A historical analysis of food writing in women’s magazines: reflections on family life

A piece of art using news cutting about food to make an overall

Principal Investigator:

Margo Barker (Centre for Human Nutrition)


Graham Smith (ScHARR); Peter Jackson (Geography)


Joseph Burridge

Aims and objectives:

The aim of this study is to explore media representation of women and food from the 1960s to beginning of the 21st Century. Its specific objectives are to:

  • Explore secular changes in family structures and ideologies and women’s roles through a historical analysis of food writing (food provision, cooking practices and content of family meals) in women’s magazines
  • Document the effects of changing family structure and women’s roles on dietary practice and nutrient intake

Research questions:

  • Are there secular trends in how women and food are represented in the media?
  • Do these resonate with socio-cultural change in the family context?
  • Do secular trends in food writing potentially impact on meal composition and nutrient intake?

Research design:

This is a time-series study of the content of the food writing in women´s magazines from 1960 to 2005. Two popular women´s magazines `Woman and Home´ and `Woman´s Own´ have been chosen for analysis. These particular magazines have been chosen because of their high circulation rates (current and historical), readership demographics (see table below) and their accessibility in the British Library Archives. Woman´s Own is published weekly, while Woman &Home is published monthly. Current circulation figures for Woman´s Own are 424,292 and for Woman &Home 327,554. Back copies of Woman´s Own and Woman& Home are available from 1926 and 1932, respectively.