Sunday, December 15, 2013

(oh, the indignity of it!)

This is a beautiful collection of correspondence surrounding the article my Nan wrote in 1963 for the Journal of Agriculture's Farm and Home section, which you can read below. I feel the letters speak for themselves!
by Johanna Bowen
Journal of Agriculture, Farm and Home

Many adults look upon the play of the tiny child as merely a way of passing the time and of keeping him out of the way between meals and bed. To the little one, however, playing is living. It is all-important and very, very real. Above all it is the beginning of the child’s education.

Correspondence between Alwyn and Johanna

All thanks to my fabulous Aunt Felicity for her discovery of the correspondence to do with the article, and transcribing all the letters.

COPY of handwritten letter
Sept, 30th [1963]

Dear Mrs Bowen,

Thank you for your letter (of last October!) to the “Journal of Agriculture” with ideas for the “Farm and Home” section.

As you say, there are few mothers who would not welcome suggestions and food for thought re children. Most letters asked for articles on children, particularly pre-school children, entertaining the “only” child, etc. One such is due to be published this month, and I hope more can be done along the lines you suggest in the future.

The Editor tells me that it is very hard to find authors willing to write on suitable topics, however we will do our best to make this section as varied and interesting as possible.

Thanks again for taking the time to write last October. As a mother you must be a busy person.

Yours sincerely

Alwyn Scott
COPY of handwritten draft
4th October ‘63

Dear Mrs Scott,

Thank you for your letter re the “Farm and Home” section of the Journal. I must admit I was very pleased to hear from you as I had begun to think that my suggestions hadn’t warranted any attention. I was disturbed at this – not because they were my suggestions – but because it appeared as if parents of small children were not going to be given the help that they require. However it seems from your letter that most other letter writers felt the same way as I did.

I am prompted to write again now because you indicate that suitable authors, or authors in this field, are difficult to find ...

This draft was unfinished however an original must have been sent as a “personal” reply from Mrs Scott was received.
COPY of handwritten letter
30th October, ‘63

Dear Mrs Bowen,

Thank you for your letter, which I will pass on to the Editor.

This is an entirely personal letter, as I have no position nor authority on the Journal to say “yea” or “nay” to your becoming a contributor. I did intend to suggest to him that he contact you, however, as from your letter I felt you would have the technical background and practical experience to enable you to write helpful articles for mothers of small children.

I have felt that the Women’s Section of the Journal is almost an unwashed baby as far as the men are concerned. When several months had gone by with no acknowledgement of readers’ letters, I wrote suggesting that a paragraph could be inserted in the next issue, thanking those who wrote. When still nothing was published I went to Perth and volunteered to write thank you notes to all the readers, as I felt ashamed that the Journal had not mentioned them. (Those letters took me all my spare time for three weeks!)

I detect a faint note of chiding in your letter, and I can assure you there was more than a faint note of chiding in mine! Please keep this between ourselves, as I must not be disloyal to the Editor and his staff (although I have been very cross at the way some of my articles have been “edited”) In one case the young assistant cut almost half the article, and asked “of what value was it?” I was furious because if I had thought there was no value in it I would not have gone to the trouble of writing, rephrasing, polishing and rewriting it all. I suppose I shouldn’t expect a young lad to see things from the woman’s point of view – really there should be a separate female editor for the Farm and Home section. They also translate the contributor’s articles into “journalistic” style – I know Miss Gloster has been cross at the change of tone in some of her articles, and I too sometimes hardly recognise an article when it is published, it has been altered so much!

I will suggest to Mr Lawson that he accept you as a contributor, and if he agrees he will probably ask you to submit one or two “sample” articles, of about eight or nine foolscap pages of ordinary longhand, just to see what you can do (oh, the indignity of it!)

“Scale of payments is not very high, varying from two to four guineas according to length and quality” – quoted from his reply to another volunteer contributor.

“Entertaining or keeping occupied the pre-school Only Child” would be a suitable topic (several readers asked for an article on this) or, if it is around holiday time, “Keeping Children Busy (or Happy or Occupied) during the Holidays” (Prune these a bit!)

I do hope the Editor will accept your offer, and that he contacts you soon! Sorry I can’t do any more than this – I repeat this is an personal letter only as I’m a nobody on the Journal!

Thanks again for writing,
Yours sincerely,

Alwyn Scott

Correspondence between Editor and Johanna


My Nan also wrote about Women’s Liberation, and it was a testimony to the daily hard work, from my grandmother’s generation onward, of women intent on social and political reform.

These thoughts on Women's Liberation also show that while extraordinary strides have been made in attitudes towards women since my Nan wrote this piece, there is still a long way to go.

As long as women have existed, they have thought deeply and practically about their position in the world, and it is a pleasure to be able to see some of that recorded in my own family history.

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