|The Parthenon, 11 August 1890|
The history of British and American girls' magazines is a developing and exciting field, but the girls' magazines of Australia and Canada have been barely examined. In part this is because fewer magazines were produced in the colonies and those that do exist are not easily accessible. My colleague Kristine Moruzi has spent hours in church archives in order to read some of the Canadian girls' magazines, which were mostly published by religious organisations. Because magazines such as the Girl's Own Paper were readily imported from Britain, there is really only one example of a nineteenth-century Australian girls' magazine, the Sydney-based Parthenon (1889-1892).
The writers Ethel and Lilian Turner, who were still in their teens, began publishing the Parthenon in January 1889. Ethel edited a magazine at her high school, the Iris, but after her graduation soon moved to build a viable commercial venture. The sisters not only edited the magazine, but wrote most of its content, managed subscriptions and sought out advertisers. There are only two complete sets of the magazine in Australia, so when I finally saw copies of the Parthenon I was surprised by the professionalism of the design and the quantity of advertising that the sisters managed to attract as the magazine established itself. It is an astonishing and unique achievement for young women of the period.
|Masthead, 1 February 1889|
The magazine ran for 39 issues and in its time it featured early versions of some of the works that Ethel Turner would go on to publish during her long writing career, including Miss Bobbie. She was assigned responsibility for writing the serials for the children's page by Lilian, a serendipitous delegation that no doubt contributed to Ethel taking up a lucrative post writing for the children's pages of the Illustrated Sydney News soon after their enterprise could not find a buyer and was forced to cease publication in 1892.