Midol. Advertisement. Ladies Home Journal Dec. 1966: 58.
entitled "How to Get a Good Night's Sleep" in which Joann Ellison Rodgers 10. O'Donnell, Walter E. "Finally a Sure Cure explained how modern stresses affects for Housewife Fatigue." Ladies Home Journal one's ability to rest, and Dr. Helen Apr. 1967: 74.
A. De Rosis's August 1979 article 11. Kistner, Robert W. "What ‘The Pill' Does on stress as an underlying cause of to Husbands." Ladies Home Journal Jan. marital problems. By the late 1970's 1969.
LHJ readers knew what stress was, a. Pg. 66.
b. Pg. 68.
both as a concept and as a disease, and were now ready to learn how to 12. Wright, Phyllis. "Medicine Today." Ladies prevent stress from taking over their Home Journal June 1969: 34.
once happy lives. Volume 3 • Issue 1 • F olume 3 • Issue 1 • F

Source: https://sa.rochester.edu/jur/issues/fall2004/newman-lhj.pdf


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