WOMEN'S JOURNALS, 1919-1968: FROM FRANCHISE TO FEMINISM
Part 1: Eve, 1919-1929
What happened to the Women’s Movement after partial suffrage was granted in 1918? What impact did the loss of almost an entire generation of British males have upon the women of England after the First World War? Who was the New Woman and how did she differ from her predecessors? How did the advent of electrical household appliances, popular motor cars, lipstick and sun-tan cream change women’s lives?
These questions, and many others, can be explored in Eve, a new pictorial for women launched in 1919. It is breezy and self-confident, deliberately seeking to challenge the status quo. It declares:
“We do not rule out one single emotion or experience as being impossible or improper to any person or set of persons. We are determined to let in the air - to ventilate every corner of our mansion ....”
It is a marvellous source for the exploration of popular culture. There are regular features on the Cinema, the Theatre and the Musical Theatre. There are articles on movie stars and musicians, and reviews of the Diaghalev Ballet and the Ziegfield Follies. The impact of popular culture on dance, dress and behaviour is shown through features such as “Their Gestures” which shows, among other things, the stylish way to hold a cigarette.
Serious articles such as “Why be Shocked?” by Margot Hirons (27 February 1929) explore the psychological under-pinning of “today’s freedoms” compared with “the artificiality of the past”. There are detailed reviews of new books by Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and Lewis Bromfield and original stories such as “The Infant Prodigy” by Colette (26 August 1920).
Other important contributors were Richmal Crompton, Stephen McKenna, Joan Weston Edwards, Sheila Kay-Smith, A A Milne, A E Johnson (who offered essays on the Theatre and Ballet - for instance The Ides of March, The Young Visitors at the Court Theatre, Pygmalion at the Aldwych Theatre and the English Ballet at the Duke of York’s Theatre), Margery Holden (writing on European food and continental cuisine), Adair Dighton, Kathleen Nevinson (with essays on gardening) and Sydney Tremayne.
Also, illustrations from artists such as Mabel Lucie Atwell, J Austen, Kate Carew, H M Bateman, R E Higgins, Lorenzi, A Pécoud, and Claude Sheppersen give a unique 1920’s feel.
Above all, Eve pays homage to the new Consumer Age. “Eve goes Shopping” is a regular feature and the magazine is a rich source of advertising - whether for “Minerva, The Goddess of Automobiles” or “Lacoste Snow Vanishing Cream - the inseparable companion of the woman of refinement”. This makes Eve an ideal source for the study of Consumption and Desire.
Eve makes it clear that luxury goods and an elegant lifestyle were now within the reach of a much broader audience and this was having a powerful transformative effect. In the Victorian period Babylonish commodities such as powder, cold cream, lipstick and lingerie were kept out of the middle class home. Now they were available to everyone.
The Domestic Space was also undergoing a transformation. In the period in which Eve was published - from 1919 to 1929 - the number of households with electricity rose from 1 in 17 to 1 in 3. An advertisement by the Electricity Development Association offered:
“ELECTRICITY at your service. The ELECTRICITY which fills you house with light, will also cook your food, warm your rooms, do your washing and ironing, and clean the house for you ...”
Labour-saving devices supposedly generated new freedoms and reduced the need for servants. On behalf of The Hoover Suction Sweeper it was claimed:
“It Beats... as it Sweeps ...as it Cleans. Less Housework - Cleaner Houses.”
Part of the appeal was the “Scientific” basis of the new domestic breakthroughs. As one woman exclaims: “I love sewing now! All the drudgery is removed and better, quicker stitches are produced with SCIENTIFIC NEEDLES.”
Articles such as “Other People’s Houses” and “On Decorating the Average Small London House” (13 January 1926) further describe the geography of the home.
Eve and her Car asks the question: “Does the manufacturer study her needs?” It describes the way in which cars are presented at the Olympia Motor Show so as to appeal to women and considers the requirements and interests of women drivers.
Eve Plays the Game discusses the increasing range of sporting activities now open to women including ski-ing, golf, athletics and tennis. These address questions concerning propriety, health and physical ability.
The recipe section is entitled Feed the Brute, and a series of essays in 1920 discuss notions of “The Ideal Love”, “The Ideal Friendship” and “The Ideal Marriage.”
Eve was brought to an end by the economic crisis of 1929. But perhaps the age of the New Woman had also passed?
Profusely illustrated throughout, Eve is the embodiment of the “Roaring Twenties” and will enable scholars to take a fresh look at the rise and fall of the New Woman.