That's the title of an article in Australia's 'Daily Life'. Here's an excerpt.
Before the First World War, virtually no woman in the West shaved her legs. And yet by 1964, 98 per cent of them under the age of 44 did so. What happened in between?
Advertising happened, that's what.
Christina Hope researched the evolution for her 1982 paper titled 'Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture'. Through surveying ads in old issues of Harper's Bazaar and McCall's magazines, she could track how women were progressively browbeaten into going hairless via an extreme marketing assault.
At the turn of the century, women – and men, presumably – didn't particularly care about body hair as long sleeves and floor-grazing skirts concealed most of the body.
According to Hope, things began to change in 1915. As sheer sleeves and Greek- and Roman-style dresses came into fashion, ads in Harper's Bazaar started to target underarm hair, informing American womanhood of a problem it had but didn't know existed until now. "The Woman of Fashion Says the underarm must be as smooth as the face," read a typical pitch. "Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair," said another.
Beauty writers jumped onboard, too, ushering in a vogue for body hair removal. Cue, a whole new outlet of female hang-ups for advertisers to exploit!
There's more at the link, including many advertisements illustrating the point.
I must admit, I've never been bothered at the thought (or the reality) of body hair on women. Of course, I come from a continent where shaving legs and arms was a luxury reserved for the wealthy few, and women in rural (and particularly tribal) environments would have laughed at the thought. I'm informed by Miss D. that this is also the case in large parts of Alaska. She's quipped before, "Ah, Alaskan women - skin like porcelain, legs like Chewbacca!" It always makes me grin - but in so cold a climate, I find it perfectly understandable.