Health and Beauty in the 1930s

Part of the mission of North Carolina's extension service was to promote better health and nutrition. The state's 4-H clubs played a role in that mission, teaching students the basics of taking care of their bodies.

The pamphlet below, produced by the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service in 1939, was aimed at teenaged girls. It explains, often in great detail, rules and guidelines for grooming. As you read it, think about these questions:

  • What information in this pamphlet would you consider to be obvious to teenagers today? Why do you think it was included in 1939?
  • What information seems strange or outdated to you? Why?
  • What sorts of recipes are included? Why do you think the authors included them?
  • How would you describe the standards for female beauty promoted by this pamphlet? How are they similar to, or different from, standards of beauty today?
  • How might this document have improved life for women and girls in 1939?


The Pamphlet

4-H Girls Personal Appearance and Grooming Manual (4-H Manual 6-9)

This Depression-era pamphlet provided instruction for teenaged girls on health, beauty, and grooming, from tips on hairdos to recipes for homemade shampoo and deodorant. Important: This pamphlet is republished for historical purposes and should not be taken as advice. By Miss Willie Hunter, Specialist in Clothing, and Miss Julia McIver, Assistant Specialist in Clothing. North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service, Extension Miscellaneous Pamphlet No. 35, January 1939.