My Thesis: Abstract
Grace and The Townships Housewife, two black women’s magazines published in South Africa between 1964 and 1969, have slipped into obscurity. This thesis aims to write them back into the history of the black press, black journalism and literature in South Africa. The study is significant in that no research has as yet been conducted on these two magazines.
The first chapter excavates Grace and The Townships Housewife from obscurity by providing information on the magazines’ publication, staff, editors, content, target audience and writers. A salient characteristic of both magazines’ content that the study discusses is the ambiguous attitude of readers and writers towards modernity and tradition (and the negotiation of new identities) as they move from the country to the city. Some readers’ embrace and others’ rejection of early signs of feminism and womanism in the magazines also display this ambiguous attitude. The chapter foregrounds the various ambiguities and often colliding voices that infuse much of the magazines’ content. The absence of explicit reference to apartheid in Grace’s and The Townships Housewife’s content provides another focal point of this chapter and is discussed in relation to the concepts of ‘minstrelsy’ and ‘mimicry’.
Considering specifically the position of the black woman in apartheid South Africa, the second chapter compares the representation of white women in South African white women’s magazines Die Huisgenoot, Sarie Marais and Fair Lady to the way in which black women are represented in Grace and The Townships Housewife in the 1960s. The role of the latter two magazines in positively representing black women during apartheid South Africa, and thus standing in direct opposition to the identities ascribed to black people in colonial and apartheid ideology, is a primary focus of this chapter.
The representation of black women in the 1960s is elaborated on in the next chapter which explores the shift in the representation of black women from Drum magazine (during its heyday in the 1950s), with its predominantly male staff, to the representation of black women in Grace and The Townships Housewife (in the 1960s), with their predominantly female staff. I hypothesise on the possible agencies at work within this shift in women’s representation.
Despite the magazines’ adherence at times to white standards of beauty (an aspect which the thesis engages with throughout), the ‘creation’ of black women within the pages of Grace and The Townships Housewife (as the previous two chapters articulate), often resonates with Black Consciousness’s philosophy of black pride. This last chapter explores the possible connection between Grace and The Townships Housewife, on the one hand, and the early beginnings of an emergent black consciousness in South Africa in the late 1960s, on the other hand. It also discusses the sexism associated with black consciousness philosophy in relation to these two magazines, but the focus falls on how black female readers of Grace and The Townships Housewife negotiate imposed ‘female identities’ (for example, mother, housewife and supporter) towards greater agency.