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Women's magazines sowed the seed of feminism in Ireland

A new exhibition looking at the influence of women’s magazines is appealing to the public to come forward with their mementos and memories from the era.

FOR PEOPLE UNDER the age of 65, the 1960s exists in the realm of folklore as a collection of icons and events that defined an era of social change and advancement.

A new exhibition next summer will try and get past the clichés and examine what everyday life was like for women of that period in Ireland.

knitting needles Source: Ciara Meehan

To do so it will look back at women’s magazines from the period. Speaking to TheJournal.ie, the exhibition’s curator and history lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire,  Ciara Meehan, explains how looking back at these publications can give us more insight than we might think.

While the advertisers saw women of the period as having their place in the home, the editors for each of the magazines at the time very much promoted the idea of women in politics and in the workplace.

“What became mainstream ideas with equal pay and women’s liberation and feminism in Ireland in the 1970s were in a way crystallized in magazines in the 1960s.”

Originally envisaged as a book, the project expanded into an exhibition after a number of individuals came forward with original items from the period. Ciara is now reaching out to the public in hope that more people can come forward with objects of interest to be included.

whisk A whisk from the period that will be displayed in the exhibition Source: Ciara Meehan

“If people would like to hand over their objects completely then that is great. But also if they just want to hand them over for the duration they are guaranteed to be looked after and would be in very good hands.”

Whatever items people have from that time are of interest. One of the items is a handheld egg whisk that was given as a wedding present. They don’t have to be expensive.

The idea for the project arose when Ciara came across a marriage manual from the early part of the 20th century owned by her grandmother Annie Meehan.

“The marriage manual that was owned by my grandmother triggered an interest in the area. At the time I had been reading women’s magazines from that 1960s era.”

After that I started reading more marriage manuals and saw very much a bridging between the two things.

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wedding manual A wedding manual from the early 20th century Source: Ciara Meehan

The exhibition will allow those attending to contribute to the book that will be compiled as part of the project. People will be able to come forward and offer an oral account of the period.

The idea is to put these things on display for public access to them. Through crowdsourcing and so on we can get a people’s history of that decade. This aims to record people’s memories and move past the big figures of the 1960s. It is about seeing what drove ‘ordinary people’ and what their lives were like. Although I hate calling them ordinary.

The exhibition will be taking place at the National Print Museum and it is hoped more items from the period will be collected over the Christmas period this year.

The exhibition will take place in August next year. You can donate items of interest through Ciara’s website here. You can also donate to the project through its FundIt page here. 

Read: ‘Plain … but not horsefaced’ – the ideal 1960s female Garda

Also: Love old ads? A whole load of them are set to be archived

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