45 Vintage Ads That Go To Show That Women Have Come A Long Way, Baby
Marketing has always existed for as long as history can recall. Advertisements, promotions, and posters still flood the streets, magazines, and screens today – and that is something that will probably never change. However – the more vintage we get, the more we see a pattern. Ads back then were full of false claims, fake scientific statements, and content that would be seen as highly offensive today. Now, these ads make us roll our eyes and laugh. If any brand tried to advertise this way in the modern western world, they would definitely not hit their sales targets. But back then, it was “anything goes” as long as the companies made sales. So ladies and gents, grab your favorite wine and enjoy a good laugh as we take you on a trip down memory lane – here are 45 vintage ads that would be banned today.
Start Diabetes Early!
Before advertisements were ethical, many companies used false claims to sell their goods, and one brand in particular that used to exercise these bogus claims in ads was Coca-Cola. In this vintage poster, a loving mother is holding her baby, and the bottle in the corner indicates that she’s about to feed it to her child.
The bottle’s contents are not milk or anything else that might be good for her baby, but it is the bubbly Coca-Cola beverage. Coca-Cola is packed with sugar and additives – and back then, rumor had it, cocaine itself. So no, despite what the ad says the “lab tests” prove, we can assure you that coke was not, and will never be, suitable for babies.
Women Can’t Ever Have Morning Breath
Apparently, in the days when sexism was not only promoted but a way of life, women everywhere who woke up with completely natural and normal morning breath feared that they would lose the love of their husbands and even end up divorced and on the street.
So, what would they do? They would wake up before their husband and cleanse their teeth and breath with all sorts of advertised goods, such as breath mints, mouthwash, and even makeup, to seem as if they woke up looking and smelling perfect.
The Old Ball and Chain
Some of you might be familiar with the term “the ball and chain,” referring to a married man’s wife. Ironically, in those days, women were more prisoners of the home than men, being confined to the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, and of course, bearing children.
This sexist ad shows the much-believed fact that in the past, the only way to “trap” a man was through his stomach, by tempting him with delicious freshly baked donuts to prove their worth and cooking skills to real them in.
Men Are Better Than Women!
Another stereotype of men vs. women was that women were only good indoors – cooking and cleaning for their husbands, as we said. While on the other hand, men were portrayed as being good at everything else, like earning money, playing sports, and of course, being perfect at every outdoor activity.
This clothing brand is promoting their sweaters by stating that they are the perfect thing for men to wear when hiking and that women should stay at home where they belong instead of trying to join in and ruin all the fun by being unable to climb “like a man.”
Here’s yet another example of the utter awful information that Coca-Cola once claimed as true, which would most definitely be seen as false advertising in this day and age. This ad is selling Coca-Cola as being a “brain tonic.”
Even though Coca-Cola is notorious for its amount of sugars and caffeine, which everyone knows can cause headaches and fatigue, this ad is promoting the false claim that drinking a nice cold glass of Coke can cure headaches and relieve mental and physical exhaustion.
Because Cheating Is Okay If Your Secretary is Prettier Than Your Wife
Many advertisements seemed to promote infidelity, like this ad showing a beautifully dressed woman kissing what appears to be the woman at the forefront of the picture’s husband. If a woman was not good enough for her man, she was at risk of losing him to another woman.
Perhaps this young lady did not fold his pants correctly – or maybe she burnt dinner one time too many, and so her husband sought comfort in the arms of another woman – perhaps a younger, more beautiful one who cooked better. And in those days, that was completely okay to do.
Barefoot and Pregnant
A happy wife means a woman who is good-looking and pregnant. Because what use is a woman if not being a baby machine, barefoot, and pregnant in the kitchen? Aside from slaving away over a hot pot for their husbands and doing the chores, of course.
Now, she has a washer and dryer all in one! She can save herself some valuable time by drying her husband’s suits in the dryer instead of hanging them up on the line. Let’s just hope nothing shrinks in the process! Also – can you believe that a washer and dryer was only $249.95?
Now She Can Go Back To The Kitchen
If your wife’s headaches are affecting your breakfast, then act fast and get her to your local doctor so that she can get some painkillers – there’s nothing worse than having to go into work hungry because your wife wasn’t well enough to cook breakfast!
And, if she’s not even able to cook with a headache, you can bet your bottom dollar, gentlemen, that she won’t be able to clean, look after the kids, and she definitely won’t be of any use in bed if you know what we mean.
Women Live In The Kitchen!
