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Women as Marketing Moving Targets

Developed by

Abena Lewis-Mhoon, Ph.D

Dept. of History, Coppin State University

Katherine Bankole-Medina, Ph.D.

Dept. of History, Coppin State University  

Teisha Dupree-Wilson, Ph.D

Dept. of History, Coppin State University 

Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Ph.D.

Dept. of History, Howard University



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Josh Larkin Rowley
Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Additional Resources

The Rubenstein Library offers several introductory videos to our digital collections.  They cover useful information on refining search results, navigating digitized items, proper citations and copyright.

Session Outline & Goals

This assignment requires students to explore advertisements in the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History digital collections that highlight gender.  Students will then engage in a structured debate that discusses their findings.  Following the debate, students will submit a 500 word "reflection paper" summarizing the content of the debate and whom made the most persuasive argument for conveying whether single women, mothers, or married women were targeted most consistently and effectively.

Learning Objectives & Goals

Primary Source Literacy:

  • Identify and communicate information found in primary sources.
  • Critically evaluate the perspective of creators of primary sources.
  • Situate a primary source in context by applying knowledge about the time and culture in which it was created.

Students will:

  • Locate, evaluate, and analyze print advertisements from different time periods featuring single women, married women, and women as mothers.
  • Compare the differing depictions of women during varying stages of young to middle adulthood and evaluate the actual power held by these groups.
  • Evaluate chosen advertisements to determine the social, political, and economic impact that women had on 20th Century American society.
  • Apply this knowledge in an interactive group activity and in a short reflection paper.
Source Digital Collections
  • AdAccess: Approximately 7,000 print advertisements predominately from U.S. publications covering five categories: radio & television, transportation, beauty & hygiene, and World War II propaganda that date from circa 1911 to 1955.
  • Ford Motor Company Advertisements: thousands of advertisements prepared by the J. Walter Thompson Co. advertising agency for Ford Motor Co's line of cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, and more ranging in date from 1945 to 2016. 
  • Medicine and Madison Avenue: A collection of approximately 600 advertisements exploring the relationship between modern medicine and modern advertising.
  • AdViews: Thousands of television commercials created by the D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles advertising agency for a diverse list of consumer companies such as General Foods, Post Cereals, Nabisco, and Proctor & Gamble.
  • ROAD Outdoor Advertising Database: Derived from multiple archival collections related to outdoor advertising, this collection is comprised of mostly photographs of outdoor advertising in the 20th century.

The Rubenstein Library also offers several introductory videos to our digital collections.  They cover useful information on refining search results, navigating digitized items, proper citations and copyright.  Links to these videos are in the Additional Resources box on the left.

Assignment Plan

Students will be divided into three groups focusing on the following representations in print advertising:

  • Single women
  • Married women
  • Mothers

Students will collect and analyze 5 - 10 print advertisements that fit into their respective group.  Students will then use historical frameworks to present their findings the political, social, and economic of the ads relative to their specific group.  The class will determine the efficacy of the advertisements and group assertions through the group debate/dialogue.

Who or what is the audience for this assignment?

The audience can vary given the background lesson presented prior

What skills, abilities, and/or knowledge do students need to have in order to complete this assignment?

Students must have a working knowledge of:

     United States History

     Digital research skills    

If this assignment builds new skills, explain how students will acquire these skills.

Students will learn about the role of women and Social History in the United States through examination and discussion of print advertisements

How long will this assignment take students to complete?

One 90 minute class period plus time to complete short essay at home

What parts will be done in class?

30 minutes to collect and analyze ads

30 minutes for group collaboration

30 minutes to present the debate/dialogue to the class

What parts should be done outside class?

Short 500 word reflection essay submitted during next class

Will students work in groups? How will groups be selected?

Students will be randomly separated into 3 groups:

      Single Women

      Married Women


If they work in groups, how will they be held accountable to their team members?

Within the each group, roles will be determined and assigned by the students

Will the assignment involve a presentation component?

A 30 minute debate/dialogue between the 3 groups