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Godey’s Lady’s Book

American women’s magazine published 1830 to 1898.

The ladies all say that they like the fashion plates and fashion notes in Godey’s Ladies’ Book because they are so practical, sensible, and in such good taste. This valuable magazine has enabled thousands of ladies to become their own dress makers. The fashions come straight from European headquarters, and are “by authority” correct. “Godey,” with fashions and all its other attractions, is only $2.00 a year. The April number is a gem, all over. Address the publishers at Philadelphia, Pa. -De Smet Leader, March 1889

A popular American magazine devoted to women’s issues, Godey’s Lady’s Book was first published by Louis Godey in Philadelphia in 1830. Sarah Josepha Hale edited the magazine from 1837 until her retirement in 1877. Prior to his death in 1878, Godey sold the magazine to John Hill Seyes Haulenbeek; it ceased publication following Haulenbeek’s death in 1898. An annual subscription cost from $2-3 during the Little House years (the cost went down, not up), and there were subscriptions geared towards supplying women’s clubs or groups, with promotions offered for subscribing, such as chromo pictures suitable for framing. The hand-colored fashion plates found in each issue of Godey’s were highly collectible, and many archived online collections are missing color plates as well as pages which contained popular recipes and craft instructions.

Godey’s Lady’s Book tended to follow a consistent format during the Little House years. Full-page colored fashion plates were followed by detailed drawings of clothes, hats, and accessories for women and children, followed by a selection of piano sheet music. Each issue contained a short novel and/or short stories and poetry. The “Work Department” showcased such handwork as embroidered cushions or tablecloths, crocheted lace, picture frames, and basketry. The “Fashions” section offered paper patterns for sale, then were detailed descriptions of fashions shown. “Chit-chat” offered fashion advice for the coming month or season, and an overview of what was going on in the world of fashion. Pages of “Recipes” was followed by the “Home Amusements and Juvenile Department”, with games, puzzles, riddles, and short poems. At the end was the “Arm Chair,” a section of correspondence and advice, followed by “Our Book Table” highlighting a list of recent publications. At the end were house plans drawn specifically for Godey’s.

The Ingallses don’t seem to have ever subscribed to Godey’s Lady’s Book. In Little House in the Big Woods, Ma looks at Mrs. Huleatt’s copy of Godey’s while visiting, and in the De Smet Little House books, she relies on Mrs. Boast for the latest fashion news from Godey’s when sewing Mary’s best dress for college. Ma wanted to consult the magazine to see if hoops were coming back into fashion as had been rumored.

A sample of hand-colored fashion plates from fall 1881 issues of Godey’s Ladies Book


Godey’s Lady’s Book (BW 10; LTP 9), see also hoops