What Women Want?

Caring mums, hard-working housewives or independent, fun-loving 'new women' - the female consumer has long been a target of screen advertising.

In the cause of selling anything from baked beans to washing powders to all manner of labour-saving devices, advertisers have promised to make women's lives easier and to help them build happy homes and successful relationships. 

There's no getting past the fact that women have all-too often been patronised and objectified by a male-dominated advertising industry. But screen advertising also tells (and sells) a more positive story of social progress for women, with increasing social and economic independence. This collection tracks the ups and downs of female empowerment in the 20th century, with its false steps as revealing as its forward ones.

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Domestic HelpDomestic Help

Advert19522 mins

A cup of Horlicks helps a struggling husband bring home the bacon in this 1950s advert.

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Fairy Liquid - Nanette NewmanFairy Liquid - Nanette Newman

Advert19801 mins

Stepford wife Nanette Newman becomes the face of mild green Fairy Liquid in this iconic advert.

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Crowning GloryCrowning Glory

Advert193614 mins

Limp-haired lover Betty rekindles romance with dashing Dick by swapping to Amami Shampoo and Wave Set in this 1930s advertising film.

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Silvikrin ShampooSilvikrin Shampoo

Advert19641 mins

Silvikrin helps the modern girl-about-town achieve "do-what-you-want-able" hair in this 1960s ad starring Pattie Boyd.

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Eldorado Ice Cream Ad; Beautiful WomenEldorado Ice Cream Ad; Beautiful Women

Advert19371 minsSilent

An ice cream a day keeps the wrinkles away…

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The Clue of the Gleaming Hair (Eve Shampoo Advert)The Clue of the Gleaming Hair (Eve Shampoo Advert)

Advert19376 minsSilent

Luscious hair solves a mysterious disappearance.

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Dolly Put the Kettle OnDolly Put the Kettle On

Advert19472 mins

A spurned doll turns knife-wielding femme fatale when she doesn't get her teddy bear, in this cartoon cinema ad for tea

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A Dream of Brave MenA Dream of Brave Men

Advert19206 minsSilent

A humble kitchen maid dreams of war heroism in this fantastical ad for Pinkobolic disinfectant.

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We Mothers (Persil Advert)We Mothers (Persil Advert)

Advert19421 mins

A mother’s work is never done - as these two young girls playing at grown-ups have realised.

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Continuous PerformanceContinuous Performance

Advert19522 mins

Eve Edmunds of Pinewood Film Studios unwinds after a busy day with a nice cup of drinking chocolate.

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Paw Wakes up (Rinso Advert)Paw Wakes up (Rinso Advert)

Advert19402 mins

A Wild West wife learns to save fuel thanks to Rinso soap powder - and her layabout husband - in this proto-feminist wartime skit.

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Little Miss Muddlehead (Rinso Advert)Little Miss Muddlehead (Rinso Advert)

Advert19432 mins

Use Rinso and help defeat Hitler! The soap brand deploys some savvy wartime advertising.

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Talking ShopTalking Shop

Advert19532 mins Location: Bexhill

Mrs Carlisle of Bexhill-on-Sea unwinds after a busy day with a nice cup of drinking chocolate.

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Just the Ticket!Just the Ticket!

Advert19532 mins

A hard-working Catford clippie and her family star in this cinema ad for hot chocolate.

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Plumber's MatePlumber's Mate

19542 mins

Mrs Ring’s complicated life, dominated by professional and domestic chores, is soothed by a nice cup of Bournvita.

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Changing HuesChanging Hues

Advert19225 minsSilent

Pretty in Pink 1920s style: an innovatively hand-coloured cinema advert for Twink dye.

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Gallons of WorkGallons of Work

Advert19542 mins

Mrs Hawkins relaxes with a hot cup of Bourn-Vita after another busy day.

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Post Haste!Post Haste!

Advert19542 mins Location: Ambleside

Mrs Ellen Edwards of Workington, Cumberland unwinds after a busy day with a nice cup of drinking chocolate.

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A Growing BusinessA Growing Business

19542 mins Location: St Mary Bourne

Sweet ‘docu-commercial’ for Cadbury’s Bourn-vita, filmed around Bourne St Mary’s, Hampshire.

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Sunshine GirlSunshine Girl

Advert195912 mins Location: Merthyr Tydfil

What makes a South Wales Sunshine Girl? Well, the answer may vary depending on whether you ask a chauvinist or a feminist!

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Pex: No-Run NylonsPex: No-Run Nylons

Advert19650 mins Location: Leicester

Pex 'No-Run' nylons, the new innovation for 'smart girls'.

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Pex: Pin Pin NylonsPex: Pin Pin Nylons

Advert19651 mins Location: Leicester

Sheerness in never ladder nylons: the proud boast of Pex's Pin Pin nylons.

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Daz with the Blue WhitenerDaz with the Blue Whitener

Advert19672 mins Location: Devon

Mrs Cross takes the Daz test but what will the outcome be?

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Heinz Baked Beans : Mum in a MillionHeinz Baked Beans : Mum in a Million

Advert19681 mins

There’s no arguing with a million housewives in this 1960s ad from Heinz.

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Fairy Liquid: BabyFairy Liquid: Baby

Advert19691 mins

Who doesn’t want bubbles, clean dishes, and hands as soft as your face?

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Fairy Liquid - Bonus OfferFairy Liquid - Bonus Offer

Advert19661 minsSilent

A commercial for Fairy Liquid that promotes both a special offer and an alternative use for it.

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Pepsodent Twink: Tennis GirlPepsodent Twink: Tennis Girl

Advert19550 mins

Worried about losing your good looks on the tennis field? No need with Twink!

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Kelloggs Special K: Oxford StreetKelloggs Special K: Oxford Street

19701 mins

Eye-wateringly sexist breakfast cereal ad advising women how to stay trim and stave off that puppy fat.

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Fable of the FabricsFable of the Fabrics

Advert19426 mins

"Gee, old age!" Malicious Father Time doesn't stand a chance against a cartoon cupid armed with a big box of washing powder.

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No Loafing!No Loafing!

Advert19542 mins

Sweet ‘docu-ad’ for Cadbury’s Bourn-vita, filmed at Hogsthorpe, Lincolnshire.

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Fairy Liquid - Married HandsFairy Liquid - Married Hands

Advert19691 minsSilent

“Fairy Liquid helps married hands keep that single girl look”.

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Foundation of BeautyFoundation of Beauty

Advert19308 minsSilent Location: Portsmouth

The Foundation of Beauty is what lies beneath - as this parade of corsetted ladies reveal - with corsets to suit all shapes, sizes and ages

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Tips with Jeanne HealTips with Jeanne Heal

Advert19503 minsSilent

Take a tip from Googie Withers and friends and save the pounds.

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Ask My MumAsk My Mum

Advert19403 mins

Snow White wouldn’t look like Snow White without her special washing powder.

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Whose Zoo?Whose Zoo?

Advert19522 mins

From lions to llamas, an impressive menagerie of wildlife get cameos in this jaunty Cadbury advert shot in Devon.