The Dovie Horvitz Collection

URLs to browse or search the collections

The Dovie Horvitz Collection consists of over 1,300 images and scanned texts representing objects and printed matter that reflect the lives of women from the mid 1800s through the mid 1900s. The items themselves were collected by Mrs. Dovie Horvitz over almost two decades and remain her property. The University of Wisconsin System Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian sponsored the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections project of mounting the photographs and scanned texts for their value to instructors and students of women’s history. In Mrs. Horvitz’ words, “[i]t is my hope that viewing these items allows us to peek into the personal lives of the average American woman, whose stories rarely included fame and fortune.” The UW Digital Collections readily agreed to the project, seeing its value as well for those studying general American history, literature, material culture, health and hygiene, design, advertising, marketing, and numerous allied fields.

As a young woman in the early 60s, influenced by Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, Mrs. Horvitz often thought about how dramatically women’s needs, desires and place in society had evolved over the generations. Years later, when her daughter was just going into her teen years, she wanted her to be proud to be a girl today as well as a woman of tomorrow.

She didn’t know how to impart this sense of pride, she felt like words weren’t enough to hold her interest. Then one day she was drawn to a vintage compact displayed at a house sale. Eureka, the collection was born and the hunt began. The “thrill of the hunt” took her and her husband Mike, and on occasion their daughter throughout the Midwest and across the country to collectable and antique shows where she was able to learn from and enjoy the company of the dealers and other collectors. The breadth of her collection expanded as she became more fascinated.

Objects in the collection include clothing (dresses, hosiery, bustles, garters, swimwear, undergarments, aprons, and more), accessories such as shoes and boots, hats, gloves, purses, fans, handkerchiefs, furs, and parasols; menstrual and other health products; cosmetic and grooming kits, powders, and related make-up items; dresser sets (combs and brushes); curling irons and other hair care devices; perfumes; boudoir pillow covers; eye glasses; and exercise equipment. The printed matter includes numerous women’s magazines, Sunday supplement illustrations, sheet music about women, suffrage postcards, World War I and II posters, photographs of teen parties, and pamphlets about sex, health, and menstruation. Page after page of ad-filled women’s magazines, as well as packaging elements such as hairnet envelopes, hosiery, handkerchief and hat boxes, constitute an important part of the collection because Mrs. Horvitz recognizes that advertising plays a significant role in our lives, past and present — by reflecting the time in which each item was created and marketed, by drawing on themes and designs from popular culture, and in turn by influencing what becomes popular culture by creating the desire for specific products.

Use “Search only the full text” to search books, magazines, and other printed matter scanned from the collection; use “Search the collection” to search the descriptions and subject headings for objects photographed from the collection.

Mrs. Horvitz has researched every piece in the collection but if mistakes are found in the text descriptions, she welcomes hearing from anyone who can correct errors or provide additional pertinent information. Many of the items in the collection are available for sale, although ideally the collector would like a museum to have the entire collection. Interested parties should contact Mrs. Horvitz via