During Queen Victoria's reign there was a flourishing market for women's magazines. The public's imagination was caught by the lavishly illustrated periodicals that offered a contant supply of thrilling serialised fiction, alongside features on fashion and home-making, and the latest sheet music to be played on the parlour piano or harp.

In 1852, Samuel and Isabella Beeton achieved great success with Beeton's Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine. Isabella provided recipes and articles on household management, but the magazine offered much more than that. Apart from the usual fashion and  fiction there were biographical features, instruction on gardening and medicine, and a regular letters page. The magazine was initally priced at 2d, and by 1856 it boasted an advertising circulation of 50,000 copies.

Such inspired commercial success was followed in 1861 when the Beetons produced the society paper, The Queen - which continued to run until 1970.

Fashion plate from 'The Queen' circa 1890

The first edition cost 6d, and contained a specially commissioned photograph of Queen Victoria. The paper specialised in the latest Paris fashions, providing paper patterns and directions for elaborate needlework. And, although it may not have gone as far as publications such as The Female's Friend  (a short-lived magazine with the worthy aim of campaigning against prostitutes), it did not shy away from intelligent debate on politics and the place of women in society.

The English Woman's Journal (1858-1864) was another paper that sought to educate its reader on politics, both at home and abroad. And, from 1892-1900, Shafts was a particularly radical magazine with articles on birth control by Marie Stopes, and reports that ranged from sporting achievements to news of the latest activities of the Independent Labour Party.


  1. I happened across your blog today and I'm enjoying every post! This one, in particular, will be particularly useful as part of an "everyday" scene in my current WIP. Thank you!

  2. Stephanie - I'm so glad you've found it useful. Thanks for letting me know!


  3. I really enjoyed this too, thank you

  4. I wish British magazines and newspapers were better archived online. So far we're still pretty limited in how much we can actually sit down and read. Tracking down physical copies can be a pretty daunting task, especially if one does not live in the UK.

  5. This is true, Walter - it was very hard to find anything - and such a fascinating subject. If you ever are in UK, the British Library is a great resource.