26 Jun 2013

On Miss Lemon's nightstand...1930's women's magazines online!

Do you remember how Miss Lemon knew all the facts about society scandals, marriages, engagements but also happened to read the latest news in the papers? Of course, this is all imaginary, but I like to think se was a regular reader of at least one of the era's women's magazines.

Recently I discovered a truly AMAZING source of 1930's magazines online! Trove, the Australian National Library provides scanned issues on their website of the 'Australian Women's Weekly' magazines from the early 1930's until the 1980's. And it is there, free to read for all of us! How great is this idea?
Now we are able to follow the fashion history as well as real history through the eyes of women from the Great depression through WW2, the post-war era and beyond! Actually I had to set a limit for myself: I'm not going to browse through more than 2 issues a week, to prevent spending all my free time behind my laptop, though it is very tempting!

source of all pictures in this post: Australian Women's Weekly magazine through Trove

In England 'Woman's Own' was the first of the mass-circulation weekly women's magazines that appeared in the 1930s. By the end of the 1930s there were over 50 magazines aimed at women readers like 'Nash's', 'Lady's companion', 'Britannia and  Eve' and 'Everywoman' among others. Several of these had hundreds of thousands readers!
The 'Australian Women's Weekly' is an Australian monthly glossy, but the magazine was started in 1933 by Frank Packer (at the age of 26!) as a weekly publication. This Australian Women's Weekly wasn't just some few-pages plain newspaper. No, it was an extensive, 40 pages magazine with illustrations and photographs as well. Those 40 pages were filled with news items, fashion, tips for women, complete short stories, occasional embroidery and crochet patterns as well. Basically they tried to cover everything from political news items to tips about home making.
Humor was surprisingly important at the time, there are a lot of cartoons, jokes and 'funny' incidents to read throughout the magazine. Health issues from pregnancy to removal of tonsils, from overtraining of athletes to healthy ways of sports got attention too. From juicy society stories (details told by 'insiders') to the for us boring details of society parties the latest news were provided. Not much different from what the magazines offer today! Reporters from London and Paris made sure women didn't miss anything and sent their stories "by Air Mail".
Several pages were devoted to home making and cooking. And of course, there were many, many articles about independent, interesting women who were stepping up for women's rights! As entertainment they provided weekly short, illustrated romantic stories to read. In the '40's also detective stories get a place, a chapter a week like the the Poirot series from Agatha Christie. Occasionally a full novel was added.
The magazine was filled with advertisements of clothing, beauty products but also hot water boilers, motor oil and laxatives. I guess even back in the 1930's the big money which was necessary to maintain a magazine like this came mainly from the advertisers. From june 1934 they introduced colored illustration covers and from the 40's regular colored illustrations and photographs inside the magazine as well. By the end of the 30's most fashion items got more structured and grouped in a 'Fashion portfolio' section, rather than being spread over the magazine like in the early years. The early issues had coupons which readers could send back during the month to receive a free sewing pattern per post.
From 1937 a free 'Knitting book' section was added once a year. In their second year, 1934 they held the largest knitting contest sponsored by a journal. The readers could win 157 prizes worth of £250 prize money. Several of the 'dainty', 'clever', 'smart', 'gaily' and 'gay'* designs were sent in with 'effective' details, 'in the vogue' of the actual season. Love that language, don't you?
*'Gay' was used in the original meaning of 'joyful' throughout the 1930's and 40's.
In 1942, midst of the war years they announced a 'coupon-saving contest' in which readers could show how they saved coupons by making over outdated items or by reusing scraps of wool rather than buying new. Not spending your coupons saved more money for the troops and supported your home country's war efforts...

