This paper aims to examine how women working in the advertising industry during the 1920s and 1930s encouraged and resisted stereotypes about women to establish a professional identity. This seemingly paradoxical approach provided women with opportunities for professional development and network building. Dorothy Dignam is presented as a case study of one such advertising woman. She was a market researcher, a teacher, an advocate for women’s employment in advertising, a historian of women’s advertising clubs and a supporter of and a contributor to women’s professional networking.
Archival material is drawn from the N. W. Ayer and Son archives at the Smithsonian Institute, the Advertising Women of New York archives and the Dorothy Dignam Papers at the Schlesinger Library, the Philadelphia Club of Advertising Women papers at Bryn Mawr, the Dignam Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Women’s Advertising Club of Chicago (WACC) archives at the University of Illinois, Chicago. A close reading method of analysis places the material in a historical context. Additionally, it provides a narrative structure to demonstrate the complementary relationship between advertising club work and professional identity.
Dignam’s career strategies helped her to construct a professional identity that situated her as a guide, teacher and role model for other women who worked in advertising. She supported and created an attitude that enabled aspiring career women to embark on their careers, and she assisted in creating a coalition of women who empowered each other through their advertising club work.
Dignam’s published work about careers for women in advertising, her own career and its advancement and her involvement with women’s advertising clubs all served a rhetorical purpose. Her professional life sought to change both men’s and women’s attitudes about the impact of women in professional roles. In turn, the influence of attitudes helped to create space for women in business, especially those seeking advertising careers.
This paper illustrates how Dignam’s career, accomplishments and publications coalesce to provide evidence of how women negotiated professional identities and claimed space for themselves in the business world and in the advertising industry.
Wills, J. (2018), "Dorothy Dignam’s advocacy for women’s careers in advertising: 1920-1950", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 21-36. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHRM-01-2016-0001Download as .RIS
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited