In Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow, Jacqueline Jones briefly contrasted the treatment of women’s work in Ebony, the “nation’s largest-circulation black magazine,” to that in Life, its white counterpart.  Jones asserted that while both magazines spoke to traditional, middle class values, Ebony promoted black civil rights and emphasized “intelligence and diversity in women,” while Life confined women to the home through its “unidimensional image of women’s work.” 
This description and the lack of supporting images left me curious about the actual content of each magazine. Did it hold up to Jones’ analysis? Luckily, complete copies of both are available on Google Books. While there’s great content in both issues, I chose to compare just the advertisements from the November 1959 issue of Ebony to the November 16, 1959 issue of Life.  (Since Life was published weekly and Ebony monthly, I chose the Life issue from the middle of the month). Even just the ads in these particular issues upheld Jones’ assertion of Ebony as a more progressive and leftist magazine that encouraged black women to work.
Advertisements in Ebony urged women to seek job training and become a “symbol of success” while ads in Life placed women safely within the domestic sphere. An ad placed at the very beginning of this issue of Ebony encouraged women to “Enjoy steady pay every day as a nurse!” and sign up for a “home study course” whose completion would guarantee $65 per week.  Although the ad is for a teaching program, it still promotes work outside of both the home and the service industry, and this training implies getting an education in a certain skill.
A Life ad for Farberware cookware, in contrast, stated that, “A woman’s life, it would seem, is fraught with the problems of raising children to maturity, husbands to affluence, and omelets to perfection.”  The word choice of “fraught” suggested that these tasks were so important, so time and energy consuming, that all proper women needn’t bother with anything else. A woman was failing in her duty as a woman if she neglected these things. Another Life ad for the Hartford Insurance Group enforced this vision, declared that “Hartford’s weekly check kept us going all through my husband’s slow, costly recovery” – it was better for the wife to support her family through remaining home to care for her husband than joining the workforce to earn an extra income. 
Ebony did also run an ad for Aladdin Vacuum Bottles that read “Smart Wife, Hot Lunch, Happy Husband!”, but the inclusion of ads promoting women at work offered a more nuanced image of black women than was presented for white women in Life. 
Most telling, Ebony ran advertisements featuring whites as well as blacks, although never together. One ad for Martin’s V. V. O. depicted a clearly Scottish man with a wispy, white fairy in the background, images completely separate from 1950s black culture. Life‘s ads did not picture a single African American, even in service positions. It’s as though they don’t exist. This discrepancy contributes to Ebony‘s progressiveness and highlights Jones’ assertion that blacks had “created a culture shaped by values that were not necessarily shared by the people with whom they were struggling to become equal,” of which the differences between the ads in Ebony and Life clearly illustrate. 
 Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and the Family from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1985), 269.
 Jones, 269, 270, 274.
 Ebony, November 1959. Volume XV, No. 1. Accessed on Google Books, April 17, 2010. http://books.google.com/books?id=7oo5tbhLPgoC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=thumbnail&q&f=false. Life, November 16, 1959. Volume 47, No. 20. Accessed on Google Books, April 17, 2010. http://books.google.com/books?id=RVUEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&lr=#v=thumbnail&q&f=false.
 Ebony, 9.
 Life, 27.
 Life, 131.
 Ebony, 42.
 Jones, 268.