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Women Would Never Stand for These Gifts That Were All the Rage 100 Years Ago

As we approach the holiday season, it’s fascinating to look back at how the tradition of gift-giving has evolved over the years. The MyHeritage Research team has delved into a century’s worth of holiday ads in our vast collection of nearly 20 billion historical records to reveal some startling differences in the kinds of presents that were popular back then — especially for women.

The Household Necessity Era

A hundred years ago, holiday gift-giving was significantly different from what we know today. Women, in particular, were often recipients of gifts that would be unthinkable now. Household items reigned supreme in the list of popular presents for women.

In this example from November 11, 1923, featured in the Evening Star publication from Washington, DC, an advertisement for a kitchen cupboard vividly illustrates the prevailing attitudes of the time. The ad promotes the “Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet,” touting it as a revolutionary solution to kitchen drudgery for women. The wording of the ad — “No longer is it necessary for women to put up with kitchen drudgery, for the Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet makes kitchen work a joy” — reflects a societal norm where women’s roles were largely confined to the household. Interestingly, this product, intended to ease the burden of kitchen tasks, was considered an ideal holiday gift.

Evening star - Nov 11 1923 p.14 zoom

Another example comes from an advertisement in the New Britain Herald, dated November 20, 1923. This ad centers on a “generous offer” for a new Eureka Vacuum cleaner. The language used in the advertisement is particularly telling of the era’s attitudes. The store claimed they wanted to “make this generous offer because we want every woman to know how much housecleaning drudgery the new Eureka does away with.” Just like in the previous example, this ad underscores the societal expectation of women being primarily responsible for housework.

Vacuum cleaner

In a 1923 issue of the Warsaw Daily Times, dated December 19th, there’s an advertisement for an enamel gas range. This ad is particularly notable for its tagline, which reads, ‘Give her a gift that really expresses this sentiment…. This practical gift that will save your strength and energy, keeping you young and rested as we like to see you, seems to best express our love and devotion.’ This subtly reinforces the expectations of women’s roles within the household, with the idea of gifting a gas range as a means to keep women young and rested.

gas range

In this advertisement from The Boston Globe, dated December 2, 1923, we see yet another glimpse into the gift-giving culture of the era. This ad promotes a Spinet Desk as an ideal present for women. The ad suggests that this desk “adds a definitive touch to the home as well,” reflecting the dual expectation that gifts for women should both be functional and contribute to the domestic environment. 


Highlighting the gendered nature of gift advertising in the past, an ad from The Boston Herald on December 14, 1923 showcases the simplistic approach towards women’s gifts at the time. It advises men to “give her the gift that she would give herself,” suggesting an umbrella as the ideal present. 


An advertisement from The Boston Traveler dated June 14, 1923 specifically targets individuals shopping for new brides. The ad promotes an automatic sewing machine as the ideal gift for a new bride, with the tagline: “It takes the toil and drudgery out of sewing.”

sewing machine

The MyHeritage historical record collections provide a unique window into the past, allowing us to see these changes in societal attitudes and preferences over time. These gifts, which now may seem mundane or even patronizing, were considered thoughtful and appropriate at the time. They reflect the societal norms and roles that were prevalent in the early 20th century.

Looking back at these ads from a century ago, we can appreciate just how much progress has been made in terms of gender equality and the recognition of women’s broader roles in society.

Diverse and thoughtful gifts

Moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach of the past, today’s ideal holiday gift caters to personal interests and discovery… like the MyHeritage DNA kit. 

MyHeritage DNA kits are a great choice for practically anyone, providing a fun and engaging way to learn about one’s family history and origins. They’re a thoughtful, inclusive gift that steers clear of stereotypes and assumptions. Plus, they’re currently available at a special Black Friday price, making them an affordable option for a unique and meaningful present this holiday season. 

The post Women Would Never Stand for These Gifts That Were All the Rage 100 Years Ago appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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