Alice Jackson

Alice Mabel Jackson (1887-1974), journalist, was born on 15 October 1887 at Ulmarra, New South Wales, one of eight children of Clara Amelia (born Baker) and William Archibald, school-teacher. She trained as a teacher and taught in New Zealand and Western Australia before marrying Samuel Henry Jackson, a teacher and AIF captain, who fought at Gallipoli. He retrained after the war as an accountant and ran a music shop. A son and a daughter were born to the marriage.

Alice wrote for the Bulletin, and Triad. She was on the staff of the Sydney Sunday Times and went from there to the Daily Guardian to introduce 'The Shopping Bureau'. She moved to Smith's Weekly and then joined the Telegraph as editor of its women's page.

With a reputation as a writer of feature articles and short stories, she joined the Australian Women's Weekly in 1933, shortly after it commenced. Although not officially editor until 1939 Mrs Jackson was effective editor from the end of 1934 when George Warnecke left on an extended overseas trip. It was she who developed the very successful mix of service features, fiction and news which was the basis of the Weekly's outstanding success. In addition to its regular pages on food, furnishing, fashion, films, facial care, gardening, music, books and the care of children, and generous quantities of fiction, the Weekly featured distinguished women, and reported widely what women were doing. It also covered women's sports.

It was satirical and humorous, but also socially aware and especially of discriminatory treatment of women. It commented critically on the refusal of the Chief Protector of Aborigines (Northern Territory) to permit an Aboriginal woman to marry the man of her choice. Problems facing women in employment were investigated. In a great many articles, marriage was treated as problematic. The Weekly quickly went national. Mrs Jackson built up the Australian content, in both news and fiction and the readership grew to be the largest of any Australian publication, and impressive by world standards.

The Weekly survived the wartime paper shortages. Lt Col Samuel Jackson served in the 2nd AIF in security and as honorary ADC to the Governor- General, the Duke of Gloucester. The Weekly adapted its presentation of women to wartime conditions, so glamour and war work were combined, and Australian women were shown supporting their fighting men. Mrs Jackson, in war correspondent uniform, toured army camps, including operational areas in New Guinea; she attended the San Francisco conference and inspected devastated Germany. The postwar Weekly placed rather more emphasis on glamour - femininity in fashion, elegance in the home - but the tone was largely unchanged. It advised the textile industry, which was experiencing labour shortages, that the remedy lay in equal pay. In mid 1946 its distribution reached 700,000.

Her husband joined the Department of External Affairs and in 1947 served as counsellor to the Australian Mission in Japan, before retiring ill in 1950. In July 1950 Mrs Jackson, who had been experiencing increasing interference from the Weekly's proprietor, left to start Woman's Day and Home for Sir Keith Murdoch, but the mix with which she had been so successful with the Weekly proved less immediately successful with its Melbourne-based rival. Announcing that she left for private reasons, she resigned in 1951, returning to Sydney. Having long given her age as several years younger than it was, her departure had the appearance of failure. She later did promotions for a fashionable Sydney restaurant. One of Australia's greatest magazine editors, she died on 28 October 1974 largely forgotten.

Heather Radi

Denis O'Brien The Weekly 1982.