Until fairly recently, women’s magazines were thought of as ephemeral entertainment, at best, or as consumption-driven vehicles for capitalist indoctrination, at worst.

More recent scholarship, however, has unearthed a plethora of ways in which print periodicals as well as online magazines have served women in positive ways: encouraging political education and affiliation; offering medical advice; guiding identity formation and so on. More than this, the broader spheres of print cultures have been found to offer early opportunities for women in typically male domains such as the publishing industry, arts journalism and fiction prizes.

This new book, already heralded as an important new work in establishing the field of print media, draws attention to women’s involvement and engagement with British print cultures from the end of the Second World War to the twenty-first century, and covers both the history of publishing for women and the increasing diversity of readers and audiences.

This long post-war period has seen wide-ranging changes for British women in their personal, working and family lives, in their relationship to society and culture, and in what it means to be both ‘British’ and to be a ‘woman’.

The collection does not try to capture all these changes, but rather, suggests ways in which women’s print media has both reflected and directed the changing landscape and multiple ways of being a British woman. It does so through examples from domestic, cultural and feminist magazines, as well as print ephemera, novels and digital magazine formats. All of which discuss ways that printed matter contributed to, challenged, or informed British women’s culture.

While some magazines gave voice to emergent identities and sexualities, others challenged women’s cultures and spheres. In addition, many publications directly supported political campaigns for women’s rights, encouraged socialist activism and revealed injustices against women. Much of this was made possible by the tireless work of female publishing professionals, whose developing influence enabled women’s print media to reflect a more diverse and democratic British female citizenship.

Dr Laurel Forster is Reader in Cultural History in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries. Women's Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1940s-2000s: The Postwar and Contemporary Period is edited by Laurel Forster and Joanne Hollows and published by Edinburgh University Press.

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