I have never considered myself a particularly good feminist.
As a woman born in the late 60s, the Irish Women's Liberation Movement had already fought for and won many benefits by the time I came of age. Politics, injustice and reform seemed irrelevant to me. I was too young for the Contraceptive Train and too old for Girl-Power.
And yet, I do consider myself a feminist of sorts and as such, have been slightly embarrassed about my creation of a guide for ladies. Is the term 'lady' pejorative? Might the guide concept be fluffy and silly or trivialising of women? Is a magazine format just a light-weight vehicle for throwaway thoughts?
The very first Lady's magazines appeared at the end of the eighteenth century.
They claimed to be:
an assemblage of whatever can please the fancy, interest the mind and exalt the character of the British Fair.
The periodicals contained moralising articles, fictional love stories, fashion illustrations and agony-aunt type advice. From early on, the magazines contained advertisements and discussions of commodities. Femininity was linked to consumption and appearance. Women were perceived as objects to be viewed and their worth judged on their attractiveness.
In the middle of the nineteenth century something new appeared in the form of the English Woman's Domestic Magazine. Published by Samuel Beeton, this magazine differed from previous print offerings in that it included practical advice on household management, recipes, gardening notes, advice on nursing, child-care and how to manage domestic pets. Many articles were written by Samuel's wife, Isabella. She provided precise instructions, systemising procedures for making either coats or cakes. Cooking was presented as a scientific controlling of chemical interactions. Fashion pages moved from illustrations of Paris costumes to precise patterns to cut and create. Instead of using her heart, a woman's crucial organs were her hands and her brain. Women were perceived as competent, active do-ers.
This shift was most definitely a step towards Girl-Power
and step, by step, by step, women have been striding ever forwards since.
Perhaps, with this magazine idea, I'm in good company after all.