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  • Berto-tees

    Posted on March 24th, 2014 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    Bertoti Comments:

     I think the Bertoti Conference went really well this year!  There were a few things that went especially well and a few things I think we could improve upon for next year.  It seemed like the “committee” system was effective and turned out to be a great way to delegate responsibilities.  Not only were we able to better split up work this way, but we also had more say over the “type” of work we each did.  Meeting in small groups was much easier to schedule, too.  I think we should definitely keep the committee system for next year!  I think we also had a really effective social media campaign.  Lucas and I had a lot of fun writing the Facebook posts and they helped keep our followers abreast of updates and fun tips.  The Twitter was also a hit!  The round table seemed to also go over really well.  All of our presenters did an awesome job presenting insight into their experiences and advice for listeners.  We should definitely do another round table next year, perhaps one discussing different opinions on current ethical issues/challenges facing historians today.

    I think some logistical issues could be smoothed over a little bit more next year, such as how much food to order and double-checking that we have enough nametags. I think we should have more group meetings.  It was tough to know what other students (committee or cohort or grad in general) were working on and sometimes I felt a little out of the loop.  Lastly, I think we should do more fun things throughout the weekend, especially Saturday. It might be fun to have some type of really tough history pop quiz “stumper” questions throughout the weekend.  We could have different sets for presentation sessions, when making announcements, and the beginning of keynotes, etc.  We could have silly little prizes… possibly Bertoti t-shirts if we can have them made cheaply. Actually, let’s just plan on making Bertoti t-shirts (Berto-tees?) a part of next year in some way.  If we can save enough on a bulk order, we might even be able to hand them out to attendees/presenters.  In turn, when presenters wear these shirts back at their own universities, it would draw attention to Bertoti.

    Refocused focus statement to keep refocusing:

    I am researching the beauty culture of college women during the post-World War II era, seeking to connect messages from of consumer culture with personal choices made by these women.  The postwar period, which can be roughly understood as 1945-1960, featured a time of cultural clamoring in which young women sought to define themselves in the wake of a changing nation.  College women, at this time, are a unique group of women who have not (yet) decided to marry (although a small amount were married while in school).   It is valuable to see how women aged 18-24 reacted to messages in prescriptive literature, especially messages aimed specifically at “college girls.”  Furthermore, studying college women allows for the comparison of women in single sex and coeducational communities.  This research project will explore consumer culture, how it shaped women as consumers, and how it affected women’s ideas of themselves as individuals, while also engaging in a comparison study between how these messages manifested in coeducational versus women’s colleges In effect, studying beauty culture can show us what types of messages were circulated through popular culture and how women responded by adopting or not adopting these prescriptive messages.  I expect to find that women at both women’s and co-educational colleges adapted the messages permeated through prescriptive literature similarly.  This tells us that women followed beauty practices as an “act of femininity” and this was not influenced by the presence of men.

    Disclaimer: These assumptions are being made based on looking at only two universities (a women’s and a co-ed).  I will be more precise in my language, either explicitly stating this, or specifically naming, say, Pennsylvania Women’s College and Carnegie Mellon University.


    I plan to approach this topic through two routes of analysis: consumer culture and personal.  In accordance with the first route, I will look at how messages of consumer culture were portrayed and prescribed in prescriptive literature as related to beauty, both in the meanings they associate with beauty and in the beauty “advice” listed.  The second route of analysis will focus on how women received these messages and in what ways did they or did they not adapt beauty suggestions from prescriptive literature.  My framework will also employ theories of culture, gender, self-image, sexuality, feminity, and masculinity to better understand the role beauty culture played in the lives of college women during the post-World War II era.


    Secondary Sources:

     Since I have recently discovered that sorority records might be valuable to my research, I read the following for this week:

    “Sister Act: Sorority Rush as Feminine performance” by Elizabeth Boyd (Southern Cultures, 5.3, Fall 1999) dissects a major component of sorority life as a feminine performance.  She describes it as a “feminine stratification ritual” and “a scrutiny session in which women are assigned a social value based on looks, status, and feminine competency”.  She later connects the emphasis put into appearance dictates a performance of a prescriptive idea of gender.  I think her framework will be very useful because she connects the idea of appearance with social value.

