Reading The Australian Women’s Weekly in January 1968

The Australian Women’s Weekly is an institution.  Since 1933 it’s been covering, in a gentle and non-threatening way, the public figures of Australia, not to mention providing recipes, dress patterns, advice and occasional facepalms.  Like many Australian women, I grew up with it.

I was therefore delighted to discover that the 1933-1982 archives are available online.  This is (a) amazing and (b) completely unhelpful for my needs in terms of researching the novels I want to write.

Of course, interesting stuff did happen between ’33 and ’82.  Like, oh, a bunch of wars. And also we lost a prime minister (May The Sea Return Him).

How did The Australian Women’s Weekly cover the funeral of a prime minister who died in office?

By putting the US president on the cover, of course! #culturalcringe

Highlights of the funeral coverage:

“I know you all care.”  These were the simple words Mrs. Harold Holt spoke to waiting TV cameramen when she returned from the agonised week at Portsea to her Melbourne home.

The “Mrs [Husband’s First Name] [Husband’s Last Name]” construction is all over this magazine.  I find myself wondering when it died out — I distinctly remember my mother getting mail addressed to Mrs [Dad’s Name] Barr.  But I also remember her being quite cross about it.

Photograph of two of Holt's daughters-in-law leaving the funeral, both looking chic in black.
Holt’s daughters-in-law had some impressive style.

The next article is a bit of a jarring mood-swing, being a profile of Australian artist Maurice “Bill” Lang.  (Google brought up absolutely nothing about him whatsoever, alas.)

Headline: “He Misses The Sun And The Pumpkins”.

Wait, what?

Here is the full discussion of pumpkins:

“Are there many things you miss about Australia?”

“The coastline, the wide-open spaces, the sun, Aussie beer, and pumpkins.”

Okay then!


Then there’s a page-long excerpt from a brief memoir by Mrs Leslie Jenner of her memories of growing up at Rippon Lea, which she had recently gifted to the National Trust.  (Miss Fisher fans will know it as the site of the recent costume exhibition and the location for various fancy house scenes, including the Murder Swimming Pool at Aunt Prudence’s place.)

Mrs Jenner’s memories include servants with funny names, a deprived newspaper boy looking over the lawn and wondering if heaven looked like this, and her father’s hobby of releasing introduced species, including Canadian squirrels, into the wild.

And now we come to the page where I realised we owe an apology to the United States of America.


Let me quickly transcribe this recipe for you:


  • 15oz can GOLDEN CIRCLE Crushed Pineapple
  • 1 pkt red jelly crystals
  • 2 cup creamed rice
  • 3 teaspoons gelatine
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • whipped cream
  • crushed nuts


  1. Soak gelatine in cold water, dissolve over hot water.
  2. Prepare jelly according to directions.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Place pineapple and syrup in saucepan and heat to boiling.
  4. Remove from stove and stir in half of dissolved gelatine.
  5. Add remaining gelatine to creamed rice.
  6. Place creamed rice in mould.  Chill until firm.
  7. Add pineapple layer and chill until firm.
  8. Top with jelly and chill again.
  9. Unmould onto serving dish and top with whipped cream and crushed nuts.
  10. Serve in slices.

I want to say that No Award is totally going to try this recipe out, but things I hate include tinned pineapple, creamed rice and whipped cream, and obviously Steph’s not going to be eating anything with gelatine or cream.

But maybe, instead of preparing weird American and English dishes and blogging about them, we should start with the AWW archives.

(Steph aside: stamp of approval on this plan)

The next page features a small advertisement.  The text reads, SPEAK OUT.  OR FIND OUT. It’s illustrated with close-ups of an open mouth and an ear.

It looks oddly like the “SPEAK UP ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT” posters that decorated the toilets near the Women’s Room at the University of Queensland c2000.  It’s actually an ad for … tampons.

If you use Tampax tampons, why not tell your friends about them.  They’ll appreciate it.  If you don’t use them, ask about them.  Speak out.  Find out.  Tell.  Ask.

Most teenagers believe Tampax tampons are a better way. What they want to know is:

Are they really comfortable?

Are they truly protective?

Do they actually prevent odour?

Are they easy to use?

Do high school girls wear them?

So find out. Or speak out.

“Trying” and “telling” have made Tampax tampons the world’s leading internal sanitary protection.

