Let’s Read Woman’s Own, March 1956

Hi there! Hope you found me alright. I’m still fumbling my way around WordPress, so bear with me, and thanks for sticking around as we all make the transition to the new Avocado website. As long as I can stay on top of my workload, I can do these posts ahead of time to keep them regularly queued up, so if all goes well enough I should have these suckers up by 12 PST on Fridays.

This week we’re looking at Woman’s Own, a British woman’s general interest magazine that has been regularly printed since 1932. What were British women in 1956 up to? Well, this overly cheerful website goes into the lives of post-war British housewives with some good details. To simplify, which normally I hate doing but there’s plenty of info elsewhere on the subject if you feel the itch to research, it was like American housewife life in the 50s – except they had less money, less resources, few modern appliances, and a shitload of repressed PTSD from the war. And there was a brand new Queen who did a lot of good to raise people’s spirits – unless the those people were from Ghana, Malaysia, or Sudan, who split from the British Empire in this decade.


For perspective, this is what the cover of Woman’s Own looks like today. Not much to go on here, but I will totally take that dark lipstick, thank you. You’ll never guess what it’s called. We’ll get to that later.


Sort of like reader mail, except it’s more of just published musings of the readers and the magazine pays them for it – nice! Mrs. Page of Middlesex seems like a hoot of a lady. And why DON’T they put feet on dustbins? And look, the Queen! She’s just like us!


My goodness, the housewives of Britain have some juicy problems! Put your feet up, make a nice cup of tea and settle in to read about people who have it way worse than you probably do. I initially thought that a resident nursery was a name for foster care, but it is more like today’s modern day care run by an early childhood education program  (“maintained for children of the better class only” sniffs one book on childhood education from 1910). Mary Grant has her finger on some good resources for women in need and from this page we learn quite a bit about divorce (not really a thing), support for unwed mothers (surprisingly a thing!), and victim shaming. And apparently “Amy” of Dunstable wrote something so personal that it couldn’t be printed. But it is natural, and not something to be worried about. Any guesses as to what it could be?


I’m stumped by how #4 works, but it looks like a great way to hacksaw through your hand on accident. #6 is actually a rather nifty design for tiny kitchens, and I’m kinda surprised that I don’t see it in more studio apartments today. And look! Someone finally invented the garment bag!

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This is all Mrs. Kathleen Bass of Lee, London’s fault. I hope she took her prize money and bought her family something nice to eat for once.


Hello, I’m Ann and I like to wear all of my clothes at once!


“Diner” and “Wyna” rhyme in a British accent. I’m pretty sure that a “wine biscuit” is what Americans would call a water cracker. You know, the dry and flavorless bread-thing that you put cheese on when pretending to enjoy wine but you just want all the cheese.


You have your choice of Parisian Pink, Rose Glow, and…SATAN’S TOUCH!


Dr. Roderick Wimpole’s fanfiction-y narrative in which he counsels women on whatever the housewife neurosis of the day is. Snark aside, he has some reasonable advice.


Life tip: never trust a hair dye that dyes your hair in two minutes. On the other side, it Sounds like Cancer was having an intense month. And thanks for that nice poem, Patience Strong. I think all poems about Lent should start with “Grim and silent is the Lenten scene”, don’t you?


Ooh! It’s a young Alec Guinness! Grace Kelly is awesome? You don’t say. Bonus review of the Danny Kaye classic The Court Jester and Sinatra’s classic “Love and Marriage”.




The suggestion to color the pressure-cooker-braised liver with “meat or vegetable extract” and then cover it in gravy really tells you everything you need to know.


You wouldn’t know it from this ad, but Viscaya is a fabric commonly used today for curtains. Phyllis likes girls more than boys? I bet she does! (as a teacher, yes, sure). But goodness, the amount of gender role reinforcement packed into this sparsely worded ad is amazing. Women as school teachers, women as cleaners, women as meal providers, girls who are better behaved than boys.


Great fashion illustrations. It’s a shame that conical straw witch hats for the beach never quite caught on. Note the emphasis on sewing and upcycling your own clothes. Ladies had to be thrifty but it doesn’t mean they couldn’t be fabulous!


Likewise, here’s the scoop on how you can make this whole outfit yourself – from the sassy off-the-shoulder sweater to the hat, earrings, and handbag.


How good is my hairline? Why, I don’t know, I never thought about it before. Oh dear. Oh dear. It’s positively dreadful, isn’t it? I keep boy-scout-saluting but it just doesn’t measure up to my fingers! Oh, I’m a pariah! I can’t go out in public like this! Thank you, Woman’s Own, for pointing this out to me!


Phillip Harben was a pioneer of television cooking, having the very first cooking show on the air in 1946. His Wikipedia page tells me that he was recognizable by his “ample girth”, which doesn’t seem like a nice way to describe anyone. Even if he is trying to make you eat jellied eels.

23030575_10214436703850753_594194728_o.jpgEh. At least the punchline isn’t that the dog drowned. Ha ha!


I dare you to find anything on this page that isn’t stomach-churning.


Thank goodness for friends like Chris and Lifebuoy Soap, otherwise Stanky Jean wouldn’t have gotten herself a date with the hunky pilot who hates her!


My sincere apologies for the blurryness of this article. Dirk Bogarde wasn’t a household name in America, but he had a very distinguished career and was even made a knight. When asked in the article why he hasn’t settled down with a girl yet, his answer was “Never found the right girl.” What he probably wanted to say was “Actually, I’m gay, and I’m madly in love with the ex-husband of Glynis Johns.”


Remember the scarcity of nylon during the war years that were only a decade ago by the time of this magazine. Having nylon back for your pantyhose and underwear after years of painting on your stockings must have seemed like pure luxury.

23107402_10214436704290764_140524354_o.jpgJust some ladies looking fabulous.


I love the very old-fashioned graphic design here.


Why one would serve meatballs in addition to a pork roast is puzzling to me, but what do I know. At least there are some vegetables, and orange slices for the prevention of scurvy. I need only to look at a pork roast to discover unsuspected hollows in myself. That speaks to me on a very deep level.


And finally, because it is Lent, here’s some utterly revolting looking fish steaks. Captain Cunningham up there doesn’t look too thrilled about them either.

Thanks for reading another week’s old magazine with me! Please let me know what you think of this feature’s transition from Disqus post to WordPress blog post, and if you had any trouble with the images. Next week we’ll dig up College Humor magazine from 1936, which has absolutely nothing to do with the modern website and has a lot more to do with boobs. Although you wouldn’t know that from this very lovely and tasteful cover.

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