Online Tour

Thinking about visiting the exhibition? Want to know more about the themes it covers? Take a look at some of the panels on display below!

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.

Modern Wife, Modern Life is a touring exhibition. For details of the venues it will visit, please click here.

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1. Inspiration

Annie Meehan

To find out more about the inspiration behind the exhibition, click here.

2. Print Culture

‘The point about an Irish magazine is that it caters for us living in this country. The advertisements are about commodities that we can buy here and now; the competitions and offers are for us and all the service features are geared towards Irishwomen — not Englishwomen as they are in the imported publications’

~ Letter to Woman’s Choice, September 1968

By 1968, Woman's Way claimed an annual readership of 280,000, and was outselling all imported British magazines.
By 1968, Woman’s Way claimed an annual readership of 280,000, and was outselling all imported British magazines.

Well Known Contributors

3. Advice for Newly Married Wives

J&M Teeling

Advice from Readers

Angela Macnamara

Sex Advice

4. Beauty and Presentation

‘She is becoming as wise and as knowledgeable about cosmetics, fashion and grooming, as her counterparts in any country. Manufacturers, models, mannequins and cosmetic demonstrations have penetrated even to our smaller provincial towns, so that it’s not only in the city that the housewife is made conscious of the march of everything that comes under the general heading of ‘beauty care’

~ Extract from ‘The Irish Housewife is Changing’ from The Irish Housewife, the journal of the Irish Housewives Association.

Finding Beauty in the Home

A variation of this model is on display at the exhibition.
A variation of this model is on display at the exhibition.

Why would I want to get dressed up

5. Housewife of the Year competition

Kay Johnson won the inaugural Housewife of the Year competition in 1967. Her scrapbooks of her victory are also on display as part of the exhibition, by kind permission of her family.
Kay Johnson won the inaugural Housewife of the Year competition in 1967. Her scrapbooks of her victory are also on display as part of the exhibition, by kind permission of her family.

6. New Technologies

It is no coincidence that this is the largest section of the exhibition. The size of the section reflects the fact that advertisements for and articles about new technologies and modern living filled the most column inches in the magazines.

The word 'Modern' regularly appeared in advertisements in the 1960s.
The word ‘Modern’ regularly appeared in advertisements in the 1960s.

Liberator Washing Machine

Hoover Dishwasher

Electric Cooker

7. Women behind the Wheel

Rising living standards in the 1960s were reflected in the increased number of cars on Irish roads. A growing feature in the magazines was the notion of women behind the wheel. Increasingly, advertisements— aimed at middle class families that found themselves with more disposable income—appeared selling the concept of a ‘second car for the family’. Complementing these were ‘a woman’s guide to car buying’ features printed by the magazines.

In addition to articles about car buying and maintenance, the magazines also carried features by their staff writers about learning to drive..
In addition to articles about car buying and maintenance, the magazines also carried features by their staff writers about learning to drive.

8. Wives who Work

This is the smallest section of the exhibition, reflecting the fact that the concept of working wives appears infrequently in the magazines. Nonetheless, by the end of the 1960s, when articles were published they were not only in favour of women in the workplace, but also of equal pay. In contrast, readers — as the letters pages show — were divided on the subject of wives who work.

Another example of a crowd-sourced item on display at the exhibition. Reproduced by kind permission of Geraldine Lawler
Another example of a crowd-sourced item on display at the exhibition. Reproduced by kind permission of Geraldine Lawler.

Working Wives

Working Wives 2

Extracts reproduced from Woman’s Way in the exhibition by kind permission of Aine Toner and Woman’s Way.