But now back to 1933. To give you an idea of what Miss Lemon could have been reading I selected the highlights from a september 1933 issue of the very first year of the magazine:

The front page: 
- Margaret Saw to everything - How Lord Mayors Charming Daughter Spent Wedding Morn
"The wedding of Margaret Hagon and John Collins on Tuesday last, which has aroused such widespread interest throughout New South Wales and Queensland, was indeed one of the social events of the year"

The main articles: 
- World conference on hair fashions - New short cut likely to be adopted
- Stepping from Victorian age to 1933 - Extraordinary story of woman who lives with blacks since 1899
"How many Sydney women would like to spend 34 years practically without sight of another white man or woman, yet happy enough in the company of aborigines? Yet that is the condition of Mrs. Bates, who is now the guest of the Government at Canberra. And, after all, Mrs. Bates hasn't had much need to restock her wardrobe, for she has lived continuously among the aborigines for 34 years. What is more, she likes her isolated existence, and is always willing to help them in any emergency."
- Men don't like vamps in business - "Women Secretaries Favored for Their Ability and Loyalty"
- War talk in Australia is like in 1914
"There has been a sudden agitation for Australia to join in the world-wide race for bigger armies and navies. Mrs. G. A. Wood, a prominent worker in the cause of disarmament, has written the following article for The Australian Women's Weekly, in which she opposes war-mongering."
- Evening Ensembles from Hollywood
- The fashion parade - What to wear to sports events
- History of Antique furnishings
- Saide takes her first plunge - a photo series of bathing suits
"They are mostly completely missing as to back, and thoroughly modest for the reminder - pyamas and slacks and what not."
- Creating charm in your kitchen
- Spring frocks are gaily patterned - and they are practical too
- Every dog has his day - stars and their pets
- How to make tender and crusty short crust pastry - with several delicious, tested recipes!
- Move with the times
"Nothing is so old-fashioned to-day as gross extravagance; nothing is so unpopular. Nowadays people who give colossal parties with riotous profusion of viands and wines are shuddered at, rather than run after."
- A crocheted center piece or tray cloth with the Sidney Harbour bridge -  pattern sent free on request "What a fitting or memorable gift such as this would  make for an over-seas friend!"
- Training is important in girls's sport - "Australian girls not allowed to overtrain"

The smaller news items are intriguing as well:
- The tragic drama of dorothy Wright - Inside facts revealed about the death of a 24 years old Australian girl who shot herself in the "sumptous Paris flat" of Roland Coty, son of the perfume magnat
- An editorial - mind body and doctor -
 Harnessing the minute - Seconds count in life
"If only we had time!" is the cry of to-day as the precious hours fritter through our fingers. And yet do we value time? Do we realise the power of the minute? As children, we heard our fathers say, "Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves." This platitude might equally apply to time. Take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves. In these days of economic turmoil, when life has become a game of "General Post," in which we never know exactly what is going to happen next, it is important to make the best of free time by becoming an expert at something."
- The churches may unite
- Women pharmacists organize - There were a 100 women pharmacists in the NSW (New South Wales) area at the time, of which 80 in the metropolitan area
- Women of many nations confer overseas
"It would seem that we are now in the ebb tide of the woman's movement, and some of the hard-won privileges of women are endangered in this time of economic stress. There is all the more need, therefore for women to hold international conferences when they see jeopardised so many of the causes they have worked for the right of women to work on equal terms with men, the welfare of children, peace and international understanding, racial and religious tolerance."
- Sex ban lifted in Methodist church
- Women delve into nations big problems
- The Awkward moments competition - readers tell and win prizes
- Hockey finals, golf championship and racing reviews

The regular series:
- Careers for girls - in this issue: Mannequins delight in work - "A well-paid vocation and not so hard"
- Points of view
- Let's talk of interesting people - this week Martron A.B. Pocock who used to be a war nurse
- Women's news as told by the camera
- Things that happen - incidents sent in by readers
- Music and radio
- The body beautiful
- What my patients ask me - by a doctor
- Intimate Jottings - on art and society news and scandals - Private views - the critics about new movies
- The new books at glance
- The old gardener presents - This week: Spring's floral debutantes
- The mirror of society - news about engagements, parties and clubs
- Clever ideas - on how to remove stains, for example
- Before baby comes - For mothers and young wives
- Best Recipe Winners
- Just chatter
- For fun and fancy - jokes!
- Cartoons

Short stories:
- The real thing - a complete, illlustrated short story
- The Goddess - an illustrated "story of irony and of a woman's divine loveliness"
- The dream - "The dear intimacy had been destroyed. Was their ideal marriage to go the way of most?"

Want to read more? The old issues of the Australian Women's Weekly magazine are available through Trove, the Australian National Library. You are warned, once you start reading it is highly addictive!

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