Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Advertisements: Fight the War, Ladies! (1942)

Advertisements: Fight the War, Ladies! (1942)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 18, 2009

Do you remember feeling that it was, perhaps, just a bit crass when President Bush declared that the patriotic response to 9/11 — the way to show the terrorists that They.Would.Not.Win. — was to go on a shopping spree? Or perhaps that it was a tad counterintuitive to hear President Obama urge you to buy a new car rather than tighten your belt in the recent consumer credit crunch? (Note: I’m trying to be non-partisan here, and don’t want to spark a debate over current politics.)

Well, crass, counterintuitive, or not, it wasn’t the first time. Just think, sisters, you too could play an important role in World War II by giving your men something worth fighting for. And that something was …



  1. I don’t know that I would want to have to put a bunch of flowers on my head to go shopping or visit the neighbors, but why oh why have hats gone out of style?

    Comment by Researcher — September 18, 2009 @ 7:53 am

  2. Fascinating.

    My grandma worked in the parachute factory.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 18, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  3. The theme that “women possess the courage of humanity,” and their “serene confidence [and] steadfast love” are of greatest value to the world seem to have been repeated quite recently in General Conference. Hmmm… is this the rationalization for pin-up girls in the barracks?

    Comment by Clark — September 18, 2009 @ 8:59 am

  4. My mother was a WAAC/WAC. She had gotten so used to wearing the uniform cap that she felt uncomfortable being bareheaded after discharge. She told me she wore a pretty new hat to church … just once. The old cats in the ward whispered so loudly about how grand she thought she must be that she never dared wear it again. A shame — until she was elderly, my mother walked with a straight back, her shoulders thrown back and her head held high, just the right posture to carry off a fashionable hat.

    Clark, you be sure to suggest this rationale to any servicemen you know … they need to keep in mind (and view) what they’re fighting for!

    Me, I think I’ll do my patriotic bit and order a new dress at some e-store today.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 18, 2009 @ 9:19 am

  5. Awesome.

    Comment by Randy B. — September 18, 2009 @ 9:25 am

  6. Never thought of shopping as being quite all that noble…. Live and learn.

    Comment by S. Taylor — September 18, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  7. The hats that are in style these days (bike helmets, anyone?) just aren’t that stylish!

    I’d hate to have to break it to ZCMI’s admen, but the motivation to fight was probably not some lovely lady in a flowery hat here at home, but the dirty, foul-mouthed soldiers in tin hats that shared your man’s foxhole. Of course, those tin hats weren’t for sale at ZCMI, and the folks at home wouldn’t have known what moved their men to fight.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 18, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  8. My wife’s mother worked as a clerk in a shipyard while her husband-to-be flew B-25s over Europe. I’ll admit that I only met her in the late 60’s, but I never saw her in a hat, lovely or otherwise.

    The only thing missing from the ad is some red, white and blue bunting, or a flag. Still, I’m a little turned off by the ad and its tone. Just a little too exploitative for me, as this was also the time of the beginning of rationing, of turning in your aluminum pots to be melted down and used in making aircraft, and the advent of the steel penny, due to a shortage of copper. I’m not sure that tightening the belts also meant thinning the wallet.

    However, not to be a downer, an interesting ad, and tells us a lot about the time. Just curious, was this in the Deseret News, or a church publication?

    Comment by kevinf — September 18, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

  9. There you have it. Fight for the right of women to shop. You know that the Nazis and Japanese warlords would never have allowed women to shop again had they won.

    Comment by Steve C. — September 18, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  10. This is from an Improvement Era, kevinf. And you are not alone in your reaction — I’m sure that all of the responses here have been very much tongue in cheek, in their “approval” of the ideas in the ad. This very much illustrates why I can’t wholeheartedly endorse capitalism and free enterprise, no matter how often supporters challenge doubters to come up with anything better. Under our system, there is apparently nothing the exploitation of which is out of bounds, as long as there is the potential to make a buck.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 18, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

  11. One thing that might help: what month in 1942 did this ad appear?

    The war news was unremittingly bleak for the Allies, in both Europe and the Pacific, until the Battle of Midway in early June, but the effects of the war were scarcely felt at all in the mainland U.S., unless you happened to have a brother or son or husband or father in the armed forces. Automobile production had in fact ceased–and factories were re-tooling for war production, but rationing didn’t begin until May 1942 (and it was introduced gradually, beginning with food and then expanding to include gasoline and rubber and nylon–no more stockings, ladies!). So, if the ad appeared early in the year, we might excuse the ad writer’s attitude.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 18, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

  12. ‘styled with your busy, busy life in mind’

    my Mother worked in the underground War Cabinet rooms for a week at a stretch, and used to speak of how wonderful fresh air felt on her face when finally she surfaced. On several nights a month, she and her sisters either firewatched from London rooftops, or helped out in soup kitchens for bombed out civilians and rescue workers. I somehow doubt new hats were top of her agenda!

    Did you have clothes rationing in the US like we did here? Never wondered about that before.

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — September 18, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

  13. Good point, Mark B. (“So, if the ad appeared early in the year, we might excuse the ad writer’s attitude”).

    I don’t know ZCMI’s process for vetting ad proposals, but I can see that this particular ad might have been borne simply out of an effort to come up with something to meet that ever pressing deadline. Perhaps the crush of getting something out the door is a mitigating factor to the ad’s crassness.

    Excuse, yes. Endorse, no.

    Comment by Hunter — September 18, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  14. Anne, leather shoes and silk products and nylon stockings were rationed in the US. I don’t know about cotton and woollen clothing, though — if there was rationing of those goods, it was nowhere near as severe in the US as it was in Britain.

    I remember some stories from my mother about war fashions featuring much shorter skirts than in the years previous to the war, as a way of conserving fabric. But that would mean that fabric was still available for civilian use.

    Maybe another reader will chime in with a more complete answer.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 18, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  15. Wow. There’s nothing new under the sun.

    Comment by Tracy M — September 18, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  16. I don’t have anything more about rationing, other than to comment that if it raised hemlines, it can’t have been all bad! 🙂

    Comment by Mark B. — September 18, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  17. I agree, Mark B.! 🙂

    Anne (UK): That’s fasinating about your mother working in the War Cabinet rooms. Is that now the Churchill War Carbinet museum in London?

    (Sorry for getting off subject)

    Comment by Steve C. — September 18, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

  18. Wow, if I had lips like that lady, I just might be a bit more inclined.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — September 20, 2009 @ 10:29 am

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