Schrum, Kelly. (2004) Some Wore Bobby Sox


ARGUMENT While the figure of the teenager is usually associated with boys in the 1950s, Schrum argues that girls were the original teenagers.  Adolescent girls developed their own unique tastes and styles in fashion, beauty, movies and music beginning as early as the 1920s. SUMMARY Did girls shape teen culture by appropriating common consumer items … Continue reading

Cook, Daniel Thomas. (2004)  The Commodification of Childhood

Cook, Daniel Thomas. (2004) The Commodification of Childhood


ARGUMENT “The simplified thesis of this book is that markets shape persons in and through the consumer culture of childhood” (11). SUMMARY Cook studies children’s consumer culture beginning in 1917 with the introduction of Infants Department, the first trade journal dedicated to selling to children.  He argues that early twentieth century department stores essentially interpellated … Continue reading

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. (1996) The Adman in the Parlor

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. (1996) The Adman in the Parlor


ARGUMENT In the 1880s, advertising became a part of daily life and it socialized women and children (mostly girls) into adopting the new consumer culture. SUMMARY In The Adman in the Parlour, Garvey (1996) examines socio-cultural changes in the late nineteenth century to better understand the origins of women’s consumer culture. While most historians point … Continue reading

Formanek-Brunell, Miriam. (1992) “Sugar and Spite: The Politics of Doll Play in Nineteenth Century America”


ARGUMENT The author challenges the popular understanding that dolls limited girls’ development and restricted them to domestic and maternal responsibilities. Her studies of girls’ diaries, magazines, advice manuals and other primary sources finds that girls appropriated dolls and used them for purposes other than practicing their mothering skills. SUMMARY In the earlier part of the … Continue reading

Nasaw, David. (1992) Children and Commerical Culture: Moving Pictures in the Early 20th Century


ARGUMENT A study of Nickelodeon movies in the early 20th century demonstrates that children had independence, agency and collective buying power as early as 1910. SUMMARY Nasaw argues that although reformers and child protectors campaigned to keep children out of the Nickelodeon theatres, children continued to swarm to the theatres in search of cheap excitement … Continue reading

Jacobson, Lisa. (2004) Raising Consumers


ARGUMENT SUMMARY Jacobson  finds that children were often depicted in early twentieth century ads as precocious shoppers with distinctive preferences and a voice to express them. In line with Cross’ and Kline’s assertions about the changing nature of childhood, Jacobson adds that changes in family life, such as a decline in the number of children … Continue reading

Zelizer, Vivian, A. (1985) Pricing the Priceless Child

Zelizer, Vivian, A. (1985) Pricing the Priceless Child


ARGUMENT Sociologist Vivian A. Zelizer argues that as children came to be valued less for their contribution to the family economy, they were appreciated more for their sentimental and emotional value. SUMMARY She concludes that notions of the “economically useless but emotionally priceless child” began to emerge in the 1870s and culminated in the “sacralization” … Continue reading

Mitchell, Claudia. (2010) “Researching Things, Objects, and Gendered Consumption in Childhood Studies”


ARGUMENT Materialism is the study of “things” such as toys and their marketing materials.  Mitchell argues for a “new materialism” in Children’s Studies in order to develop new theories and methods for understanding children’s role as consumers. SUMMARY Gendered Objects – Toys are often marked by gender signifiers in the form of colour, smell, texture, … Continue reading