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This paper examines the role of women in window display in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. Window display in 1920s Britain was very much men’s work. Even when women were encouraged by those outside the profession, they were not necessarily encouraged by those within it. In 1923 the daily press and women’s journals devoted space to the debate on window dressing as an ideal and suitable profession for women. However, the editorial of Display, the official organ of the British Association of Display Men, disagreed. Display believed that women were unsuccessful at window dressing, justified by claiming they did not have the natural ability to create artistic ‘open’ displays. Although the article’s author claimed they welcomed women, they believed many who had attempted it had to give it up, with their windows lacking strength and character. Nevertheless, there were successful professional female display practitioners. This paper discusses the role of women in British display, from early pioneers such as Ethel Wimhurst in 1919 to the brash American Martha Harris, who impacted on London display in the early 1930s. They and others railed against the odds to have rich and fulfilling careers.
Kerry Meakin (2021) Women in British window display during the 1920s and 1930s, History of Retailing and Consumption, 7:2, 115-136, DOI: 10.1080/2373518X.2021.1982532