Women's magazines: Graham Rawle tangles an unbroken line

girlsempire.jpg With what smug delight I read The Girls' Empire. An Annual Volume for English-speaking Girls all over the World. It appears to be a reproduction of a genuine annual first published in 1903.

What girl is there who has not made toffee and, alas! how few are there who haven't burnt it? A. Quite a few. B. Not sure how to answer your double negative question/lament.

Some 1903 topics, such as How to be Strong, are timeless, but The Observance of Sunday, would never make it into today's popular women's magazines.

Cosy Corner Chats include one on The Reading of Fiction, a topic close to your heart, dear reader. (Oops, it's catchy!) In case you wondered, Heloise Edwina Hersey declares:

The novel, like any great force, has its dangers and its victories. Its dangers lie in that emotionalism which is the menace of our age and our sex. Its promises are of greater skill, wiser tact, more ready hands and loving hearts for the world which waits in weakness and weariness for our touch. The future of the novel is immense. More and more will the novel glorify its office; and so more and more will it enlighten the mind, quicken the intuition, and deepen and broaden the sympathy.

Woman's World, a brilliant graphic novel by Graham Rawle did enlighten my mind last week—not sure about the rest. He wrote a draft novel (and what a novel!). Then he cut out words and phrases from 1960s women's magazines and reconstructed the novel using nothing but those words. This allows him to vary his style from the arch-cliche (Yes, it's femininity all the way in the new styles. A dress to delight every woman's heart) to the mad (I threw my head back and with closed eyes let the words of admiration flood over me like a family-size can of Carnation evaporated milk).

The heroine, Norma Fontaine, has a family-size, gender-related problem. Rawle reveals it wickedly, enjoys it deliciously, and turns the presumptions of women's magazines in on themselves.

Woman's World shows how the po-faced parental pieties of the 1900s continued to the 1960s without a break. Catch yourself thinking that you and I would never tolerate that sort of rubbish? I'm going to buy a Woman's Day today. Because I doubt it.


Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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