Published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 28 November 2022
There is every chance that in 1934, when my grandmother was pregnant with my mother and visiting the doctor, there was a copy of the NZ Woman’s Weekly in the waiting room.
The magazine would have been 2 years old then and surely already a staple of waiting spaces. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been in a waiting room without a NZ Woman’s Weekly in it, except maybe during the early part of this pandemic when we weren’t allowed to touch things, and possibly the odd corporate foyer where they’d prefer you to have a go at enjoying their latest annual report. There’s nothing like a group photo of the Board of Executives, most of whom are named “John”, to have you hankering for some celebrity gossip and a new recipe for eggplant.
So I like the thought of this magazine being there for Grandma right at the very beginning of my mother’s life. Certainly by the time I came along the Weekly was a constant in our lives. Recent copies would be stacked neatly in my grandmother’s living room magazine rack, while the latest was close by with a cup of tea. Any number of back issues could be found in the sunporch at my Great-Aunt Ruth’s – a terrific way to while away a rainy school holiday afternoon.
It is inside these pages that I first saw the Royal Family in colour (our TV only provided black & white images because I am very old) and I marvelled at their matching dress-coat-hat ensembles in thrilling pastel shades. The ladies of our town tended towards black for church, maybe a wild splash of navy.
I would try my hand at the crosswords and quizzes, and read Letters to the Editor that were rather more glass-half-full than the ones published in the Levin Chronicle. People who wrote to the newspaper mostly pointed out how badly someone had got things wrong, but these letters to the magazine were from people who said they’d enjoyed reading a thing, or felt that way, too, or had another story to share.
When you’re little, celebrities get mixed up with other people you’ve heard of but haven’t yet met. The name “Jean Wishart” was so familiar, I thought it belonged to an actual family friend, not the famous stranger who edited the Weekly from 1952 to 1984. She lived in a corner of my mind with Aunt Daisy who I initially assumed was a distant relative of my Dad’s.
My mother, who took her fashion seriously, subscribed to English Vogue which she picked up monthly from our local bookstore. But in between she’d collect my grandmother’s Weekly and wasn’t above giving it a jolly good onceover before dropping it round to hers.
When it briefly looked like we’d lost the Weekly in 2020, I heard a man describe it as “a women’s magazine” in a way that suggested a magazine for women was less important than a magazine for people (men). Rude. It has been one of the few places we have always been able to read our own stories over the last 90 years.
I also heard this man say, “I don’t know anyone who reads it”. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I leave my copies in the magazine rack in my living room, and my daughter and granddaughter will occasionally pounce on them for celebrity gossip and local news, and maybe this column.
Five generations over 90 years. Happy Birthday to us, and many more.