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Laying the Table: the Australian Women’s Weekly and the development of Australian domestic food culture, 1933-1982

Event type
Food History
Event dates
, 5:30PM - 7:30PM
IHR North American History Room, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Lauren Samuelsson (University of Wollongong)
020 7862 8740
The Australian Women’s Weekly (the Weekly) is Australia’s longest running and most widely read women’s magazine. During the 1950s and 1960s, it had the largest per capita circulation of any women’s magazine in the world. Since its very first issue, food has held an integral place in the Weekly, with editorial features and cookery competitions being featured weekly. So popular were the food features in the magazine that Australian Consolidated Press started publishing a separate range of cookbooks within a decade of the magazine’s inception. Despite its role as premier women’s magazine in Australia, historians have yet to explore the impact that this prominent text has played in shaping the eating habits of ‘everyday Australians’; the food consumed around Australian dinner tables; the tastes of the nation.

Drawing on the textual analysis, oral histories, and social research undertaken during my PhD project, this paper will investigate some of the myriad ways that notions of class, gender, and multiculturalism played out in the food pages of the Weekly’s magazines and cookbooks during the twentieth century. The paper will explore these concepts through three case studies that incorporate transnational comparisons with Britain, Canada and New Zealand in order to argue that the Weekly not only acted as a barometer of social change for wider Australian society but also contributed to the development of domestic food culture in Australia.