Modern Wife, Modern Life one year on.

Four Exhibition Locations

(L to R): National Print Museum, dlr LexIcon, Wexford Town Library, Westport Library. 

Just over one year ago, Modern Wife, Modern Life: an Exhibition of Women’s Magazines from 1960s Ireland opened at the National Print Museum in Dublin (1 July – 30 August 2015). Since then, it has gone on to visit dlr LexIcon in Dún Laoghaire, Wexford Town Library, and Westport Library in Mayo. Leaving Ireland this summer, the exhibition travels next to the UK. Keep an eye on this website for details of venues and dates.

While the exhibition was on display at the various locations, I organised a series of related events. I gave curator’s tours at the National Print Museum and, in conjunction with the excellent Press Cafe, we held a 1960s cake afternoon. At dlr LexIcon, I was joined by author Lorna Sixsmith and we discussed expectations of marriage in 1960s Ireland; you can find the podcast here. And I spoke on International Women’s Day at Wexford Town Library about feminist themes in the magazines.

The exhibition, which looks at expectations of women as seen through the lens of magazines from 1960s Ireland, has proved popular, attracting individual visitors, women’s groups, and school / university groups from around Ireland and beyond.

How times have changed! Not sure I’ll be taking any of the advice – loved the quizzes though, learnt a thing or two!

~ Victoria from London

A wonderfully engaging exhibit. A unique insight into an earlier Ireland.

~ Sharon from Dublin

Very funny! Enjoyed it.

~ Myra from Sligo

Brilliant exhibition. Definitely belongs in a museum though!

~ Ian from Wicklow

 Very interesting exhibition!

~ Paola from Italy

So glad this time has passed!

~ Dianne from Richmond, USA


The exhibition also received a lot of media coverage, including pieces in the Irish TimesIrish ExaminerIrish IndependentThe Farmers’ Journal and

A special word of thanks is due to all at the National Print Museum – especially Carla Marrinan – for giving me the opportunity to display the exhibition, for their advice and guidance, and for financially supporting the endeavour. Thanks are also due to those people who supported a crowd-funding campaign and to my employer, the University of Hertfordshire, for further funding that helped make the exhibition possible. I extend my appreciation to the National Library of Ireland and Aine Toner at Woman’s Way for permission to reproduce images from the women’s magazines on display. The original exhibition of magazines at the Print Museum was supplemented with everyday objects crowd-sourced from members of the public – to everyone who loaned me items, thank you! A particular word of thanks is due to David Kenny who kept the project ticking over in my absence while I was busy during teaching term in the UK.


Next Stop: Wexford Town Library

Modern Wife, Modern Life continues its tour of Ireland in 2016. After closing at dlr LexIcon on 15 January, the exhibition will open in Wexford Town Library on 22 February.

Photo: Wexford Library. Credit: Wexford Hub.

The Exhibition

Manuals on how to be a good wife had been widely available in Ireland at the start of the twentieth century, but with the emergence of new technologies, the advice extended to newly married women and housewives began to change in the 1960s. The concept of being an ‘ideal wife’ became closely bound up with being a ‘modern wife’. This is best identified in the pages of women’s magazines — Woman’s Way, Woman’s View and Woman’s Choice — which came to replace the traditional manual as a source for guidance. The message, driven by the advertisers, was clear: a ‘good wife’ was not just beautifully presented, but also used all the latest ‘modern’ devices. Her home – especially the kitchen – was an extension of her appearance and reputation. ‘Modern life’ and ‘modern wife’ became blended into the one ideal.

The exhibition, curated by Ciara Meehan, covers several themes: the growth of women’s magazines; advice for newly-married wives; beauty and presentation; the Housewife of the Year competition; new technologies and the home; women behind the wheel; and wives who work.

In addition to the magazines, a series of objects — many of which are loan from the Irish public — are also on display.

Modern Wife, Modern Life is generously supported by the National Print Museum, by the University of Hertfordshire, and by those individuals who supported a crowd-funding campaign.


Wexford Town Library, Mallin St., Wexford, Ireland.

Library Opening Hours

Wexford Town Library opening hours

Christmas Opening Hours

Happy Christmas from all at the Modern Wife exhibition!


Thinking of visiting the exhibition at dlr LexIcon this Christmas?  Check their opening hours first!

Monday 21 December – Open
Tuesday 22 December – Open
Wednesday 23 December – Open
Thursday 24 December to Monday 28 December – Closed
Tuesday 29 December to Thursday 31 December – Open
Friday 1 January – Closed
Saturday 2 January – Open
Monday 4 January – Open

Thank you to those who visited the exhibition during 2015.

Joe & Margaret Teeling: a Marriage Story

Margaret Thompson, aged 15, and Joe Teeling, aged 17, met in 1960. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on 17 February 2015. This is their story, in Joe’s words:


“It was a June morning in 1960 when I first saw Margaret cycling her bike up the Glens on the Finglas Road on her way to work. I was waiting for a bus to take me into the Flowing Tide Public House in Abbey Street. Margaret was working in the Casino cinema in Finglas and I used to see her regularly. When I found out where she worked, I quit my job and got a job in the Casino as an usher! I then plucked up the courage and asked her for a date. We were to meet at the Saxone shoe shop on O’Connell Street in Dublin City Centre. I waited and waited, but she did not turn up. Margaret said she did(!). We made another date, and the rest is history. We were in love for ever”.


Margaret and Joe got engaged on 2 October 1962.


“We married on 17 February 1965 in the Church of the Incarnation, Finglas West. The reception was in the Maples Hotel on Iona Road, and cost £1.1 shilling per head or one guinea. We had 30 guests. We went to Cork for our honeymoon. We went on to have two girls, Louise and Lisa, who have given us four grandchildren. We are looking forward to our 50th wedding anniversary in February 2015”.



Share your story.


Inspiration Behind the Exhibition

Annie Meehan & The Young Wife

My late grandmother, Annie Meehan, posthumously provided the idea for this exhibition. Last summer, while browsing through some of her old papers, I came across a copy of The Young Wife, a marriage manual. 'The Young Wife' (1938) marriage manualOver the course of the past year, I have repeatedly returned to The Young Wife, reading it cover-to-cover. The pamphlet transformed  from a forgotten object in an attic to a primary source for the historian. It was fortuitous that I discovered it when I did, as I’m now working on a new project that explores the everyday lives of Irishwomen (with a focus on the 1960s).

Locating the ‘Everyday’ Woman

My last book, A Just Society for Ireland? 1964-87 , dealt with such issues as contraception, abortion and divorce, but it was the politicians, policymakers, activists and lobbyists who were best represented. The ‘ordinary’ people, whose lives were at the centre of these debates, were noticeably absent from the sources. I thus turned to magazines — and, in particular, the letters pages — in an effort to locate the voice of ‘everyday’ women and to uncover their values and the challenges facing them in their day-to-day lives.

Reading through women’s magazines I came to realise that much of the information provided in the pages of these publications was similar to that offered in manuals such as The Young Wife. The major difference was the inclusion of advertisements showing the latest technologies and advice that pushed the boundaries by covering ‘private’ topics such as sex and intimacy. Consequently, I began to read the magazines as the new marriage manuals and the idea for Modern Wife, Modern Life took shape. I am extremely grateful to the National Print Museum of Ireland for allowing me the opportunity to stage this exhibition.

The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Annie Meehan.

Annie images