The Ladies’ Monthly Museum


Ah, the Magazines section of a bookstore is a beautiful, wonderful place. Beautiful in the sense that you can read about wolves in National Geographic, then hop over to HOW Magazine for a tutorial in current typographical trends. There are pretty clothes, muscle cars, floral arrangements, and heated political debate all in one place.

In a perfect world, I would be the proud possessor of a gagillion magazine subscriptions. I would have my own bookstore Magazine section in the comfort of my home. But, this is not a perfect world. I am on a very tight budget and have a fear of being featured on that depressing Hoarders show on A&E, so only a handful of subscriptions is feasible.

Today, as I was debating which publications to subscribe to, I came across a delightful intersection of magazines and museums. Bearing the lengthy, but ambitious, title of The Ladies’ Monthly Museum, Or, Polite Repository of Amusement and Instruction, I had to know more.

Turns out, The Ladies’ Monthly Museum was a leading women’s periodical published between 1798 and 1832. During its tenure, the New York Stock Exchange was founded, the Reign of Terror started and ended, the Louisiana Purchase was purchased, the slave trade was abolished in Britain, and Napoleon rose and fell from power. In other words, it was a busy time and an important time in world history.

While I don’t know if The Ladies’ Monthly Museum dove into these domestic and international events with any depth, I do know that they were making history in their own small way. The Monthly Museum was the first women’s periodical to feature colored engravings, which appeared in their “Cabinet of Fashion” section (the name was drawn from the term “Cabinet of Curiosities” that was the popular phrase for museum collections of the age). In addition to fashion, the magazine also published short stories and poems by female authors, profiled celebrated British women of the day, featured articles on such topics like the founding of the Bluestocking Society, and provided entertaining and educational tidbits to turn avid readers into exceptional conversationalists.

Unfortunately, in spite of over three decades of successful publication, The Ladies’ Monthly Museum underwent a series of mergers with other periodicals before eventually disappearing altogether. Nevertheless, 178 years after its final issue, the magazine still resonates in the fields of publishing and women’s studies. It even has connections to the museum world, I mean, at the end of the day what museum is not a Repository for Amusement and Instruction?

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