Abstract and Keywords
Although often understood as frivolous, women’s shopping was anything but. By the late nineteenth century, almost all households had to purchase daily necessities. Women’s paid work was often in retail or consumer goods manufacturing. Thus, even as men also bought goods and services, women’s responsibilities as purchasers and wage earners made consumption particularly crucial to their daily labor. Thus, consumption reinforced gender ideology. Fashions, food, and public performance helped to “make” gender. In so doing, they also reinforced racial and class hierarchies. From the first advertisements, “mass” consumption equated real women with white, young, slender, and middle-class bodies. However, specialized products, commercial districts, and fashions also made consumption important to nonwhite, queer, and working-class identities. Moreover, both policymakers and everyday consumers increasingly sought economic stability and also political change in stores and shopping; “consumer” movements and less organized, recurrent protests raised the possibility, and the threat, of women’s political authority.
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