Everylady's Journal in the Great War
An Australian women's magazine on exhibition
13 January 2015
It's comforting, if not sobering, to realise that women's magazines were around in Australia a century ago. And, they were not too different from those published today. When we were talking about which women's magazines to feature in our exhibition Keepsakes: Australians and the Great War, Everylady’s Journal was at the top of my list. Published in Melbourne by T. Shaw Fitchett between 1911 and 1938, it is rich in articles, short stories and advertisements as well as crochet, knitting and sewing patterns. It's something of a multifaceted time capsule in a familiar format. I've used it in a couple of curatorial projects over the years. While the Library's holdings are incomplete, they are quite extensive.
The first English language women's magazine was published in 1693. They went on to do a roaring trade in the English-speaking world from the late nineteenth century onwards, in particular. Some women's magazines, like the American Ladies' Home Journal (founded in 1883 and still going) became publishing powerhouses. See this online gallery of covers. Coinciding with the rise of a wealthy middle class, department stores and women's suffrage campaigns, these magazines catered to women’s issues and interests. They also included many health and beauty tips, and clever advertisements guaranteed to push buttons.
During the First World War, Everylady's Journal carried on. Victorian newspaper, the Mount Wycheproof Ensign and East Wimmera Advocate, printed this article about Everylady's early wartime issues.
I called up a good chunk of Everylady's and found articles and stories about women who waited, those who served themselves, advertisements with a war theme, as well as pages with no mention of the war at all. The advertisements stood out. They were usually simply drawn images with catchy text. The war was used to sell everything and anything. I came to focus on 1918, and decided on two issues that could represent wartime Everylady's fairly in the exhibition. One has a short story by Katharine Susannah Prichard, whose Victoria Cross-winning husband Hugo Throssell is featured in Keepsakes.
Image: Everylady’s Journal, 5 October 1918 (National Library of Australia)
This opening has not only a serious story about a servicewoman and the journal’s masthead but also, a war-themed advertisement for Beecham's laxative pills. Laxatives aren't so appealingly marketed these days, are they?
Most issues also had striking advertisements on their back covers. This one for Robur Tea caught my eye immediately. Two women are packing boxes, probably for a loved one serving overseas. There are socks, perhaps homemade, on the table near two boxes of Robur Tea and other goods. At top left, two men sit around a campfire in a trench. One holds a mug of tea. 'It is good! makes one think of home' is the caption. This connexion between loved ones through things sent and kept is a key theme in Keepsakes. It is reflected in this mass-produced magazine, and complements the one-off manuscript and pictorial material in the exhibition. Then there is a caption designed to pull on the heartstrings of Australian women: 'GOOD TEA is SCARCE at the Front. Nothing is more enjoyable than a cup of Good Tea'. It makes me wonder how much Robur Tea was sent overseas.
Though Robur Tea Company was only registered in Victoria between 1928 and 1974, its history under other registered names went further back. There were tea rooms at 123 Swanston Street, Melbourne. The company advertised on railway platforms and in many Australian newspapers:
They also later advertised on television—see this ad. Robur's 'perfect' teapot is a collectable. The National Library of Australia has a catalogue published in April 1935, a postcard of the Robur queen of tea and two First World War maps, now on display in Keepsakes.
Something to ponder over a cup of tea when reading a magazine? Or, come in and see Everylady's Journal in Keepsakes. As the Robur tea ad above says, 'We think you will like it.'