One thing we all know too well, ladies, is that the mid-20th century was notorious for its sexism and promoting women as basically only helping wait on their husbands and raise the children, as we have seen so far in ads alone.
If a woman wasn’t in the kitchen, then she was cleaning the house, taking the kids to school or after-school activities, or waiting in the bedroom to please her man. Thankfully, things have changed a little bit since then.
Insecticides Are Good For You
DDT is a chemical compound and a class 2 insecticide for those of you who do not know. It is most definitely not “good for you,” as this misleading advertisement claims, and if they had the knowledge or resources to test this scientifically back then, this would have been evident.
Today, brands making false claims such as “scientifically tested” would be sued for false advertising and lying to the public – especially in this case, because DDT is known to cause chronic effects on the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and immune system.
Say goodbye to depression and hello to chronic alcohol addiction with Phosferine Tonic Wine. This particular type of wine was highly popular during wartimes and promised to calm frazzled nerves and allow for a good night’s sleep o forget your feelings.
The wine was also advertised as being able to cure depression. Usually, the wine contains a high alcohol concentration and is still prevalent in some countries today. But, we’re sorry, ladies, wine never could and never will be able to cure depression. It does go down nicely with a tasty steak, though.
She can’t catch a break
We don’t have a large enough skull for our eyes to roll back into with this one. First of all, what man wakes up in the morning wearing a suit? Second, we cannot believe that this is how women were once expected to behave.
Nowadays, breakfast in bed is a Father’s day treat for some lucky dads, or maybe a loving gesture on his birthday or anniversary. But, to do this every single day? Poor women of the mid-1900s. We really feel for them.
Such Little Things…
Now we’re getting picky. Much like the army, women had to look perfectly well dressed at all hours of the day. That meant that heaven forbid they have any flesh showing in between their buttons. That meant they were too fat for their clothes!
Men, however, could look and dress however they pleased and somehow still get a wife – because eventually, all the single girls became desperate and settled for just about anybody just so that they wouldn’t become an “old maid.”
The Ultimate Life (Wife) Savers
KFC had it down when it came to advertising, even way back then. Did you accidentally burn the dinner again because you were listening to your favorite radio show? Not to worry, dear – KFC has your back to get you through.
Why have an angry husband and hungry children when you can have a happy family with KFC – knowing how ads were back then, the deep-fried chicken was probably advertised as healthy and not at all fattening. Who cares when you might lose your husband, right?
Gain Sparkles Not Weight
Everyone knew that putting on weight – whether or not you were pregnant – was a big no-no when women were pretty much just arm candy and cleaners for men. Nowadays, weight is controversial, so anything that implies a woman is too overweight would be banned.
But back then, a skinny woman was the only kind of woman you could be – or you’d forever be at risk of never marrying or being left for your husband’s sexy secretary. And guess what? It wouldn’t be his fault for being unfaithful. It would be yours for not being skinny enough.
Be Careful Ladies – Morning Breath Could End Your Marriage!
Only attractive women didn’t wake up with morning mouth – you know, morning breath? We’ve been here before. It’s a perfectly normal thing that everyone has in the morning. Well – not pretty women. Because how could pretty women be normal?
Pretty women also woke up in the morning with perfect hair and makeup, never smelled of sweat, always looked their utmost best even when giving birth or after a long day in the kitchen, and of course, always had time to please her husband. And if she didn’t, a prettier woman might just snatch him up.
Well, That Stinks!
Well, that stinks! She lost her chances because she was so busy looking her best that she forgot to check if she smelled her best, too! Poor girl, she almost managed to trap him with her roast-lamb stew and maple syrup topped pancakes, but she lost her chance.
Too bad that women had to be perfect in every possible way – and this deodorant advert took advantage of the fact that women need to make a man fall in love with her flawlessness and not her personality. We wonder if it actually did the job.
The Chef Doesn’t Do The One Thing They Are Paid To Do
Nowadays, a man who cooks is seen as attractive. Then, there was no such thing as a man who cooks – except when it came to operating the grill at a barbecue. Because in no way or form is that cooking.
We aren’t quite sure what male chefs did back then if they didn’t cook and women weren’t supposed to work, even if the work was cooking. But hey, perhaps some superpower couples ran the restaurants back in the day, and the husbands took the credit for their success, of course.
Before Smoking Caused Cancer, Doctors Loved Them
Before people understood the harmful effects of smoking tobacco, even Doctors used to smoke them. They didn’t just stop there, either. Companies like Camel would hire doctors to endorse their products. Nowadays, producers would laugh as if this were a joke if someone ever submitted an ad like this.
Today, if a doctor had to say that cigarettes have health benefits, the reaction by the public would likely break the internet. That doctor would most assuredly lose his license to practice medicine ever again. If not that, he would surely lose all his patients.
Nothing Does It Like Diabetes
Coca-Cola wasn’t the only beverage company guilty of promoting their sugary drinks to babies because 7 Up did it, too. And just like the Coca-Cola ads, this would have stirred up some angry comments on social media if it was advertised today.
Especially since health and nutrition is a far better known and researched topic as science continues to develop, promoting the healthiness of sweetened and colored beverages is now something of the past. Nowadays, doctors warn against its harmful ingredients.
Be A Man.
Another huge issue in the early and mid 20th century was the idea that all men had to be “manly” – meaning that they all had to be strong, good fighters and join the army, representing and fighting for their country in wartime.
This ad was meant to promote “manliness,” hinting that any man that didn’t enlist and join the navy was as useless as a girl when it came to fighting in wars. In some countries, men under a certain age are still encouraged and even forced to join the army – and most of those countries prefer enlisting men to women.
You Candy Do It!
Mommies these days know all too well that too much candy makes for a hyperactive child that ends up with a sugar crash. And there’s nothing quite as frustrating as having a candied-up child right before bedtime to make your job “that much harder.”
But before people had the knowledge of sugar that they do now, companies would promote how good sugary foods and beverages were for children. And mothers believed it because it was men making the advertisements after all, and when could a man ever be wrong?
What Even is Global Warming?
We aren’t too sure, but we think that this is yet another advert promoting cellophane-wrapped sweets, except this one has a child wrapped up in the cellophane, perhaps to show how great this is? We say that’s a pretty morbid way to do so.
Nowadays, the use of cellophane is highly controversial, as it is plastic, and its use of it contributes to global warming. But back then, people didn’t even know what “environmentally friendly” meant – good thing we are more aware now.
We’re pretty sure that this ad for a self-cleaning oven that helps women by “saving time for better things” means exactly what you’re thinking, girls! And no, it’s not a trip to the spa or the mall to get a new pair of shoes.
Its obvious women weren’t alive for their enjoyment. They existed purely to serve the men of this world. So by saving time cleaning the oven, they can spend more quality time with their husband – bringing him coffee and a newspaper and preparing dinner. Sounds way better than that shopping trip, doesn’t it?
Women Should Be Behind the Stove – Not the Wheel
The stereotype that women couldn’t drive probably came from that one time when a husband made his wife feel so anxious behind the wheel, she had an accident, and he told all of his friends that it was because women can’t drive.
Even today, men still believe that they are the better drivers when the insurance companies know the truth. Men under the age of 25 pay more on insurance than women because women are more cautious drivers. But don’t let a man raised in the 1970’s hear that.
Even Women Can Do It!
This hot sauce advert aimed to make the lives of men everywhere easier by promoting its’ easy-to-open lid – advertising that it was so easy to open, even a weak woman can do it. This made men spend more time in front of the TV and less time opening tricky lids in the kitchen.
The kitchen – the only place where a woman can reach her full potential. If this kind of advert had to hit the streets now, we’re pretty sure the brand selling it would have an angry boycott on their hands, and certainly no female customers.
A Good Spanking
Because if a woman wasn’t spending every waking moment existing for the pleasure of her man, then why was she even married to him? The woman on this poster wasn’t fulfilling her wifely duties, so she received a well-deserved spank.
In this day and age, this advert would not only be seen as sexist but as promoting abuse, too. But back then, ladies, you’d better be checking those slacks for hubby – or you might just get a good spanking or be stepped on.
Skinny or Die
This bizarre contraption which looks as if it is some sort of medieval torture device that crushed its victim’s skull one millimeter at a time, was supposed to remove double chins, which of course made a woman look fat, and being fat was a big no-no.
We wonder how many women would brave this nutty chinstrap in this day and age – and how many women probably suffocated themselves by mistake using this crazy-looking thing. At least the only place we’d see this now is in a museum.
Small Hands Need Small …Pens?
Because, according to Parker, women’s hands were tiny and petite and could never possibly manage to hold a “man-sized” pen. Can you imagine a woman using a man’s pen? The thought is preposterous! Thank goodness they were thinking about women!
It’s a good thing Parker has changed their ways since this advertisement was published because we’re not so sure it would be the right decision for their brand image if they had to republish this ad of the past.
At Lease She Didn’t Burn The Beer
Okay, this one actually made us laugh – but it’s still not an advert that the public would condone today, despite its witty nature. The misogynist undertones are still there, indicating that women belong in the kitchen and certainly won’t be drinking any Schlitz.
On the bright side, at least this ad doesn’t try to promote that by drinking this alcoholic beverage, your headaches, depression will be gone in the meantime – which is a step up from some of the others on this list!
Nothing Beats Smelling Good
We can all agree that it isn’t very nice to smell, and we can all agree that deodorant is a great way to combat that. But, what we can’t agree with are the beauty standards women had to keep up with to be happy back then.
It was advertised as disgusting and unattractive to smell – and whilst it isn’t the nicest, it was and still is perfectly normal to sweat. News flash, men of the 1900’s – it’s not very healthy if you don’t.
Don’t Get Old!
Since the earliest of days, the human race has strived to fight against nature and find ways to avoid aging. Anti-aging treatments, creams, and serums flood the shelves today and will continue to do so – as aging skin is a sign of mortality.
But in this advert, Palmolive took that to another level by promoting the fact that men shouldn’t be attracted to their wives if their skin shows any signs of aging – but of course, men were allowed to age terribly and were still the perfect husband.
TV = A Plus
Ever heard of the old wive’s tale that watching too much television gives you square eyes? Well, here’s another one. According to this advert, Motorola endorses watching television – claiming that it can even help a child maintain better grades in school.
If teachers had to see this advert these days, they would have more than just one bone to pick with them! Sure, watching educational television may help kids to better understand their studies, but it’s no replacement for actually studying!
Beauty isn’t Everything
This was probably a popular one that scored the deodorant brand advertising tons of sales because women being referred to as “dumb” was completely okay, and claiming that the only way for a woman to be charming was if she was perfect, too.
Now, we aren’t for one second saying that women shouldn’t use deodorant – but ladies, it is completely normal to smell – especially after a long day – it does not mean you are dumb. It means you are human. The creators of this advert were not!
Baby Shaving – What Could Go Wrong?
Do you remember watching TV and seeing how the boys would get so excited when they got their first facial hair? We do. They felt like such manly men picking up a razor blade for the first time and likely cutting themselves a few times.
Imagine a baby shaving! Right. Because everybody teaches their infants kids how to shave – why wait when you can start young, right? At least by the time they reach their teens, they would have perfected it – that is, if they haven’t sliced their necks.
On Her Knees
“At the mercy of her husband, she kneels by his side and polishes his fancy leather shoe.” Said no one in the 21st century. However, back in the day, women would be expected to kneel at their man’s feet.
Whether she was on her knees cleaning, shining his shoes, or feeding him breakfast in bed (as we saw before), this advert promoted the near-slavery that women were put through. Good going, shoe brand. We hope you made your sales targets.
Let Her Out Of The Kitchen – Please!
Aside from the old “ball and chain,” women were also often referred to as the dishwasher – especially in homes where there wasn’t a dishwasher. This advert is promoting some good old family time – begging husbands to “let her out of the kitchen.”
It’s not quite as bad as the other adverts that are on this list, and at least we can sort of agree with this one – why wash dishes by hand when you can shove them all in the dishwasher?
Don’t Open Until…
At first, one might think that this advertisement is saying a wife should never speak until spoken to by her husband, and we’re pretty sure that was an intended connotation. But, it’s also a strange ad for Chlordent toothpaste.
Once again, we see how terrible it was for women to have morning breath – even though it’s something that everyone wakes up to. Women had to make sure they cleaned their breath before even having some coffee in the morning. At least they had Chlordent to save the day.
She’ll Definitely Love Cleaning More Than New Shoes
Why buy your wife something she’ll enjoy when your Hoover just broke, and Christmas is around the corner? You can use her present as a 2-in-1 and just get her a new Hoover! She’s been complaining about her back pain from all the sweeping anyway.
And besides – wives don’t need to enjoy their lives when all they are good for is cleaning up after you! So be a man and get your wife the ultimate Christmas gift – a brand new vacuum cleaner, so that they can keep your home nice and clean.
On The Metaphorical Shelf
Back in the day, if a woman had reached her 20’s and wasn’t married, she was considered as “an old maid” who was still “on the shelf.” Because a woman was nothing without her charming, perfect husband beside her.
This advert was designed to remind women that their lives would never be complete if they could not meet and marry a man, bear his children and live their lives for their husbands. Today, it would be considered misogynist.