An extract of the masthead of Opportunity magazine

Exhibition

Making Modern Women

Women's Magazines in Interwar Britain

Gillian Murphy portrait image

Author

Dr Gillian Murphy

LSE Library

If a future chronicler were to study the files of the newspapers, he would get the impression that there had appeared at this time a strange new creature called woman who was receiving great attention from the public.

Rose Macaulay, Manchester Guardian, 13 November 1925

Introduction

The interwar period is commonly misconceived as one of conservatism and retreat for women and for feminism. After the First World War, women were steered – so the dominant narrative goes – ‘back to home and duty’, and feminism, following the insurgency of the women’s suffrage campaign, went into abeyance, only to resurface with the ‘Second Wave’ in the 1970s.

This narrative is countered by the startling array of magazines produced by and for women in the 1920s and 1930s, showcased here in Making Modern Women: Women’s Magazines in Interwar Britain. Across five sections – Reading Women, Fashioning Women, Home and Work, Campaigning Women, International Women – this exhibition shows that women’s magazines presented new ideas about the ‘modern woman’, offering a new world of opportunity for British female citizens, and redefining their place in social, political, and public life.

Unearthing the Women’s Library’s rich collection of interwar women’s magazines, this exhibition demonstrates the vitality and breadth of feminist activism throughout the interwar years. We also mark the centenary of the Six Point Group, Britain’s leading gender equality organisation during this period, and the magazine with which it was closely identified, Time and Tide. Placing this iconic feminist magazine in the context of other serial publications, we show how women’s magazines contributed to the making of ‘modern women’ in British life.

An advert for Time and Tide magazineTime and Tide advert from The Woman Engineer, September 1925

Acknowledgements

This exhibition has been curated in association with the AHRC-funded Time and Tide: Connections and Legacies project, directed by Dr Catherine Clay at Nottingham Trent University with the assistance of Dr Eleanor Reed. Our core collaborators are Catherine Clay, Maria DiCenzo, Barbara Green and Fiona Hackney, co-editors of Women’s Periodicals and Print Cultural in Britain 1918-1939 (Edinburgh University Press, 2018) which inspired and underpins this exhibition. They would like to thank all the contributors to this volume, on whose work we drew, in particular: Claire Battershill, Caitríona Beaumont, Gerry Beegan, Stella Deen, Jacqueline R. deVries, Helen Glew, Joyce Goodman, Julie Gottlieb, Karen Hunt, Sarah Lonsdale, Lise Shapiro Sanders, Elizabeth M. Sheehan, Lisa Stead, Karen Steele and Alice Wood.

I would also like to thank my colleagues at LSE Library who have contributed to this exhibition in many ways.

This exhibition was compiled under the constraints of national lockdowns and restricted access to the collection.

Banner image is taken from the masthead of Opportunity magazine.

Content warning

Please be aware that this exhibition features material which was created many years ago. Some of this material contains language and terminology which is outdated and which visitors may find upsetting.

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