Modern Wife, Modern Life in Westport

Modern Wife, Modern Life continues its tour of Ireland in 2016, and will be on display at Westport Library until Friday April 29. 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 go out to work.

Manuals on how to be a good wife had been widely available in Ireland at the start of the 20th 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 generously supported by the National Print Museum, by the University of Hertfordshire, and by those individuals who supported a crowd-funding campaign.

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