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In Hope in a Jar, historian Kathy Peiss gives us the first full-scale social history of America's beauty culture, from the buttermilk and rice powder recommended by Victorian recipe books to the mass-produced products of our contemporary consumer age. She shows how women, far from being pawns and victims, used makeup to declare their freedom, identity, and sexual allure as they flocked to enter public life. And she highlights the leading role of white and black women - Helena Rubenstein and Annie Turnbo Malone, Elizabeth Arden and Madame C. J. Walker - in shaping a unique industry that relied less on advertising than on women's customs of visiting and conversation. Replete with the voices and experiences of ordinary women, Hope in a Jar is a richly textured account of the ways women created the cosmetics industry and cosmetics created the modern woman.
The book is published by University of Pennsylvania Press.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Katie on 03-10-18
About Female Entrepreneurship at its Core
Would you try another book from Kathy Peiss and/or Rosemary Benson?
Hope in A Jar was more academic than my usual taste (certainly no added narrative or drama despite its unique subject matter), but its clear writing and narration as well as its keen analysis kept my interest throughout. I will go back to this author if I feel like reading straight forward nonfiction in the future. Benson's narration was clear with just enough inflection to keep the story moving.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Hope in a Jar?
Although I was initially drawn to the book's unique subject matter, (I have yet to find another academic look at the history of the cosmetic industry) the book's focus on female and african-american entrepreneurship will stay with me. The narrative follows expected names like Elizabeth Arden but also immigrant and african-american "beauty cultureists" who build businesses despite societal obstacles. The book goes out of its way to describe how different racial or social groups interpreted certain beauty practices such as applying powder foundation or rouge. I felt like I heard from a perspective I rarely see in academic-style nonfiction.
Did the narration match the pace of the story?
Benson's narration is very clear and well-paced to allow for easy comprehension. Her inflection gives the otherwise fact-heavy narrative life. I found no problem taking in this book while working or driving.
Did Hope in a Jar inspire you to do anything?
It inspired me to seek historical perspectives beyond the ones repeatedly taught in grade school.