In the early days of the WeChangEd project, I screwed around with census data looking for women who gave their occupation as “editor” or “editress” in the 1841-1911 England Censuses. In a few cases, the censuses immediately revealed valuable information not only about the editors themselves but also about the periodicals they edited. Catherine H. Burroughs, for instance, was recorded in three consecutive censuses as editor of the Young Ladies’ Journal. The majority, however, were less forthcoming. At the end of my scavenger hunt, I was left with a list of eighteen women who identified themselves as editors without mentioning the name of their periodicals. With surnames like “Jones,” “Fox” and “Reading,” many of them defied straightforward keyword searching and seemed determined to remain elusive. Still, I hoped that eventually we would be able to link at least some of them to a specific title.

Now, three years later, it’s time for an update and some reflection on the process. First of all, this kind of bio-bibliographical sleuthing has proved extremely addictive. As soon as the thrill of a positive ID wears off, you start craving the next. Because I did not keep track along the way, I was surprised to discover that more than half of the women are no longer on the list. Secondly, in most cases, identification followed “let’s give this another go” stints of impromptu online searching. In hindsight, these meandering journeys seem difficult to reconstruct in any systematic way. I will try anyway, because this kind of research is as much about the methods as it is about the results.

Rosa C. Gill (1845-1920), “Newspaper Editress” in the 1871 England Census, edited the advertising department of the Bazaar, Exchange and Mart, a London household newspaper established in 1868. I identified the newspaper thanks to the new full-text search engine on Archive.org, which wasn’t available three years ago. A search for Gill’s middle and family names, Crandon Gill, led me to a page in H. Simonis’s The Street of Ink. An Intimate History of Journalism (1917) containing the following information:

H. Simonis, The Street of Ink. An Intimate History of Journalism (1917), p. 270.

Who was Miss King? As one mystery was solved, another (still unsolved) presented itself.

Katharine M. Bennett (1864-1951), “Editor” in the 1901 England Census, edited the Lady’s Magazine (London, 1901-37). I came across another version of her name, K. Maud Bennett, while going through a list of magazines on the website of the FictionMags project and concluded they had to belong to one and the same person. The list also enabled me to link Helen Taylor, “Editor of Ladys Magazine” in the same census, to the Lady’s World (London, 1898-1926). In a similar case of serendipity, I identified Jane Preston Taylor, “Editress of Ladies Fashion Journal (Monthly)” in the 1911 England Census, as editor of Needle & Home (London, 1910-?). I found her, by accident, as “Mrs. J. P. Taylor” in a list of British magazines that offered paper patterns in Kevin L. Seligman’s 1996 book Cutting for All! The Sartorial Arts, Related Crafts, and the Commercial Paper Pattern.

Edith Sperling (1852-?), “Authoress & Editor” in the 1901 England Census, is listed in WorldCat as the author of two household manuals published by Lever Brothers Ltd. but not as an editor. A combined Google search of her name and the name of publisher led me to a University of California database of Household Books Published in Britain, which does mention the title of the home management periodical that Sperling edited: the Sunlight Year Book (Port Sunlight, 1895-99), also published by Lever Brothers Ltd.

Kathleen Marion Barrow (1870-1952), “Journalist Lady Editor” in the 1911 England Census, edited the Woman’s Supplement to the Times according to the online Scoop! database, a biographical dictionary of British and Irish journalists. Ethel Mary Goodman, “Editor Monthly Review” in the same census, is listed as editor of the Englishwoman (London, 1909-21) in the same database. The database could be searched for free when I found her there but is now behind a paywall.

Eleanor Wren (1864-?), “Newspaper Editor” in the 1911 England Census, edited the Aldershot News (Aldershot, 1894-?). A Google Books search for her name combined with the keyword “editor” led me to an announcement in the March 1900 issue of the Bookman: “Several changes have occurred on the staff of the Aldershot News in Aldershot. […] Miss Eleanor Wren, who has been on the staff of the News for some years, has been appointed editor.”[1]

Annie Elizabeth Tomlinson (1870-1933), “Editor Woman’s Page + Children’s Monthly” in the 1911 England Census, edited Our Circle (Manchester, 1907-60) and later also Woman’s Outlook (Manchester, 1919-67). She served as editor of the “Women’s Page” of the Co-operative News (Manchester, 1871-). The key here was her maiden name, Bamford. Google searches for “Annie Bamford Tomlinson” immediately linked her to all of these titles.

Maria Mary Fox (1855-1931), “Editress” in the 1911 England Census, edited not one but a whole array of periodicals. Knowing she was the daughter of fashion publisher Christopher Weldon I searched various databases using a variety of name combinations, until I found several references to “Mrs. Weldon Fox” in the FindMyPast newspaper and periodicals database. In July 1898, Weldons Ltd. of London published a series of dividend notices in the St James’s Gazette that offered some information about the company: “The management will be continued in the future on the same lines as hitherto; Mr. C. E. Weldon, founder of the firm, will be one of the Directors, and Mr. E. W. Weldon and his sister Mrs. Weldon Fox, who have from the founding of the business had charge of the editorial work and general management, will continue to take an active interest in the undertaking.”[2] Maria Mary Fox and her brother, in other words, managed the entire editorial department of Weldons Ltd. A non-exhaustive list of titles is included in the dividend notice:

Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal
Weldon’s Journal of Costumes
Weldon’s Illustrated Dressmaker
Weldon’s Bazaar of Children’s Fashions
Weldon’s Home Dressmaker
Weldon’s Practical Needlework
Weldon’s Home Milliner
Weldon’s Fancy Dress
Weldon’s Needlework Books
Weldon’s Shilling Cookery
Weldon’s Invalid Cookery
Weldon’s Guide to Fancy Work
Weldon’s Practical Needlework Volumes

One of the benefits of searching digital databases is that they sometimes yield results in newspapers or magazines you would never even have considered consulting otherwise. “Mrs Weldon Fox” led me to the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald for 14 June 1947, to a meeting report of the local women’s guild . One of the speakers there was a Miss N. Imlach, “Fashion Editor of ‘Weldon’s’ publications,” who gave a “most interesting and entertaining account of her work” in which she also mentioned her predecessor: “Miss Imlach spoke of the origin and growth of ‘Weldon’s’, the founder being Mr. Christopher Edward Weldon, and said the first fashion magazine was issued in 1879, also the first flat paper patterns. Miss Imlach went on to say that the founder’s daughter, Mrs. Weldon Fox, retired only in 1923, and in 1929 Miss Julia Cairns became editor-in-chief.”[3]

Weldon’s “first fashion magazine” was Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal, established in 1875. In an earlier post, I speculated about the identity of its editor and I’m happy to announce that more evidence has surfaced since. Keep an eye on our blog to find out more about the “mysterious” Madame Bayard!

Marianne Van Remoortel, 04/04/2019

[1] “The Journalist,” Bookman (March 1900): 179.
[2] “Whitstable and Tankerton Townswomen’s Afternoon Guild,” Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald (14 June 1947): 8.
[3] Dividend notice, St James’s Gazette (4 July 1898): 2.