Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

History

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Marjorie J. Spruill

Abstract

“Buy For the Sake of Your Baby” argues that consumerism for infants in twentieth century America was an exceptional type of consumer society. Because the parents who bought the consumer goods could not effectively communicate with their children who used these products, parents frequently purchased items for their babies as acts of good parenting. These parent consumers wanted to do what was right for their children, but because they could not effectively communicate with their children, they were particularly susceptible to influence from outside groups. Businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and the federal government recognized throughout the twentieth century how to effectively sell to these concerned parents. By doing this they created new marketing paradigms. Through thematic examinations over time of advice to parents, nutrition for infants, safety in automobiles, and attempts to adjust the genetic materials of infants through eugenic efforts, I demonstrate the growth and contours of this unique consumer activity. The increased role of experts in parental education and parenting decisions, along with American ambivalence about the government mandating what they do with their families, establish the foundation of this work. Using influential parenting sources such as Dr. Benjamin Spock and the La Leche League, as well as advertising materials from across the nation, my dissertation explains how becoming a new parent developed into an exceptional American consumer activity during the twentieth century.

Included in

History Commons

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