Throughout the Cold War, Russian citizens had limited access to US life and culture. Amerika, a glossy Russian-language magazine similar to Life, provided a rare exception. Produced by the United States Information Agency (USIA), America’s first peacetime propaganda organization, Amerika was used to influence Russians, and convince women in particular that an American-style consumer culture and conservative gender norms could better their lives. Winning Women’s Hearts and Minds relies on USIA archives, issues of Amerika, and American women’s magazines such as the Ladies’ Home Journal to show how, during the postwar period, USIA officials deployed idealized images of American women as happy, fulfilled, and feminine wives, mothers, and homemakers.
This study analyses how Amerika was used to appeal to Russian women. Portrayed in the US media as "babushkas," they were considered unfeminine, overworked, and deprived of consumer goods and services by a repressive regime. Diana Cucuz provides a gendered analysis of the USIA and of Amerika, whose propaganda campaign relied heavily on postwar conservative gender norms and images of domestic contentment to convey positive messages about the American way of life in the hopes of undermining that Soviet regime. Winning Women’s Hearts and Minds sheds light on the significance of women, gender, and consumption to international politics during the Cold War.