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Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art and Art History


Beverly K. Grindstaff


American Girl, Edward Bok, Ladies' Home Journal, magazine, magazine cover, mass culture

Subject Areas

Art history; Mass communication; American studies


This thesis is an examination of the American Girl archetype on the covers of the Ladies' Home Journal as an icon of modern femininity, navigating through racial, political, and economic issues in the United States during the turn of the last century. The American Girl was a cultural phenomenon employed most effectively in the Journal, the unpretentious and affordable women's magazine that appealed to the American middle-class. This research contributes to the discussion of female stereotypes in mass media during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by identifying, evaluating, and classifying the American Girl as a personification of American principles that was utilized as part of the larger dominant mass culture pedagogy.

Using hegemonic theory, this study analyzed the use of the American Girl in the Ladies' Home Journal to represent a collective identity for young women. Establishing a relationship between consumerism and political representation, this study presented the American Girl to be the progressive counterpart to the New Woman. Considering late-nineteenth century social constructs of race, this study examined issues of national health and sexuality exhibited in the American Girl. This thesis is concluded by revealing the dynamic interplay between mass media and society in the development of American women's identities.