Last week, I was in Melbourne doing more research for the project and I'll be honest, it was mixed. Research is like this: you can't find gold every time. So I'll start with the disappointments.
Before the publication of the Australian Women's Weekly from 1933, there was a range of women's magazines that catered for readers of different classes and interests. Most of these aren't digitized and, more importantly, are on poor-quality microfilm. That's the first barrier to their use, but if you can get past that, they have some amazing content. The Everylady's Journal was published in Melbourne from 1911-1931 as a magazine for "women of Australasia", and published a regular column on how the political system worked, features on "What Girls Should Read" and asked readers to send a postcard listing 6 books they were glad they had read. Distractingly, they also published articles on "Do Australasian Girls have too Much Liberty?" (don't read that Kate!) Fashions were important in this magazine, especially because Everylady's Journal offered paper patterns "with instruction by experts" by post so that readers could make their own dresses, undergarments and children's wear.
But there was nothing to help me with the influence of the Middle East in Australia - no fashions obviously influenced by 'Eastern' glamour; no desert romances reviewed; no cosmetic advertisements (in fact cosmetics seemed positively frowned upon in general). So, that was a day of micofilm-induced headaches for nothing.
On the other hand, Australian Home Beautiful, first published in 1925, was more promising. It was the DIY building and decorating magazine of its time, with articles on featured houses, aspects of house design and furnishings, and a gardening section.
The nurse and the correspondent
I visited the Melbourne Museum to view the photographic collection of WWII nurse Isabel Plante who served mainly in the Middle East. Isabel, her friends and colleagues worked in strenuous conditions and took their periods of leave to have as much fun as they could. Isabel's album presents a world we can't imagine: shopping in Tripoli, visits to Tel Aviv and Beirut, and, as often as they could, they swam at the beach at Gaza.
'My Dears,' she wrote home in one of her letters to Australia, 'We had another day at the beach yesterday for the first time in a long time. I was so tired by the end of the day I could hardly stand. I only had two hours sleep before the boys called for us - we went into Gaza to Spinney's for our usual spot of dinner and the combination of lack of sleep, nothing to eat since 6pm the night before... and the heat when we came out into the street was nearly too much for me. However with some dinner I came good and when we went out to the beach the water did the trick...'
One last delight from Melbourne is the Forum on Flinders Street... we'll have a blog post on theatres very soon, but you could look at the theatre in your own town next time you walk past. You might be looking at a Persian Palace too. Let us know if you are!