Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Torches of Freedom...getting women addicted to cigarettes

On March 31, 1929, a woman by the name of Bertha Hunt stepped into the throng of pedestrians in their Sunday-best clothing marching down Fifth Avenue in what was known in New York as the Easter Parade, and created a sensation by lighting up a Lucky Strike cigarette. Her action would not have created the reaction it did had not the press already been alerted to what was going to happen in advance. Hunt then told the reporter from the New York Evening World that she “first got the idea for this campaign when a man with her in the street asked her to extinguish her cigarette as it embarrassed him. ‘I talked it over with my friends, and we decided it was high time something was done about the situation.’”

The press, of course, had been warned in advance that Bertha and her friends were going to light up. They had received a press release informing them that she and her friends would be lighting “torches of freedom” “in the interests of equality of the sexes and to fight another sex taboo.” Bertha also mentioned that she and her friends would be marching past “the Baptist church where John D. Rockefeller attends” on the off chance that he might want to applaud their efforts. At the end of the day, Bertha and her friends told the press that she hoped they had “started something and that these torches of freedom, with no particular brand favored, will smash the discriminatory taboo on cigarettes for women and that our sex will go on breaking down all discriminations.’”

What Miss Hunt did not tell the reporter is that she was the secretary of a man by the name of Eddie Bernays, nor did she tell him that Mr. Bernays was now a self-styled expert in the new discipline of Public Relations who had just received a handsome retainer from the American Tobacco Company to promote cigarette consumption among women. What billed itself as a feminist promotion of the emancipation of women was in reality a public relations ploy to open a new market for tobacco by getting women addicted to cigarettes.


Anonymous said...

Shame... she was doing exactly the opposite of being a feminist. She was driven by a man to promote something unhealthy to all women.

You seldom find a women capable of pulling away from a societal trend and setting her own. How do we see such negative influences to be fine these days? :/

Maysaloon said...

Well in the rest of the article we see how he believed that by 'liberating' women from societal restraints, he would create a potential gold mine since he believed women were far more susceptible to influence and marketing and so he could start shaping their attitudes. Scary :S

sasa said...

I hope one day that the bosses of tobacco companies will stand trial on charges of crimes against humanity. I really do.

Maysaloon said...

A nice sentiment but fat chance Sasa. Unfortunately in this world the case for many of these people is that you can have your cake and eat it.