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Feminism and Interior Design in the 1960s is a research endeavor that attempts to contribute to the professionalization and better recognition of the interior design discipline through addressing gender issues, and specifically analyzes the relationship between interior design and feminism in the 1960s as represented through contemporary advertising imagery. Here, professionalization refers to the process in which decoration as a domestic activity transforms to interior decoration, and later design, as a properly recognized profession. Despite the attempts of many historians of interior design, as well as there being a great deal of existing literature on the issue of professionalization, it continues to be a matter of concern. Moreover, there is a misunderstanding of the concept of the discipline within both the academic community and the general public. Despite decades of progress, femininity, decoration, and domesticity have been deeply ingrained as the pillars of interior design throughout its history. One perspective can give the view that interior design offered women many career opportunities, and allowed them to be seen as experts and professionals. Some examples of successful female decorators of the past are Elise de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper, and Sister Parish. Yet, women’s accomplishments and contributions to the field have been counted as unequal compared to the achievements of men in the discipline. In other words, despite the high level of professionalism among the women of the field, in the end they were associated with the domestic sphere while the public sphere was, and continues to be, associated with men. A good example of this gender bias is mentioned in an article titled “Is the design’s world still a boy’s club?” that states Le Corbusier’s response to Charlotte Perriand when she requested to join his studio and work in his architecture firm: “We don’t embroider cushions here.”1 This clearly presents the undermining of women designers at the beginning of the modern movement, and the article continues to argue that in many respects. That perspective is still prevalent. This thesis focuses on two issues in parallel: the relationship women have developed with interior design as well as the role and influence of the feminist movement on this relationship between women and interior design in the 1960s. This study is developed in two parts. In part one, a brief history of both the feminist movement and interior design is presented. In part two, images and articles from three American Journals, Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful and Ladies Home- Journal are analyzed in terms of the indicated main concept and are categorized in different sections which will be presented later. These analyses examine how the three journals responded to the feminist movement.
Advisor: Mark Hinchman