Monday, April 5, 2010

Penny Martin--Gentlewoman

Well, I have not seen this new publication, The Gentlewoman, coming out of England via a Dutch company. But I trust is will fulfill what it's editor wants it to do--a magazine that will show that women are interested in much more than just handbags.

I think Penny is a might hard on some of the current women's titles. They are interested in food, hair, beauty, home, and a variety of such topics. However, I think she hits the nail on the head with this observation:

Even in the 18th and 19th centuries, women were writing about travel and education and philosophy, and that's somehow disappeared. We have the opportunity to do these things...

Victoria magazine in my tenure did these things...but maybe not in the way Penny would do them. I often felt that there were canons to the right and left of us as we featured the beauty and dignity of women in all fields. If my memory serves me right, we even toyed with the idea of "Gentlewoman" as a title. But when we would use such a word...or heaven forbid, "lady like"...the earth shook. We were taking women back 50 years! I never thought so--I always thought it was taking women ahead to be as complete as they could be. One writer characterized Victoria as a needlepoint magazine. I was never against that beautiful art, but at the time, I don't think we'd ever done a story on it. But on women who were doing every art imaginable in new and creative ways, you bet.

Penny wants women to come away from The Gentlewoman saying that the women featured are great. That was always our goal--no matter what theater she chose to play in. Hurray for Penny beginning with her convictions. Penny is committed to redefining the term "gentlewoman" for the 21st century. However, I think she'll find that women of any time who are totally engaged in life are gentlewomen for all ages. Jane Austen, anyone? Ok, choir, sing if you like!


  1. Do you know, sometimes I'm a bit scattered. Why am I called "blonde"?! (My hair is brown!) The connotation is that I have nothing in my head. Actually, I am thinking and learning and growing too much, and get distracted from organizational things. When I feel that someone's attitude towards me is tending towards this direspectful and belittling way, I jokingly say, "oh, sometimes I am such an ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR!" It's been interesting to see how this alters others words and actions towards me.

    Why cannot I be kind and sweet, have a mother's heart, love to nest at home AND have valid, intelligent and rational things to contribute to the different spheres that I am in? Truthfully, for many of us, at the end of the original victoria's years, we got tired of only hearing about the amazing genius and successful women who were public figures. It felt like the quiet servants were forgotten and despised. I truly appreciate the women's libbers who have fought against the oppression and repression of women. I know that I do not realize how much I owe to them. At the same time, it's just the same pressure for when other women tell me what I MUST be and what I shouldn't be. It may have different names to it but it's the same thing. What I want is appreciation, respect, freedom and encouragement to be who and what I want to be - even if that means being a "stay at home Mom".

    Well, that's me on my soapbox!

  2. Nancy, I appreciate your take on this new magazine. I had to go and Google Penny Martin after checking out the link you provided. I am glad someone is interested in catering to the non-airbrushed women out here reading these periodicals. Don't know if this one will be my taste, but I really respect and admire her philosophy.

    As the gatekeeper for my home, (KatyNoelle) I want to make sure that what I bring in is in keeping with what our family values. If it is literature, I want it to be filled with stimulating subjects, truth, beauty, charm, grace ...and also be a delight for the senses. In the original Victoria days, I could be sure that would be the case. There are few (if any?) periodicals today that would meet that standard.

    Nancy and KatyNoelle, another thing my grandmother cemented for me was that I could be a stay-home-mom WHILE contributing intelligent, rational, valid things in all my spheres of influence. I am no superwoman, but I will continue to learn and grow and will share wherever I feel I can make a positive contribution whether at home, in my community, or even on the vast world wide web.


  3. Sometimes, I'll go into a shop or a restaurant and scan the crowd, just looking to see if I see any of my "tribe" there...if so, I know I'll be comfortable there. Victoria was my "tribe" with silver bells on and its hair in a bewilderingly beautifully done braid. Women are complex, marvelous creatures--and so often, pundits try to parse their love of beauty in all its forms and their complicated intellect--why? It's the old argument of Apollo vs. Dionysus...the mind vs. the body.

    We know there doesn't have to be such a split. I can love needlework and international politics, Jane Austen and Isaac Asimov (did you know he's the only author to have a book in EVERY catagory of the Dewey Decimal system??). Victoria was the ONLY magazine that spoke to all my interests--fashion, beauty, art, literature, nature, history, theater, dinner parties, holidays, children's pursuits, books, music, furnishings, homemaking, photography, family, antiques, cooking, historical homes....the list continues. And yes, I was a full time mother and homemaker during Victoria's heyday. Now, I have 2 degrees in literature, work as a food writer and spend my spare time doing theater work and attending Jane Austen book club meetings (and becoming a board member for the North American Friends of Chawton--a place I first visited through the pages of....of course...Victoria!). So, my love affair with the pages of this magazine continues...but only with the original version, note.