    In Inside Greek U.: Fraternities, Sororities, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Power and Prestige, Alan D. DeSantis argues that “fraternities and sororities proudly and fiercely reproduce many of the traditional and harmful ideas about gender through their scripted performances.” He explains that these are places where women should act like “real” women and those who are two androgynous or ambivalent in their gendered performances are denied entrance.  DeSantis’s conclusion that women must fit this gendered performance to be a part of this society is an idea that I will test out in my own research.  Did this matter as much in the 50s?  Does the same idea apply outside of sororities, or is there even a way to evaluate this?

  • My Spring Break 2014 Trip!!!!!! (to the archives)

    Posted on March 13th, 2014 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    Over spring break:

    I visited University of Pittsburgh’s Special Collections and Carnegie Mellon University’s archives.  It’s hard to say what portion of the research I completed will I actually be able to use, but it was definitely a valuable experience to visit an archive as a “grown-up” researcher.  I learned a lot from these trips!  It was great that I was able to fit these trips in this week because these locations are, like most archives, only open on weekdays, so a weekend trip later this semester would have not been feasible.  In Pitt’s Special Collections on Monday, I found a really fun beauty guide that was basically an over-sexualized guide for women on how to maintain a certain physical appearance and it largely featured women exercising in bras and panties.  Pitt’s yearbooks are all digitized, so I can look at these another time.  Their newspapers are only available on microfilm, which was tough…but at least they are available somewhere!

    I had an interesting “lead” at CMU on Tuesday.  I had been going through yearbooks from the 40s when I realized that many of the images of women came from sorority functions.  I then focused on finding other records involving sororities, such as pictures, pamphlets, and minutes from meetings.  I went through minutes from one sorority from 1943-1948 that were available, hoping to find discussions/dictations on what constituted as an appropriate appearance.  I found very little of this in these particular minutes, but am now interested in pursing information from other sororities and possibly even the records sororities keep of themselves.

    I also spent time “research journaling” over break, looking at the Belcher questions and journaling pages of responses. It turned out to be really productive to have a few days without the stress of classes to think over my research questions in a relaxed environment and there was no rush to answer a set of questions in time for a blog post.  I am going to take more time to journal over research questions in a stress-free environment for this project and also for projects in other classes.


    Focus statement:

    I am researching the beauty culture of college women during the post-World War II era, engaging in a comparison study between a women’s college and a co-educational college at this time.  This research will seek to approach the topic in two routes: one examining the consumer culture side of this topic and the other focusing on what beauty culture meant to women on a more personal level.  This research project thus aims to answer what beauty meant to women, why it mattered (on personal, consumer, and group levels), and how it affected their lives.  Beauty culture can tell us a lot about women’s ways of life  and choices made during college, because women’s perceptions of themselves/others based on beauty are evident through the choices they made, responses they had to consumer culture, and relationships they formed.  I am researching this topic to see what beauty culture meant in consumer culture, how it shaped women as consumers, and how it affected women’s ideas of themselves as individuals.  In effect, studying beauty culture can show us what types of messages were circulated through popular culture and how women responded.

    Review of article methodology:

    This week, I looked at Deborah M. Olsen’s article “Remaking the Image of Promotional Literature of Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley Colleges in the mid-to-late 1940s” to examine its methodology.  Olsen looks at how these women’s “colleges had often sent mixed messages, reflecting the ongoing dilemma in American culture about women’s role and the proper level and goal of women’s education” (420).  She looks at how new discourses adopted in promotional literature could represent a rupture from the past in a way that led to criticism from college communities.  Olsen examines the techniques used by these colleges and the resulting tensions, conflicts, and paradoxes (421).  She looks closely at how promotional literature reveals specific techniques that were adopted by these colleges in this process of refashioning their image (430), such as: fundraising appeals, links to ideas ideals of marriage and family, and images portraying motherhood.  Methodologically, Olsen does a great job selecting an interesting body of sources, connecting it to a larger narrative, and arguing what this says about the ideals perpetuated by women’s colleges at this time.

