Catherine Horne Fisher is a PhD candidate in the School of History at the Australian National University. Her thesis examines radio speech and Australian women’s citizenship in the mid-twentieth century. She was awarded a National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association postgraduate scholarship in 2016. She is currently a member of the editorial collective of Lilith: A Feminist History Journal, and the editorial assistant for the National Centre of Biography’s journal Using Lives: Essays in Australian Biography and History.
Volume 36, May 2017
This article examines how postwar Australian women’s magazines promoted a modern ideal of Australian femininity through the use of colloquial language. The postwar years saw a shift in media representations of femininity which enabled colloquial language to become associated with ideal Australian womanhood. Although women, especially working-class women, had been using slang in their day-to-day lives for a long time, a new ideal of postwar womanhood represented in middle-class women’s magazines brought this language into the public sphere and gave it respectability. Through an analysis of readers’ letters to New Idea this article shows that women’s magazines became a space within which readers could formulate a distinctive identity as modern middle-class women through their use of informalities and colloquialisms. The centrality of colloquial language to postwar women’s magazines was a significant shift from the interwar years, when slang use was actively discouraged and therefore absent from the content of women’s media, except as a trend to be denounced. This change demonstrates that language played a central role in media representations of Australian femininity in the 1950s and 1960s.