A Magazine of Her Own? Domesticity and Desire in the Woman's Magazine, 1800-1914

By Margaret Beetham | Go to book overview

11

WOMAN AT HOME: THE MIDDLE-CLASS DOMESTIC MAGAZINE AND THE AGONY AUNT

'Nothing Lovelier can be Found in Woman than to Study Household Good.' (Milton)

(Mrs Beeton's motto, Hearth and Home, passim)

I am more than pleased to number LITTLE AFRICANDER among my friends and correspondents overseas. She sends me a most delightful letter with a brightly written and amusing account of family life in a doctor's house in Cape Colony. It does not differ so very much from life at home-that is family characteristics are the same everywhere...

('Over the Teacups', Annie S. Swan, Woman at Home VI 1896-7:711)

The new femininity of consumption was located within the dominant ideology of the domestic. The True Woman' whom the New Journalism addressed and sought to bring into being was still defined by the motto from Milton used every month in Hearth and Home by its household adviser, 'Mrs Beeton'. 1 The tradition of the domestic magazine therefore proved even more productive in the 1890s than that of the ladies' newspapers. The well-established form of the sixpenny middle-class monthly was revitalised in titles like Woman's World, Woman at Home and the threepenny Hearth and Home. Even more significant in terms of readership and circulation figures was the re-working of that form in the new penny weeklies. All these journals renegotiated the meaning of the English Domestic Woman in terms of the New Journalism and the era of the New Woman.

This last section of the book deals with the reinvention of the domestic in both the monthly and the cheaper weekly magazines of the 1890s. This chapter is a case study of the sixpenny monthly Woman at Home whose sub-title, 'Annie S. Swan's Magazine', identified it with a popular romantic novelist. In the next chapter I discuss Woman, an attempt to produce a purely commercial penny magazine for 'the advanced woman' but one whose motto, 'Forward but not too Fast' proved only too apt. The last chapter deals with the penny magazines, especially Home Chat and Woman's Weekly, which carried the domestic magazine into the centre of twentieth-century women s reading.

-157-

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