Brief historical articles on women and shaving are available on ChicagoTribune.com, TodayIFoundOut.com and Elle.com. These histories focus on the evolution of women's shaving over the course of the 20th century, with background information dating back to ancient Egyptian and Roman civilizations.
Women in a number of ancient societies probably used various methods - ranging from arsenic to pumice stones and primitive razors - to remove body hair. At the time, hair removal may have been more practical than aesthetic, as a lack of hair discouraged parasites such as lice from taking up residence.
For several centuries, women's fashion mostly covered the legs and the arms, meaning that shaving for aesthetic reasons was largely pointless. In May of 1915 an issue of Harper's Bazaar magazine ran an ad for the Gilette Milady Decolette, the first shaving razor marketed specifically towards women. The ad depicted a young woman posing in a sleeveless dress with both hands raised above her head, thus exposing her shaved underarms.
Shaving of the legs achieved widespread popularity around the 1940's, due to increasingly short hemlines on skirts and dresses. Removal of hair around the bikini area became somewhat more popular with the introduction of the bikini swimsuit. For some time during the 1960's and 70's, allowing one's body hair to grow naturally was seen as a feminist statement.