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Roughing it in the Suburbs

Roughing it in the Suburbs: Reading Chatelaine Magazine in the Fifties and Sixties

Valerie J. Korinek
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 512
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1287wnv
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  • Book Info
    Roughing it in the Suburbs
    Book Description:

    Korinek shows that rather than promoting domestic perfection, Chatelaine did not cling to the stereotypes of the era, but instead forged ahead, providing women with a variety of images, ideas, and critiques of women?s role in society.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2777-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Chapter 1 ‘Lighting Up a Brush Fire’
    (pp. 3-28)

    ‘It could sit on your coffee table and no one would think you had something subversive on it,’ recalled journalist and contributor June Callwood, ‘because everybody hadChatelaineand men thought it was harmless – all about Easter hats. It was far from that. It was like lighting up a brush fire. It was wonderful.’¹ This book explores the paradoxical and now forgotten world ofChatelainemagazine in the fifties and sixties. Naturally, the brush fires are the most intriguing – colourful, attractive, and, once begun, difficult to control – but the more banal aspects of the magazine also illuminate...

  6. Part One: Historicizing Production and Consumption

    • Chapter 2 ‘A Closet Feminist Magazine’: (Re)-Making Chatelaine
      (pp. 31-70)

      On the surface, the world of magazine production appears to be an arid topic, of interest only to journalism students or practitioners in the field. A study of the ‘making’ of a magazine, in contrast, has much to offer. A close exploration of the power relations at the periodical – the inherent conflicts and tensions between the editorial office and the business office, or within the corporation itself – offers behind-the-scenes insight into the way production itself is highly contested. Contrary to the impression that media producers have one agenda, or uniform goals about the product, it will become clear...

    • Chapter 3 ‘A Faithful Friend and Tonic’: Reading Chatelaine
      (pp. 71-102)

      Emma Davis, a Canadian citizen resident in Madras, India, wrote a letter to the editors ofChatelainein early 1951 to describe the enjoyment she derived from reading the magazine. ‘I can’t count the times I have resolved to write you,’ she said. ‘My friends over the years have poked fun at me andChatelaine. If I could not be found they would say, “Oh, she is at home with herChatelaine!” During the war years I was stationed in EnglandChatelainewas a faithful friend and tonic, and it was handed around to lots of people. It would be...

  7. Part Two: Traditional Fare?

    • Chapter 4 ‘Your Best Medium to Sell Women’: Covering and Advertising Chatelaine
      (pp. 105-177)

      In September 1952 editor Lotta Dempsey informedChatelainereaders that the magazine was launching a ‘new cover girl series’ that would profile ‘tomorrow’s stars.’ These new Canadian stars were teenagers who the magazine predicted would ‘one day set this country afire with their talent – perhaps their genius.’ Because talent and genius are notoriously difficult to depict visually, Dempsey explained that the young women selected were also supposed to represent ‘good-looking, wholesome young people with sound Canadian backgrounds. The kind you and I knew, growing up in Edmonton or Pictou or New Westminister.’ Marilyn Young, a sixteen-year-old member of the...

    • Chapter 5 ‘The Cinderella from Pugwash’: Advice from the Chatelaine Institute
      (pp. 178-219)

      Women’s magazines, like detective novels, soap operas, science fiction, and other pop culture formulas, are specific genres which, if they intend to keep and attract new fans, must follow certain conventions. One of the prime conventions of women’s magazines is the inclusion of service department material. The departmental features – food, fashion, beauty, home design, housekeeping, gardening, children’s pages, and children’s health columns – offered readers the quintessential women’s magazine fare. According to H.M. Pawley of Edmonton, these features influenced Canadian readers because they were first rate. ‘I do think the recipes contained inChatelaineare wonderful,’ she wrote. ‘I...

    • Chapter 6 ‘Searching for a Plain Gold Band’: Chatelaine Fiction
      (pp. 220-254)

      Like service material, formula fiction has long been a staple of women’s magazines. Recently, academics have turned their attention to this previously dismissed form of popular fiction, realizing that the stories’ simple plot lines and readily discernible themes and symbolism make excellent sources from which to understand the concerns of a given society.¹ According to John Cawelti, formula fiction is popular because it serves four purposes within society: it affirms ‘existing interests and attitudes’; resolves ‘tensions and ambiguities’ within the culture; enables ‘the audience to explore in fantasy the boundary between the permitted and the forbidden and to experience in...

  8. Part Three: Subverting the Standard

    • Chapter 7 ‘How to Live in the Suburbs’: Editorials and Articles in the Fifties
      (pp. 257-307)

      Although it is clear that the traditional fare inChatelaine, in particular the fiction, could contain messages that critiqued the affluence and consumerism displayed in the advertisements or highlighted tensions in producing and consuming ‘women’s magazines,’ it was in the articles and editorials thatChatelainedared to deviate dramatically from the genre. During the fifties,Chatelainebegan to offer a range of material that was noticeably different from the features in American women’s magazines. In a decade noted for a plethora of popular culture odes to the suburban housewife and mother,Chatelainebegan, quietly yet subversively, to include feminist content....

    • Chapter 8 ‘Trying to Incite a Revolution’: Editorials and Articles in the Sixties
      (pp. 308-365)

      In the sixties, the tone and the content ofChatelaineeditorials and articles changed. They were more edgy, more political, and less complacent than they had been in the previous decade. One of the many readers to comment on this shift was Mrs Edith Sacker, a recent German immigrant to Vancouver, who wrote: ‘It has been a long time since I enjoyed any article as much as your October editorial … I came to Canada from Germany eight years ago where my sister and her friends are just as engaged as we are here in questions such as, “Should married...

    • Chapter 9 ‘Here in the Lodge’: Chatelaine’s Legacy
      (pp. 366-376)

      In the fifties and sixties, duringChatelaine’s heyday, the magazine created a community of readers, writers, and editors who explored the changing nature of women’s lives. Canadian women’s lives were in flux, and the editors and writers experienced this transition period – from the stay-at-home world of the suburbs to the world of working wives and mothers – along with their readers. The novelty of the situation, the isolation of suburbia, and rapid-paced changes in living all heightened the importance ofChatelaine. The paradoxical material and polysemic messages in the magazine were due to the challenges and uncertainties of the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 377-434)
  10. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 435-446)
  11. Index
    (pp. 447-460)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 461-462)