Test-tube Ladies of Pulp Magazines

It is not uncommon for early 20th century pulp magazines to feature illustrations of women in test-tubes as part of their science fiction or horror themes. These depictions often played into the anxieties and fears of the time about advances in science and technology and their potential consequences.

One notable example of this is the cover of the Summer 1948 issue of Planet Stories, which features a woman in a test-tube being experimented on by an alien. These illustrations were often highly sexualized and objectifying, presenting women as passive and vulnerable objects of scientific experimentation. They also reinforced traditional gender roles, casting men as the active and rational scientists and women as the passive and emotional subjects of study.

While these images may be disturbing to modern audiences, they are a reflection of the cultural attitudes of the time and the popular genres of pulp fiction. It is important to acknowledge and critique these depictions, while also understanding the historical context in which they were created. Personally, I find them to be oddly interesting. There is a definite psychological issue going on with needing to be in total control of a subject to the point of not even allowing them their humanity. Some are really well illustrated, in fact the Other Worlds Science Stories (May 1951) Red Coral cover is my favorite. It feels more like a life pod than a woman being held for experimentation.

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