Getting Into Godey’s

This Summer has allowed me the opportunity to really get an in depth look at the magazine itself. After several semesters of finding only excerpts from the magazine that best fit my needs (whether it be an essay, group project, or presentation), I have been able to take the time and read full issues of the publication from various years.

In order to get a feel for the overall tone of the magazine and see how Hale organized the world and interacted with her readers, I have been reading multiple issues from each year from the first several years that Hale was the editress of Godey’s Lady’s Book. I tried to get a fair sampling of the periodical by selecting one issue from each quarter of the year, varying between the years that I was reading. For example, for the year 1842 I read the April, September, and October issues in their entirety.

In years that had particularly notable historic events, such as the recession that began around the summer of 1837, I honed in on the months around the event to see how Hale would respond. In 1837, and the subsequent years, I found that Hale spent a significant amount of space in the magazine addressing the value of things in life that are not monetary while simultaneously giving encouragement to her readers about ways to save funds and manage their households even through hard times. I am really enjoying seeing Hale not only as a historic figure, but also as a person who responds to events like these, events outside her control. Hale maintains an editorial voice when speaking to her readers, but it is clear that she also has a personal investment in the Americans who purchase, read, and share her periodical.

Reading issues of the periodical in their entirety have been very helpful in understanding Hale’s career and steps that she took to fulfill her goals for the American people. While critics of Hale argue that her seemingly passive approach to activism was ineffective and far too conservative, reading the magazine in context has demonstrated to me that Hale was persistent and consistent with her approach. Hale repeatedly addresses her most value issues including better educational opportunities for women, more occupational rights for women, and the value and importance of faith and family.

I will continue to read issues of the periodical in addition to secondary analytical works.

Comments

  1. ehchen01 says:

    This was really interesting for me, because I am researching attitudes towards womanhood in late nineteenth century New England, specifically looking at Louisa May Alcott’s works. In the process, I also looked at some of Godey’s Lady’s Book publications. However, I didn’t go that in depth. I think it’s so fascinating to look at not only a publication’s content but the editor and her background. I like how you looked at both Hale’s editorial voice and her personal feelings.