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

By Margaret Beetham | Go to book overview

12

'FORWARD BUT NOT TOO FAST': THE ADVANCED MAGAZINE?

'WOMAN' is intended to be neither a fashion paper, a 'Society' Journal nor the organ of the 'Anti-Man' or 'Blue Stocking' Schools. We intend to do our best to cater for modern woman, not as she might be, but as she actually is. While sparing no trouble or expense to make our paper readable, we shall avoid pandering to unwholesome appetites or appealing to those who are 'women' in name only.

(Woman 11 Jan. 1890:2)

We recognise not only the progressive tendency of the age but also the evergrowing demand among all classes for cheap journalistic literature.

('Opening Editorial', Woman 3 Jan. 1890:1)

In 1890 it was easier to define 'the modern woman's' reading by negatives than to offer positive models. Belief in the 'progressive tendencies of the age' left open the question of what a progressive woman's paper might look like. Apart from the publications of political and campaigning groups, there had been, from midcentury onwards a few journals which explicitly advocated a programme of women's rights. It was a thin trickle which became a stream, if not a torrent, of words between 1900 and 1914 when, for the first time ever, there was a lively and diverse periodical press which spoke to and for women in terms of their rights, especially the right to vote (Doughan and Sanchez 1987). However, even at the height of the suffrage campaigns, this was a relatively small part of the women's press and most papers still refused to have anything to do with what they described as 'strong-mindedness' or 'women's rights-ism'.

In the 1890s, 'the Woman Question continued to provide subject matter for debate but, in the dynamic between the economic and the ideological in which magazines were made, addressing the strong-minded woman seemed incompatible with selling copies. I begin this chapter with a brief survey of some of the radical or progressive journals of the latter half of the century but its main focus is Woman, a strictly commercial, 'advanced' penny paper founded in 1890 to provide for a readership it defined as neither strong- nor weak-minded but 'intelligent womanly women' (W. 1 Jan. 1891:1).

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