First published in January 1880, price one penny, "The Girl's Own Paper" proved to be a success from its earliest days. At the close of the 19th century, over a quarter of a million readers were buying the new issue every week. Its readers - peers' daughters and shop girls, vicars' nieces and housemaids - ranged from six-year-olds to grandmothers. "Great-Grandmama's Weekly" captures this vanished age, featuring extracts from the magazine. Advice was given on self-improvement, honest work, better pay, diet, cosmetics and health: 'Medicus', for instance, recommends brisk walks, sensible meals and cold baths. In an early issue he says: "If you want to have a good head of hair you ought to cultivate a calm unruffled frame of mind. Nervous fidgeting folk seldom have nice hair." What should a girl wear for tricycling? For a country wedding? For travelling to India? For an uncle's funeral? Articles on cookery, crafts, music, etiquette, useful hints and jokes were read avidly, along with features on everything from playing hockey or keeping hens to curtseying at court or balancing the budget.
In 1892, under How to Secure a Situation, readers were told: "Too often ladies hide the fact that they have to work for their living, as if this were an everlasting disgrace, and could never be forgotten. This is one of the old fashioned ideas which, it is to be hoped, a more enlightened age will wipe out. Only this week an elderly spinster, who had lived in highly-genteel poverty for the best part of her life, remarked to me, 'My grandmother was a perfect lady - she never did anything.' May future years be preserved from such nonentities." "The Girl's Own Paper" was not just about how to live a better life. Stories crammed with melodrama and romance were run as serials, and competitions were set, which until 1888 boys were not allowed to enter. Wendy Forester has selected and edited a remarkable collection of extracts from "The Girl's Own Paper" from 1880 to 1901. Sights and sounds, beliefs and opinions of a supremely fascinating era are captured between these pages.