We’ve all see those advertisements from the 1950s and ’60s magazines showing deliriously happy women vacuuming or hugging a stove or beaming over a cake mix, but not all of the Library’s periodical descendants were so intent on marrying a woman’s happiness with domesticity. Our women was one of those.
Published between 1952-1971 by the Union of Australian Women, Our women focuses on the welfare of women, highlighting their accomplishments, opinions, beliefs, experiences and influence. Example articles include, ‘Mother by choice; a look at birth control and abortion,’ ‘Pension poverty’ and ‘Basic facts about the basic wage.’
Writer and activist Katherine Pritchard writes in the 1963 10th anniversary edition, (p. 13), “So many glossy and gaudy illustrated women’s magazines treat women as puppets, interested chiefly in fripperies and fashions. They use women as bait for the advertisers of cosmetics, exotic furniture and food stuffs. But ‘Our Women’ considers the needs of women as intelligent citizens, workers and the wives of men on whose earnings a household depends: women whose equal rights with their menfolk must be recognised.”
In the 1967 September to December issue (p.27), Sister Anne Reay, an Australian nurse in London during WWI tells of the 22 hour days; ‘Sept 20th.: When these men, all of them so young, have rested and their wounds are better and they are once more bathed and dressed and wandering about in the sun- preparing for their return to the front line-I find myself asking more and more where is the justification for war.’
Other regular topics include the fight for equal pay, the Vietnam war and regular articles on Aboriginals. The article The door is open, looks at the life of Aboriginal women and children on farming stations. The women often worked ‘from dawn till dark, and often till 9 o’clock, for five shillings a week’ … “What happened to a woman who couldn’t work or didn’t want to work?” “No work no eat. You get thrown out.” (April-June, 1967; p. 8)
The magazine also contains recipes, gardening tips, short stories and regular columns such as ‘Over a cuppa’ and ‘Your garden’, as well as feature articles like ‘A five-day shopping week’ and ‘Prepare your child for school.’ Indeed some covers juxtapose such headlines as ‘Australian woman in Antarctica,’ with ‘How to home perm’ .
Our women can be viewed at the Library. The Union of Australian Women is still operating out of Flinders St, Melbourne and we thank them for allowing us to use images from their publication in this post.