Hope in a Jar
By Kathy Peiss
(Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805055504, 352pp.)
Publication Date: May 1998
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How did Powder and Paint, once scorned as immoral, become indispensable to millions of respectable women? How did a Victorian "kitchen physic", as homemade cosmetics were called, become a multi-billion-dollar industry? And how did men finally take over that rarest of institutions, a woman's business?
Drawing on a wealth of archival sources, historian Kathy Peiss uncovers a vivid history in which women, far from being pawns and victims, used makeup to declare their freedom, identity, and sexual allure as they flocked to enter public life. She highlights the leading role of white and black women -- Helena Rubenstein and Annie Turnbo Malone, Elizabeth Arden and Madame C. J. Walker -- in shaping a unique industry that relied less on advertising than on women's customs of visiting ("Avon calling") and conversation. From New York's genteel enameling studios to Memphis's straightening parlors, Peiss depicts the beauty trades that thrived until the 1920s, when corporations run by men entered the lucrative field, creating a mass consumer culture that codified modern feminity.
Rich with the voices and experiences of ordinary women, "Hope in a Jar" is a major work of American history and an important and engaging contribution to the study of women's lives.