Woman's Day

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Woman's Day

Begun during the 1930s depression, Woman's Day magazine "like the supermarket… helped to change the habits of the American family," according to Helen Woodward in The Lady Persuaders. Woman's Day began as a giveaway menu leaflet, the "A&P Menu Sheet," published and distributed to its customers by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. The sheet "told the housewife how to get the most for her food dollar, then how to use the food purchased to provide her family with appetizing and nourishing meals," James Playsted Wood reported in Magazines in the Twentieth Century. It included suggested menus for families with adequate as well as for those with meager and less-than-meager budgets. The first issue in 1934 offered menus for a family of four ranging from eleven to thirteen dollars a week to five to six dollars a week. The April 30, 1934, sheet contained "menus especially adapted to the needs of children."

The menu sheet was so successful and so expensive to produce that two A&P executives, Frank Wheeler and Donald P. Hanson, developed plans to make a women's service magazine of it. A subsidiary was founded, and in October 1937 the first 815,000 copies of Woman's Day were ready for sale for three cents in A&P grocery stores. Six of the 32 pages were devoted to recipes and menus. Other pages included advertising for products chiefly found in the A&P, an article that told "What to Do about Worry," and another that asked, "Is Football Worthwhile?" From its beginning, the magazine contained how-to-do-it articles, expanded in 1947 to a complete how-to section, "How to Make It—How to Do It—How to Fix It." By 1940 the magazine was able to guarantee advertisers a circulation of 1.5 million.

In 1943, Mabel Hill Souvaine began her fifteen-year tenure as editor, and under her management the magazine grew in circulation to nearly five million. By 1952, Woman's Day was distributed in 4,500 A&P stores and, like its arch rival, Family Circle, was, as reported in Business Week, "hard on the heels of the big women's service magazines." In the 1950s, Woman's Day told stores which dress patterns it would feature and then told readers which stores stocked fabrics appropriate for those patterns. In 1958, after a federal judge dismissed a suit brought by several food companies that alleged the magazine engaged in discriminatory practices that guaranteed it advertising revenues, A&P sold Woman's Day to the Fawcett Company.

Of the many store-distributed magazines founded in the 1930s, Woman's Day and Family Circle emerged as the hardiest and most prosperous. With a readership of nearly 20 million in the late 1980s, Woman's Day was a close competitor to the "world's largest women's magazine," Family Circle, which boasted a readership of more than 21 million. By the 1990s, Woman's Day continued to be one of the most popular sources of information designed specifically for women and their daily life.

—Erwin V. Johanningmeier

Further Reading:

"Food-Store Magazines Hit the Big Time." Business Week. No.1171, February 9, 1952.

Taft, William H. American Magazines for the 1980s. New York, Hasting House Publishers, 1982.

Wood, James Playsted. Magazines in the United States. New York, Ronald Press, 1956.

Woodward, Helen. The Lady Persuaders. New York, Ivan Obolensky, 1960.