Ida Rosenthal and her Maidenformidable Empire: Dreamy Advertising and Booming Business in Postwar U.S.
The Maidenform brassiere company was an innovator in producing and disseminating expanded representations of gender around the world in the postwar period. By exploiting the important yet open-ended concept of American freedom during the early Cold War, Maidenform became the world’s top brassiere manufacturer and producer of one of the most famous advertising campaigns of all time. This study uses the Maidenform company as a vehicle to study how gender, business, labor, advertising, consumerism, and nationalism intersected in the U.S. during the early Cold War. It was during this era that Maidenform became a symbol of modern American womanhood, a highly successful woman-led multinational company, the brand behind one of the most popular advertising campaigns of all time, and an early example of the movement to employ offshore labor forces. In multiple formats, Maidenform was an innovator in expanding upon the typical rendition of conventional early Cold War American femininity and projecting complicated gender representations in consumer culture. Yet the limits of this early version of female empowerment were met when Maidenform offshored to seek cheap labor in Puerto Rico, where the company circumvented the largely female workforces’ attempts to organize under a Puerto Rico-based union.