    Secondary readings

     This week, I read Betty Friedan and the Making of  The Feminine Mystique by Daniel  Horowitz, which includes some on Betty Friedan’s experience at Smith College (then Betty Goldstein).  Horowitz discusses the editorials in the Smith newspaper written was editor-in-chief for a year beginning in March 1941.  These editorials were anti-war until Pearl Harbor, anti-facist, pro-labor unions, for students’ rights, opposed to the college administration, and critical of the privileged lives many Smith students lived and even flaunted (7).  Though largely had more to do about labor and feminist work (@CHELSEA), these articles still provided an interesting take on how to approach college newspapers. Horowitz argues, “Though most women’s historians have argued that 1960s feminism emerged in response to the suburban captivity of white middle-class women during the 1950s, the material in Friedan’s papers suggested additional origins—antifascism, radicalism, and labor union activism in the 1940s.  This text got me thinking that perhaps the “roots” of decisions made on beauty culture led to some type of cultivation of self image/confidence and impacted women later in life.  Probably a bit of a stretch to think about for this project (except maybe in the oral histories?) but it is quite an interesting idea.

    I also read a suggestion of Betsy’s this week: Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons by Lynn Peril.  Peril looks at women from the 1940s to the 1970s and how they were coaxed to “think pink” by persuasive advertisements and advice experts.  The author explores what feminine perfection meant and how this contributed to the idea of “true feminine success”.  I wish this book talked more explicitly about college women, but it does an awesome job looking at how advertisements and other influences shaped conceptions of “feminine” and “perfect” for women.  Even more exciting, Peril uses period artifacts to illustrate some of her points.  I did something similar with a paper I wrote on birth control while attending Fordham, and I hope to employ a similar methodology with what might be a public history component of my research project.



  • Figuring out the next steps

    Posted on March 2nd, 2014 Rosemary Zlokas No comments

    First of all, I really enjoyed last week’s presentations!  It was great to see how everyone has been approaching their primary source research and I look forward to seeing the rest of the presentations this week.

    I am trying to incorporate oral histories into my research project.  I had a great talk with Dr. Cline about this last week.  We discussed the best way to find interviewees to talk to and now that I am at the stage of picking at colleges to look at, I should keep the availability of access to interviewees in mind.

    I also talked to Dr. Mollin this week and we discussed the best way to pick the colleges I want to focus on.  I think I will select one institution that was women only at the time and one that was co-ed.  Since I do not know where I will be this summer yet, (AHHH) she had a great suggestion that I pick sets of schools for the possible locations so that I can accessible locations.  For example, if I am in Pittsburgh this summer, I might look at Carlow University (women’s) and University of Pittsburgh or Carnegie Mellon.  If I am in Nashville, I will likely look at Vanderbilt and a women’s college.  And, if I am in Blacksburg, I will likely look at Hollins or Radford and University of Virginia.  Also, my girl Taylor has been really helpful in finding women who would be open to giving oral histories, so that could be a deciding factor as well.

    Additionally, I talked to Dr. Wallenstein about factors to consider in selecting institutions.  Lastly, I talked to Dr. Winling about approaching this topic from a spatial historian’s point of view and considering the idea of “spaces of beautification”

    It’s been a busy week but awesome to be able to talk to so many faculty members about this research!!

    Permanent Waves: The Making of the American Beauty Shop by Julie A. Willet

    In Digital History this week, we talked about GIS and the spatial turn in history.  This led me to think about how space plays a role in how I can look at my own project and the idea of “spaces of beautification.”  So, I read Permanent Waves: The Making of the American Beauty Shop by Julie A. Willett.  She gives the example of her grandmother’s beauty shop, which was distinctively and exclusively white and female.  Her beauty shop was an institution vital to culture, community, and social change.  What about for college women? Clearly, this space of beautification had a lot of implications for how women were able to determine messages of beauty and act upon them in ways that obeyed these social norms.  I am interested in seeing if beautification types of spaces for college women (dorm rooms, etc.) had a similar social construct.

    “Estée Lauder: Self-Definition and the Modern Cosmetics Market” by Nancy Koehn

    In this essay, Koehn looks at the growth of the beauty business after World War II, focusing on Estée Lauder.  This also gives some great background on the beauty business during World War II.  Koehn’s article is a great “case study” for looking at one cosmetics company at this time and also pointed me in the direction of finding really great statistics for my time period.

    Lastly, for those of you on the twitterverse, I have been manning the @vtpublichistory twitter for the past couple days and will continue to do so until Thursday.  Log on and give me some #retweets.