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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019
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6 vintage magazine covers that show how publishers saw Irish women

Pat Kenny’s albums!

BRIAN McMAHON IS a collector, musician and former fanzine maker who grew up in Dundalk in the 1970s.

He has been scanning vintage magazines and other ephemera for his site Brand New Retro since 2011. And this Christmas, he has gathered his collections into a book.

Some of the material casts a fascinating light on the Ireland it came from – especially in terms of its view of women, who many of the magazines were targeted at.

Here’s how they came out, through the lens of magazines from the 1960s to the 1980s.

1. The Irish Housewife, 1965

Source: Brand New Retro

What are women interested in? Being housewives, of course – according to this publisher anyway. No specific stories mentioned here so we’re assuming the magazine just covers… housewifestuff.

Incidentally two shillings was a fair old price in those days, certainly more expensive than…

2. Miss, 1966

Source: Brand New Retro

This is what younger Irish women had to look forward to in the 1960s: magazines featuring fashion, modelling contests and full-colour covers.

No idea what “The Night the Royal was told to leave town – fast” is about but it sounds riveting tbh.

3.Young Woman, 1967

Source: Brand New Retro

This magazine has a fascinating mix of pop-culture stories, domestic management and serious reportage. The cover line on ‘the Eight Women in Mountjoy’ is overlaid on a knitwear fashion shoot, while other stories include “The Truth About Falling In Love”, “Hippyism A Lost Cause”, “At Home With Mrs Dickie Rock” and – most importantly – “Exciting Ways With Chicken”.

4. Nikki, 1972

Source: Brand New Retro


Admittedly this is just the promo ad for a 1972 magazine launch, but it promises something much more explicit. There is a claim to be “frank and funky” (for “chicks”), and is that woman… naked? Yes, it looks like she is.

Truly, the times they were a-changing.

5. Woman’s Way, 1972

Source: Brand New Retro

Another heady mix of content on the cover of Woman’s Way, ranging from crafting coverage – “New ribbed separates for you to knit” – to a piece on women and the constitution promising to cover “divorce, deserted wives, adoption, contraception”.

Considering contraception wasn’t legalised until 1980 and divorce until 1996, this is pretty daring stuff for a magazine that also covers knitting.

6. U magazine, 1982

Source: Brand New Retro

This 1982 cover is much closer to the sort of magazines we know and love today (of course, U Magazine is the only one of these publications still in business). The content is much frothier than some of the earlier examples here – “Too perfect people! Tennis court toffs! Elton John’s hang-ups!” – but it does include “Pill warnings” among the cover lines.

There is also “Pat Kenny’s albums” which, to be honest, we really want to read. If anyone has a copy of 1982 U Magazine lying around, let us know his top ten.

These and many more treasures are in the Brand New Retro book, published by Liberties Press. You can buy it here.

More: 6 vintage sexist ads that show how marketers saw Irish women>

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About the author:

Michael Freeman

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