As protests go, no one would mistake this one for the March on Washington, the marches in Selma, the marches for gay rights march, the labor strikes led by Cesar Chavez, or any of the other important social actions covered by LIFE magazine.
But what the model protest covered by LIFEs Wallace Kirkland in 1946 lacked in social significance, it made up for in novelty value. The pictures have a silliness that makes them play like stills from a 1940s version of Zoolander.
The object of the protest was Coronet, a general interest magazine that published from 1936 to 1971. The models were protesting because Coronet was switching from using models on the cover (as it did, for example, in this issue from 1941) to illustrations that were more in the Normal Rockwell vein (see this cover from 1952).
Most of Kirkland’s photos show the six protesters in their black dresses marching outside the magazine’s Chicago office, carrying signs with slogans such as “Coronet Unfair to Cover Girls” and “David Smart is a Meanie!” Smart, also the co-founder of pioneering men’s magazine Esquire, was the publisher of Coronet. The photos show the models eventually leaving the sidewalk and making their way into Smart’s office for a confrontation so unserious-looking that he seems to have appreciated the stunt as much as anybody.