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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The "Varga Girl" Trials: The struggle between Esquire magazine and the U. S. Post Office, and the appropriation of the pin-up as a cultural symbol
by Sullivan, Nate, M.A., University of Nebraska at Kearney, 2013, 144; 1542061
Abstract (Summary)

Between 1943-46 Esquire magazine and the U.S. Post Office Department engaged in an extraordinary legal battle over the publication's content. Postmaster General Frank C. Walker took particular offense to the Varga Girl, Esquire's most popular pin-up illustration. The series of trials quickly turned into a circus-like spectacle as the press covered the testimonies of a host of high-profile witnesses called in to offer their opinion on the morality of the pin-up. Among the witnesses were H. L. Mencken, suffragist Anna Kelton Wiley, Rev. Peter Marshall, and others. After numerous appeals from both sides, in 1946 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Esquire in Hannegan vs. Esquire, Inc. The "Varga Girl" Trials are an important event in American cultural history. They provide a glimpse into the social mores of the World War II era, highlighting deep divisions over issues of gender role construction and sexuality. The trials also had profound implications for postwar America. The Supreme Court's decision sanctioned the pin-up as a socially acceptable symbol. In the early postwar era, the pin-up increasingly came to be perceived as a model of domestic womanhood. In this context, she spoke powerfully to both women and men, informing them of their respective gender roles. The decision also spurred an unprecedented increase in pornographic magazines during the 1950s, and was widely regarded as an indicator of society's acceptance of women as sex objects. An examination of the "Varga Girl" Trials provides an opportunity for the pin-up to be understood in historical context. She is a symbol of traditional gender role construction that has had a far-reaching impact on American culture. Although obscure, the "Varga Girl" Trials have much to say about the American way of life.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ellis, Mark
Commitee: Koepp, Roy, Longo, Peter, Volpe, Vernon
School: University of Nebraska at Kearney
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Nebraska
Source: MAI 52/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Womens studies, Mass communications
Keywords: Esquire, Pin-up, Post Office, Supreme Court, Varga Girl, Varga Girl Trials
Publication Number: 1542061
ISBN: 978-1-303-26154-1
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