Nicole Wechsler and Dr. Rebecca DeSchweinitz, History Department
This project analyzed two main documents, comparing and contrasting the different LDS youth periodicals, namely the Improvement era and the Young Woman’s Journal. In this project I analyzed advertisements within the Improvement Era during the merger of the Young Woman’s Journal and the Improvement Era with special emphasis on how advertisements are being construed to the different genders before and after the merger in 1929. The Improvement Era is one of the few early LDS periodicals that have preserved the cover art and advertisements, unlike other magazines during this period in which all images were discarded. In so doing I also analyzed the articles themselves and the information that was being distributed through fictional stories, poetry, and instructional material. In this I focused on gender writings and how this affected advertisements during this period. Ultimately, this project gave me an in depth understanding of the materials and how the LDS church during this period worked together to better the different programs they were creating.
While extensive studies have been frequently conducted using the Improvement era and the Young Woman’s Journal periodicals and have utilized these documents as primary or secondary source to historians. The goal of this project was to help bring to light the differential aspects of the Improvement Era since it was the first periodical within the LDS faith to be a coeducational magazine for youth in their religion, specifically its portrayal of gender roles and societal relationships.
The methodology of this project was to synthesize the different materials. I began reading the both the Improvement era and the Young Woman’s Journal during these specific years (1927-1933) and two years prior and after for reference to the time period. I would read the articles and complete different quantitative analysis for the project. I would extract all images to better analyze the images and whom their audiences were directed towards. This data collection would take a significant portion of my time which would lay the foundation for synthesize the primary sources.
This project discovered that the Improvement Era most often advertised to the mother’s of the youth after the merger of the two periodicals in 1929. The cultural practices of America in the late 1920s and the1930s focused on materialism and new urban values.
The society as a whole began turning inward and focusing on themselves and their own families as opposed to the community as a whole. This was also prevalent in Utah during this period, though less than the entire country. The paper that is currently in the final editing stages reveals an insightful understanding of the LDS community during this period and how the Mutual Improvement Association chose to advertise through their periodical and how that periodical changed for both the young men and young ladies of the LDS church during this time period. Resulting in the generalization that most advertisements were submitted for the mothers of the youth and to attract their sales.
This project resulted in hours of work and a paper that was written that is in the process of being submitted to different publications. This document is working on being submitted to current periodicals for Mormon history, however it still in the stages of editing to prepare it for academic publications.
This project centers on the gender roles that were prevalent in American society during the 1920’s and the 1930’s. These documents were utilized for the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA) and the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA). These magazines were used as guideposts for the youth of the LDS church; it was also used as a mechanism to market to the mothers and fathers of the youth. These periodical subscriptions were both profitable and widespread to many families within the Mormon Church. The entire research project leaves questions on gender, doctrine, and financials of the church during this period. I was not able to access all the documents I would have liked to in regards to the financial situation of the Improvement Era. Ultimately, the comparison to this project and how modern periodicals like the New Era is another project that would be of interest to me that I learned as I completed this project.
This project was a great experience, because it gave me the ability to go in depth on LDS periodicals, a topic that I have personally become very passionate about during my time at Brigham Young University. This project gave me insight on the LDS church during the progressive era and gave light to a periodical that is not often studied in Mormon Studies. The Improvement Era is a rich primary source that can be used by anyone studying 20th century Mormonism. I personally found this document to have a rich history that needs to be delved into for greater comprehension of LDS periodicals as a whole. Ultimately, this was a very rewarding experience as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University.