    What I love so much about the classic Victoria is that it didn't limit itself to the standard "women's issues" provided a wide, wonderful world that teemed with beauty of every kind.

    Alleluia! Consider yourself heralded in a chorus, Nancy. The choir is on its feet!

    Love in a gentlewomanly way, Karen Marline

  4. Although I do respect everyone's opinions, I am confused by Katy Noelle's soap box speach. Why is everyone so afraid of being called a lady or a gentlewoman? If you are secure in your own skin you can be smart, well read, kind, gentle, etc. I must say that Victoria magazine always, always gave me inspiration and never once made me feel any way except empowered as a woman, beautiful, gentle, and wonderful. The scope of the magazine was so well adjusted. It was a wonderful change from all the other magazines out there and I take offense at someone calling it a "needlepoint" magazine. And what is so wrong with the art of needle work? I don't understand. Why are women so afraid that being called a woman is going to take away from their personalities? This is 2010 not 1950. Please re-read some of those wonderful back issues of Victoria again. Quiet servants forgotten and despised. I think not!

  5. All of us have our "sore" spots...heaven knows I have had mine--and still bristle at things when I know it's darn right foolish to do so. I've been lucky to always have a hand held out to boost my spirits up. And that's what several of the comments here do for those of us with what my grandmother used to call--"a sensitive nature." Sometimes it works in our favor because we get brought a lovely cup of tea and a biscuit.

    I recall Michael Korda in an interview once being somewhat whimsical when he said he didn't want anyone to find a cure for the common cold. He very much liked people bringing him cups of hot tea. The British have a wonderful saying--well, I think it must be as I heard in a Noel Coward song--"up at the corners." I think this was WWII--and things were pretty dreary. And then again, I, too, appreciate a little tough love (Connie are you reading?) when I feel sorry for myself. I love the idea that VICTORIA magazine can cure ills! If that be so, I take my hat off to the "true believers." What I think it comes down to is that we all find our way out of the "down" times in whatever productive way we can.

    And--regarding Penny Martin--I got a wonderful email from her in response to my cheering her on in her new endeavor. She's going to be just fine. True, her way may not be yours, but
    it's coming from that right spot in her heart and mind. Keep your eye on The Gentlewoman and maybe we will get one on this side of the pond. For one thing, Penny has lovely manners--and we all applaud that. nl

  6. Well, this is interesting. When I was writing my first comment, I got a call from my lovely mother in law to come next door for dinner. I was going to publish my first well written and double checked, thoroughly thought through words but somehow ERASED it instead. Eek! I, then, quickly retyped the general gist and ran off to dinner. That evening, I realized that I had probably misspoke and thought that I should come and fix it and then completely forgot all about it, until now.

    Well, the most major clarification of my comment is that I absolutely love all of the issues of the "old" Victoria both under your leadership, Nancy, and under Peggy Kennedy's. The writing just kept getting better and better and absolutely everything was interesting and expanding. I, especially, appreciated the high level, uniqueness and quality of what was shared. Indeed, I still reread and reread them - often with my husband who enjoys them as well!

    Now, after looking forward to reading the comments but finding my name there I can't quite remember what else I was going to say. I, however, should clarify that I DO love who I am and I think that the term "Gentlewoman" is beautiful - something to think about and want to be. I, also, think that it's a wonderful compliment to be called "lady like". I can just relate to what you said about having canons pointed at you from both sides. I'm not sure, but, think that I was misunderstood or miscommunicated in there somewhere.

    I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments and this post and am looking forward to hearing more perspectives and thoughts. I mentioned "my soapbox" flippantly because, as I glanced up, I thought that my comments looked a bit heavy. I think that I am truly touchy, though, because I HAVE been put down from both sides and have had to really stick to my own guns and just be me. Happily, though, in the process of going bravely on, one always rethinks things through, finds out what is really important, hones the issue and grows stronger for weathering the storm. Who's happier? The one who is encouraged and sheltered or the one who keeps going through opposition? Both, perhaps?! = ) Actually, I think that pretty much all of us know both experiences. Well, I appreciate the chance to think and consider.

    Love, Katy Noelle

  7. Some people love a parade--me included--but I especially enjoy a good rousing discussion. And what better one than taking up the flag for who we are and what we believe. Yesterday, I did an interview on Cosmo radio for MY FIRST BEST FRIEND. The women there, as smart as they were nice and welcoming, were looking at women's relationships with each other that were not as positive as many in the book. And a good thing to focus on, surely. But as we discussed, the fears and the negatives get covered way more than the positives. Not every moment or work in MFBF is sweetness and light--but I like to think the text is life-affirming in the final analysis.

