The Lady Magazine part 1 (The history of the magazine)

Thomas Gibson Bowles (1841-1922) was born an illegitimate son of Thomas Milner Gibson and a servant girl. Thomas Gibson actually raised his son with his wife, and Thomas Bowles was privately educated in England and France. Thomas' mother (the servant girl) was also provided for, with a small house and income.

Thomas Bowles finished boarding school in 1859, and went to university. He quit after a year, and was given an annual allowance (£90) from his father. He got a job in Somerset House. After a few years he started contributing to a theatrical paper The Glow Worm, which had been founded by his half sister.

In 1865, at the age of 24, Thomas' step mother introduced him to the editor of The Morning Post (to become The Daily Telegraph). A year later Thomas set up his own pubication, Tomohawk, a satirical journal.

It was in 1868 that a friend loaned Thomas £100 to start Vanity Fair. Thomas wrote most of the material himself (with a variety of aliases), although Lewis Carroll and William Wilde (Oscar's brother) contributed in later editions.

Thomas married Jessica in 1875, and Jessica may very well have encouraged him to start The Lady. Thomas' vision for The Lady was to create a paper for women of ''greater practical usefulness and having a rather lighter literary touch that that of its predecessor...another Vanity Fair, in fact, suitably modified for women readers.''

The first issue came out on 19 February 1885, and was quite highly priced at sixpence. It only sold 2,361 copies. Sadly the magazine continued to struggle, and two years later Jessica died in 1887.

However, Thomas' children's governess Rita Shell took over as editor (as well as becoming his mistress!) in 1894 and the magazine started to look up. Rita remained editor until 1925 (31 years!).

The Lady survived The Great Depression, both World Wars and three recessions. In  the early 1930s George Bowles (Thomas' son) moved his family into the flat above the offices of The Lady on Bedford Street (where it remains to this day) to try and tighten their belts. George ran the magazine throughout World War II and it remained remarkably profitable.

Fast forward to 1959, and the magazine is still run by the Bowles family. It was now in the hands of Tom Bowles (the grandson of founder Thomas Gibson Bowles), where it remained until 2008, when Tom handed it over to his nephew Ben Budworth. Ben believed passionately that The Lady could still be relevant for today's lady, and he started the huge changes that have now occured at The Lady.

In 2009 Rachel Johnson was hired as the magazines ninth editor (only nine since 1885!), and they celebrated The Lady's 125th anniversary in Feb 2010.


I visited The Lady magazine archives - dusty but awesome.