Pretty and powerless: Nurses in advertisements, 1930–1950

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Abstract

Images of nurses in pictorial advertisements from all issues of hospital administration journals published in 1930, 1940, and 1950 (N = 598) were examined. Content analysis of the data was based on Goffman's classic 1979 study on gender advertisements. Nurses also were compared with other figures in the advertisements and nursing activities were described. Nurses were predominantly portrayed as female, young, eager to please, and without the appearance of wisdom. In group scenes, nurses were placed as subordinate to physicians and hospital administrators. Nurses in 1940 performed more complex, autonomous activities than in 1930 and 1950. These findings support previous research focused on more recent portrayals of women and nurses in communication media. The overt and subtle subordinate representation of nurses in these advertisements, compared with physicians and administrators, reveals one facet of nursing's heritage as a woman's profession. © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Res Nurs Health 23:229–236, 2000

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