This ad is kind of revolutionary.  Not only is it telling girls to bypass their mothers and hit up their peers for menstrual advice, but even ten years later, Judy Blume’s characters were being shut down for asking about Tampax.  I am absolutely fascinated by this advertisement. 

Next comes photos from Harold Holt’s funeral.  People who attended:

  • Prince Charles
  • President Lyndon B Johnson
  • Gough and Margaret Whitlam
  • Robert Menzies
  • The Prime Minister of Great Britain
  • The President of South Vietnam
  • The governor of Victoria and his wife, who I’ve mostly included so it looks like I’ve just slipped IMELDA MARCOS in all casual-like

Imelda Marcos wearing a shockingly 80s-tastic dress.  Think big shoulders.  She looks like she wandered off the set of Dynasty.

Oddly, the next few pages alternate society wedding and engagement announcements with more funeral coverage.  Was there a mistake in scanning?  *checks page numbers* Nope!

Then we come to a very odd headline: Wedding In A Mushroom Mining Town – GUESTS STAYED UNTIL THE PICCANINNY DAWN.

(a) Mushroom … mining?  Is that where mushrooms come from?
(b) I don’t know what a “piccaninny dawn” is, but I’m pretty sure that term is quite racist.

(According to Google, “piccaninny dawn” is an Australianism referring to pre-dawn light, and describes it as “offensive”. YA THINK?)

And a “mushroom mining town” is not in fact a place where mushrooms are mined, but a mining town that has sprung up seemingly overnight, like a mushroom.  This was the first wedding held in Goldsworthy, WA, a place which is not even a ghost town.  It’s been deleted from the reality of Australia.  AMAZING.

Next: “I Live With A Bachelor”, a very peculiar account of a woman whose husband’s dedication to singledom seems … look, I don’t just think it’s my modern perspective, I think it’s genuinely odd:

My husband had lived alone for years, always in the expectation that some day, somewhere, he would find the ultimate girl.  It took almost as long to get used to the idea that he had found her and she (me) was actually living with him.  Every evening I had to arrange a homecoming that would gently reintroduce him to the fact that he was married.

To accomplish this, I would dash home from work and desperately run around the apartment hiding my things.

Footsteps at the door.  He would take his mail out of the mailbox. (I had already taken my mail out and left his in so he wouldn’t be surprised or disappointed.)  Next he would open the door, push past a six-foot pile of his old newspapers, deposit his mail on the primordial disorder of his desk, look around, and then … shock … a girl … his wife!

He would dutifully kiss me and at the same time look around the room for signs of an intruder.  Usually he would find a scarf or some small thing I had overlooked, and, picking it up int he way one might pick up a dead cat, he would say, “Why can’t you ever pick up your things?”

The author’s name is unfortunately mundane, but I suspect she might be the same Jane O’Reilly who went from covering women’s issues to outright feminism.  I mean, you can see why, can’t you?

(That interview notes she was a single mother from 1967, but it’s quite probable that the AWW was reprinting an older piece.)

Then there’s an interview with Margaret Mead, including her predictions for the year 2000:

The family as we know it will have ceased to exist (because as a system it has failed dismally already); birth control will be universal; many couples will never have children; many women will choose artificial insemination; others will hire somebody else to bear their children (by transplantation of a fertilised ovum from their own body to the body of the “host” mother); there will probably be a small, select group of parents who do nothing but produce children for the community as their full-time job.

You win some, you lose some.  The journalist, wrapping up, goes on to predict that “fathers” as a concept will be extinct by the year 2000.  Considering how conservative the AWW is in a lot of ways, there’s a surprising lack of judgement there.

A list of ways to enhance ice cream mentions that it can be bought by the can, and further notes: “We have not given specific quantities for the desserts, because ice-cream can sizes vary from State to State.”


Further highlights:

  • advertisements for products “for the relief of periodical pain”
  • a pronouncement from MasterFoods that “what this country needs is a good 1c sandwich filling”
  • an article on the best ways to stay cool in summer heat, including an aside that air conditioners are cheap and effective…
  • …followed by a full-page colour advertisement for Pope’s air conditioners


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3 thoughts on “Reading The Australian Women’s Weekly in January 1968

    1. I’m reminded of micromail (from “Unseen Academicals” by Terry Pratchett) – the selling point there was “it doesn’t chafe” as well – I wonder whether Pterry had been researching old women’s magazines from the UK?

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