Monday, May 20, 2019

Godey's Lady's Book: an Important Historical Record


Fashion plate from Godey’s Lady’s Book (1840)

Welcome to my new obsession! This is Janalyn Voigt, author of the Montana Gold western historical romance series. While researching The Forever Sky, the fourth Montana Gold novel, I stumbled across a valuable original resource. How I missed this record while researching before this, I’ll never know. It was extremely popular in its day.

Godey's Lady's Book: an Important Historical Record

Godey’s Lady’s Book (also known as Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book), was established in 1836 when Louis Godey merged the Boston Ladies’ Magazine with the Philadelphia periodical, Lady’s Book. Godey employed Sarah Josepha Buell Hale as editor of the newly-minted magazine. Under her guidance, the number of subscriber ranks swelled to 150,000 by 1860, just prior to the Civil War.
Fashion Plate from Godey's Lady's Book (1861)
Godey felt that the magazine should strike a neutral pose during the War Between the States (as the conflict was known back then). However, Hale was a devoted nationalist and used the magazine to subtly sue for unity. She used editorials, letters to the editor, fiction, and poetry to support her views. Her efforts did alienate some readers, and the periodical lost about a third of its subscribers. The publication recovered and continued as an influential voice in America until 1878. By then both Godey and Hale had passed away, and Godey’s Lady’s Book was absorbed into Puritan magazine.
Nightcap, Godey’s Lady’s Book (1840) 

Content

Godey’s Lady’s Book is an important historical and cultural record it is possible to view today. That makes it exciting for a historical fiction author like myself. I also enjoy reading archived issues on a personal level. I enjoy learning about history and love cooking historical recipes, for the way they connect me to the past.

Godey’s Lady’s Book provided entertainment, information, and education to American women. One of its biggest draws was the use of hand-colored fashion plates that brought American women news of the latest apparel. Detailed descriptions and patterns accompanied the plates. The magazine also contained historical biographies and articles on a wide range of subjects of interest to women of the day. Topics included dance, riding, hygiene, hair tutorials, remedies, household tips, recipes, house plans and many others. Every issue contained two pages of sheet music arranged for the pianoforte. At a time when people socialized by gathering to enjoy musical evenings, this was important. Besides fashion plates, the periodical boasted other beautiful illustrations.

Illustration; Godey's Lady's Book (1861)
The periodical became an important literary magazine with celebrated contributors like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne. I noticed during my perusal that poetry, often shunned today, took a primary place in the pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book. It warmed my heart as a novelist to see fiction given pride of place, second only to the demands of fashion.

How the times have changed! Gone are the days when ladies spent time together in the parlor sipping tea while reading poems and stories to one another. But we, dear reader, can recapture the gentle art of living through the pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt fell in love with literature at an early age when her father read chapters from classics as bedtime stories. When Janalyn grew older, she put herself to sleep with tales "written" in her head. Today Janalyn is a storyteller who writes in several genres. Romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy appear in all her novels in proportions dictated by their genre. Janalyn Voigt is represented by Wordserve Literary. 

Learn more about Janalyn, read the first chapters of her books, subscribe to her e-letter, and join her reader clubs at http://janalynvoigt.com.


About Montana Gold


Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, the Montana gold series explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

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13 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post! Your description of the magazine reminds me of how I subscribed to Good Housekeeping for 20 years or more, until they changed it so much it was hardly worth buying. I enjoyed it for its' fiction, recipes and much more. The emphasis, as with all publishing, has moved towards digital and it's just not the same to hold a tablet in your hand! I'll have to look up Godey's at some point! Thanks again.

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    1. I agree, Connie. I much prefer a print magazine rather than a digital one.

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  2. Love Godey's! When I was a teen, I had several of their prints and/or French fashion plates framed and on the walls of my Victorian bedroom. They served to inspire a couple of my early re-enacting dresses. :)

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  3. Godey's is a great resource for writers. I have a complete Godey's book--can't remember the year though.

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    1. Oh, wow, that's awesome. There's nothing like holding a bit of history in your hands.

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  4. A couple of bound editions of Godey's are treasured parts of my research library along with Peterson's Magazine and others. The fashion plates are so beautiful ... and I'm thankful I don't have to dress like that LOL. Sarah Hale's story is inspiring, too. Thanks for the reminder!

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  5. LOL! It must have been hot in the summer to wear all those layers. Plus, then they restricted their breathing with corsets. No wonder fainting couches were a thing back then.

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  6. Women's magazines have changed so much, even in the last 30 years. What a lovely slice of history Godey's Lady's Book seems to be. Gone are the days of charm and sipping tea for sure.

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    1. True! I'm looking forward to recapturing some of that lost charm through the pages of Godey's Lady's Book. :)

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  7. My mother had four Godeys prints that she kept in a folio in her antique desk. They represented the four seasons. They were quite large and stunningly beautiful. She never had them framed and I don’t know what became of them.

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