In an effort to allow students to experience material produced during a specific historical time,
the libraries have always tried to increase the number of primary source materials. A useful title
for students focusing on young women and material culture in the United States in the 20th Century
is the magazine Seventeen, which was recently added to Douglass Library in microform with coverage
from 1944 to 2000.
Seventeen covers topics attuned to the interests of young women, or in the words of its first issue,
"Young fashion & beauty, movies & music, ideas & people." The magazine initially featured
articles such as "Tips for the commencement" and "Information on State College B.A. Programs,"
including entrance requirements, tuition and other useful information for the readers, but this type
of article eventually decreased. Abundant advertising remained consistent, and ads for clothing,
shoes, hair products, and make-up litter the pages. In the mid forties, recruitment ads for the
Women's Army Corps and the military as well as war movie ads denoted that despite the veil of
normalcy and the ongoing push for material consumption, war efforts were omnipresent among Americans
of all ages.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a significant increase of articles on body image and
fashion related ads, framing young women as people with occasional intellectual aspirations, but
centrally concerned with crafting a positive body image in response to societal expectations. As a
result, adds such as those for Maybelline and other make-up products persisted and flourished. This
focus on the physical, combined with influential social currents such as the Women's Liberation
Movement, also resulted in numerous articles on sex education, contraception, and safe sex. Another
significant change in the magazine was the ethnic diversity of models. In the early years, women
featured in ads or photos were all white. From the 1970s on a significant number of images included
individuals, male and female, with different ethnic and racial backgrounds.
The resource provides an opportunity to frame the magazine's images in the context of the women's
movement and critically analyze the gender issues represented over the course of six decades.
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