Just look how far women have come on in 100 years

Lynne's cartoom

Lynne's cartoom - Credit: Archant

The role of wimmin has changed since Mrs Pankhurst her daughters and their army of suffragettes first committed acts of civil disorder on the streets of our towns and cities.

They did it to win the vote. Nearly a century on, I still sense the Pankhursts’ presence when I pop my voting card under the fridge magnet, ready for polling day. Not voting is not an option for me although I recognise that we all have the freedom to choose not to exercise our franchise. Thanks for pointing that out, Russell Brand.

The 21st century world is very different to the one I was brought up in.

In the swinging 60s when I was a lass, the magazine Woman’s Weekly had a pink banner and a sedate image. But it went back much further than my childhood. Currently the magazine, now a much jazzier product, has a special Vintage View issue (£4.95) looking back at editions printed in the first two decades of the 20th Century (1d each). And, perhaps, surprisingly some of the articles defy the presumption that women were in thrall to men.

For example, there is advice on starting a small business and office etiquette: “When ‘the chief’ comes in to talk to you it is polite to rise. Courtesy in little points like this always counts.” (I’ll look forward to this, Lynne. ED)


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“Can a Woman Reform a Man?” it asks, concluding she can. “Perfect love will always reform a man.” I’ve been married 35 years and consider my husband a work in progress.

The man’s point of view is expressed in articles titled: “Why the Easy-to-Please Girl Worries Me” and “Can a Woman Be Too Independent?”

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The wise counsel to “avoid indolence and lethargy” rather scuppers my plan to actively seek out indolence and lethargy by watching the series three box set of Game of Thrones I was given for my birthday.

One reader writes to the magazine about the joys of ironing. I too shall now list the joys of ironing...

There, that didn’t take long.

In the “My Favourite House Work” column Mrs HEL of Thornley, Durham writes: “After each washing day comes my favourite household task, namely, sewing on buttons and tapes...”

Mrs AH of Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, likes using scissors. “The occupation I most enjoy is cutting out... I feel so pleased with myself if I have cut the stuff to such advantage that I can make an extra petticoat or frock for the baby or a pair of knickers for one of my four small boys.”

It’s a wonder Mrs AH had time for cutting out.

Meanwhile every good housewife should have a toolbox. A list of its contents is provided and in addition to a hammer and nails, women are advised to include a pot if glue and a good brush. “Few women really understand the importance of a strong glue.”

While the modern world can be stressful, at least we have penicillin.

When I was a girl, such magazines were keen for women to knit. It was a national call to needles to which most of the nation’s females responded with enthusiasm. I had a range of hand-knitted four-ply and double-knit cardigans which itched like billy-o.

We would buy knitted sweaters from jumble sales, unravel them, wash the wool, roll up the skeins and then, basically, reknit the original garment.

Does anyone hold jumble sales any more? We used to queue outside church halls and scout huts for jumble sales. Have they been entirely supplanted by charity shops, car boot sales, plastic bags for old clothes and Flog It?

For an interested teenager, of course, the best thing about women’s magazines were the problem pages. I didn’t always understand the problem but was keen to learn.

My Jackie, aimed at girls my age, was helpful but not very naughty. It explained about French kissing – “I’m never letting that happen to me,” I vowed at 13. As vows go, it didn’t last long.

It also reassured young women that the anatomical peculiarities they described were “perfectly normal”. Mine never featured but, 45 years on, I’m guessing they were normal too.

A Vintage View is on sale now.

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