    As Anna says in her story, when you weather ill winds in your relationship, you learn that there are such currents in your life you will have to contend with. The host of the show, Taylor, mentioned a friend calling her "a loser." Well, she's the host of a radio show in New York, and that sad comment didn't turn out to be true, but it was something she had to deal with, cry over perhaps, and then move on to be the successful person she's become. She was confident, open-minded, and gracious in her way. I know a lot from looking into eyes--and those were all the attributes I found there.

    I asked for the choir to sing--and I got the songs of life. Thank you one and all.

  8. Dear Nancy,

    I hope you don't mind me "pen-palling" back again. This makes me laugh. In 6th grade, the choir teacher said to my parents that I absolutely could not sing and shouldn't even try. He said this to my parents IN FRONT OF ME! I, now, have a bachelor's degree in music performance. I am a lyric/coloratura soprano! I can't remember what my response was exactly. I think that I was hurt but, THEN, I think, I was determined to show him. You see, I loved to sing.

    On another note (ha ha!) I have learned that to have a good friend, you have to weather the moment that you both realize and despise each other's humanness. Those are the friends that are true. The ones you don't doubt. The ones that you know will stick with you and love you no matter what. The friends who know what love and grace are all about.

    Suddenly, I've just remembered a wonderful saying that was on a magnet that was on my refrigerator for years.

    "A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until you get her in hot water."

    Okay! Have you guys all heard that one?

    Love, Katy Noelle

  9. Hello all!- Katy, I really appreciate the way you write what you believe, so honestly. I also never have heard the saying you wrote above about "A woman is like a Tea bag"...I think that is perfect for me to embroider on a Tea Towel one day!-- this whole thread brings to mind another saying I have taped to my office cupboard door.- It says:-

    "I've learned that people will forget what you said, forget what you did.,- but people will never forget how you made them feel."{Author Unknown}.

    Isn't that just so true? I love the way you write too Nancy, so honest and sincere.It relaxes me. Thanks,--Love, Valery

  10. I love the give and take of these conversations. I found your information about the magazine, "The Gentlewoman" interesting. I would love to see a copy to see how women from Europe might view their strengths.

    I just don't feel there would be any way her magazine could compare to your Victoria. I was amazed that anyone could see Victoria as a "needlepoint" publication. They obviously didn't really read Victoria nor try to see the real depth of each issue.

    My "first best friend" likes to remind me about the time we had some girls over for a sleepover and I pulled out a wonderful vintage copy of English poetry my Dad had given me. Of course, they weren't interested nor near as thrilled as I was. It didn't hurt my feelings because I knew even then that my interests were perhaps different from other 16 year olds.

    It was when I found Victoria that I felt I had found kindred spirits. Nancy, every issue made me wish I could just crawl into the pages. Victoria brought voices from women who knew how to be strong, but gentle, elegant, but with grace, and intelligent, and not afraid to step out in their creativity. I guess I just felt I had finally come home. I came away from each issue with a new certainty of exactly who I was; plus I liked what I valued most in my life.

    I love both of the two above quotes and agree. Love, Jean

  11. Oh, Jean, I know just what you mean about wanting to crawl into the pages--it was a coming home for me, too, then a young mother of 2 darling girls and one chubby little boy. When I found Victoria, I wept for joy. Finally, a magazine that respected ALL of my interests and honored them, gloried in them! Thanks for sharing those thoughts with us. I thought I was the only one memorizing Sir Philip Sydney back in my teens! So nice to meet this growing community of women here at Nancy's tea party!
    That reminds me, Nancy, any tea thoughts for this windy April day? I've been enjoying Harney & Sons Organic Green these days...lovely citrus notes that tease the nose as you drink....

    Love, Karen Marline

  12. I adore Victoria magazine & finally have the entire collection of all of them- from the Nancy years through the Peggy years and also enjoy the new Victoria. The Victoria Regina {Nancy's years are my absolute favorite}- but I find good things in all of them-. Also all of the books by "The Edtors of Victoria" and any others the same authors wrote without the Victoria logo on them are all wonderful reading.

    For me in the past few months I have taken a special interest in reading all I can find about the "Queen victoria", herself as the Movie
    "The Young Victoria"was so beautiful and spurred my interest in learning about this intersting womans life,-lol from her clothing to her artful, gentle ways,I am even interested in the China she used etc...I truly admire this marveous Woman in every way!

    I have often dreamed of being the Queen for just a day--but I found a book that is really a good one, that you all might enjoy also-- it is called "Queen of Your Own Life", by Kathy Kinney & Cindy Ratzlaff. I will attatch a link for it here-- just wanted to share about this in my favorite Tearoom here!

    Hope this link works-- it really sounds like another good book for us Women or Gentlewomen and lady-like women to read. Love,Valery