As far as years go in the history books, 1932 wasn’t exactly a winner, after all, it was a time when New Zealand was plunged deep in the murky depths of the Great Depression. But that apparently didn’t mean women had to forgo their love of lace knit jumper, cut pattern services or home craft competitions and on December 8 that year, journalists Otto Williams and Audrey Argall launched New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, a magazine that preached the “gospel of usefulness, cheerfulness and happiness”. Eighty years on, in a more exuberant way it continues to equip women with their weekly fixes of fashion, food, weddings and gossip and to mark the auspicious milestone, it’s released a special birthday collector’s edition.
With a history of celebrating the lives of women in New Zealand, its 80th birthday issues pays special homage to some of those inspiring women, including a top 10 list of women who have shaped New Zealand. And as seems appropriate for such a milestone, the team has also plundered the glossy historical pages, reprinting content from the first ever issue in 1932.
“It is amazing how much and how little our lives have changed, but that first issue also shows the Weekly spirit of today which is all about inspiring, educating and entertaining New Zealand women,” comments the magazine’s editor, Sarah Stuart.
“As women’s roles in society have changed, so has the Weekly,” she adds, attributing part of the magazines success to its ability to evolve.
Over its history it has published stories of divorce, working women, gay relationships and other social issues, and Stuart says the magazine has “often led the way in social change”.
These days the magazine boats readership of 823,000 readers — a marked contrast to its first ever edition which saw a very modest 7000 newsprint copies disseminated into the womanly masses. It circulation peaked in the early 1980s with around 250,000 million copies, before new competition from the likes of New Idea, The Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day shook up the glossies market.
The team at New Zealand Woman’s Weekly kicked off celebrations on Friday night with a swanky celebrity-clad party at The Wharf in Auckland’s Northcote Point.
And now for the purposes of nostalgia, it seems only fitting to end this story with a blurb taken from the first ever issue of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.
“Every newspaper or periodical should have some definite mission or objective. Of the soundness and importance of this mission depends its ultimate success. Hundreds of new publications make their appearance every year. Some are still-born, others are strangled at birth; others lead a short and languishing existence; only a few survive and live to a ripe old age.”
And here’s the first ever cover, in all its knitted and purple glory: