31. Women’s Magazines

Chosen by:
Emeritus Professor Marian Quartly,
School of Historical Studies, Faculty of Arts

The New idea : a women's home journal for Australasia. (Melbourne : T.S. Fitchett, 1902-1911)

The title was changed to Everylady’s journal in 1911 and in 1928 was changed back to New Idea, under which name it is still published.

Women’s Magazines

Image: front cover of New Idea vol 1 no 1, October 1 1902

The New Idea: A Women’s Home Journal for Australasia is a modern magazine, aiming ‘to present the newest ideas continually arising in every branch of woman’s life and interest’.  The visual impact of this cover would have been very modern, very up-to-date in 1902, with its nationally iconic kangaroos and emus and its decorative arrangements of wattle flowers and foliage.

One might assume that the most vital new idea of the day was women’s right to vote, just accepted by the new Federal Parliament.  And certainly women’s suffrage is an issue showcased by the journal. It features an interview with the soon-to-be senate-candidate Miss Vida Goldstein, described as ‘the most intelligent advocate of up-to-date women’s rights in Australia’.  Goldstein is quizzed on her recent trip to the United States of America as a representative of the women’s suffrage societies of Australasia.

But the vote is only one of the new ideas jostling for attention in the journal. Readers looking for innovation are directed to the fashion section, where ‘for the first time you will be able to secure paper patterns which will be absolutely reliable, perfectly fitting, thoroughly stylish and up-to-date’.  An article by the body-builder and physical-educationist Eugen Sandow wonders why women spend their time agitating for political rights, rather than pursuing the more important privilege of perfect health.  And a piece on Nellie Melba, featured as the central image on the cover, celebrates her as an Australian woman who has achieved international fame, riches, and an enviably luxurious lifestyle.

The October 1902 issue of The New Idea is a wonderfully iconic source, setting the agenda for Australian women’s hopes and fears across the twentieth century.

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