Sears Christmas Catalog, 1937
There's been a lot of discussion of gender roles of late – from sexual shenanigans by men in power, to gay rights, to the “Ocean's 8” movie. For better or worse, it's a new age – a genuinely dramatic contrast from decades ago.
For evidence, look back to this early Sears Christmas Wishbook from 1937, and note how clear is the dividing line between the sexes. Children were given unmistakeable guidance about their roles in life, as this page demonstrates.
These $1 Christmas stockings were a genuine value, what with the country just edging out of the Great Depression. Sears made sure you knew it, too: in addition to blocks and crayons, each stocking had a Surprise Box “alone worth at least 85 cents with 10 more toys each boxed or wrapped.”
The rest of the visible gifts?
For boys – a trumpet, a magnet, a rubber mouse, a top, a whistle, a boy's watch, and a cut-out book.
For girls – a mechanical trapeze artist, a doll, a nursery set, an accordion, a cat puzzle, some soap bubbles, and a pocketbook with girls' watch.
There would be no confusion here about which stocking belonged to Betty and which to Billy!
The rest of the toys on this page were for the girls, plain and simple: Laundry, Ironing, Manicure set, Breakfast-ware. Girls knew what they had to look forward to as grow ups (and back then, most did look forward to it.)
In the back of this Sears Christmas catalog a message from Santa himself (who is looking a bit judgmental) encouraging the little ones to circle their personal choices so Mother and Father would know what to get. Click to zoom in and read it.
Gee, I wonder who circled what?