Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Taylor, Irene Frances (1890–1933)

by Maya V. Tucker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Irene Frances Taylor (1890-1933), journalist and feminist, was born on 17 December 1890 at St Kilda, Melbourne, daughter of Rev. Edward Taylor, Congregational minister, and his wife Alice, née Mumford, both English born. During her childhood the family moved to New Zealand, but returned to Melbourne where she completed her education at Presbyterian Ladies' College.

Frances served her apprenticeship in journalism at Mildura on the Sunraysia, working as secretary to the manager and editor. In 1916 she rode a horse from Mildura to Melbourne in twelve days and kept a brief diary outlining her adventures. Determined to earn her living by writing, she edited the trade journal of the Grocers' Association of Victoria and, in the 1920s, the Gum Tree, the journal of the Forest League in Australia. A woman journalist saw her as a 'slim, boyish figure', with 'vivid blue eyes'. She wore a well-cut, tailor-made suit and felt hat. Her manner was casual, her mode of speech brusque, but she was generous and warm-hearted.

In 1921 she founded the monthly magazine, Woman's World. Her motives were similar to those of Louisa Lawson when founding the Dawn in 1888. Its ideal was to 'provide the intelligent Australian woman with an up-to-date paper dealing with the latest developments in the world of women'. Like Louisa Lawson, Frances Taylor personally solicited advertisements for her first issue which appeared on 1 December. Forty pages long and excellently illustrated, it covered a range of subjects: child-care, housework, fashion, sports, music, social service and interviews with prominent women.

As managing editor, she continued to improve the quality of the magazine's paper, print and layout, and to extend the scope and variety of the topics it covered. Eager to broaden her own horizons, she travelled up the east coast of Australia and visited Papua. By 1926 she had twelve thousand readers. That year Taylor spent six months abroad, attending—as Woman's World delegate—the Empire Conference of Women in London, the Victorian Women's Society for Equal Citizenship and the conference of the International Suffrage Alliance at the Sorbonne in Paris. In London she forged links with the editors of Time and Tide magazine who saw her position of founder, editor and business manager of a magazine as unique. For some years she also made daily radio broadcasts on 3UZ, giving 'morning tea talks' on issues of interest to women. In the Depression she dedicated her magazine and her broadcasts to helping women to economize. She was a member of Melbourne's Lyceum Club and a lively conversationalist at its Press Gang table.

Independent and vital, Frances Taylor had an intense love of the Australian bush. She owned a holiday cottage at Kangaroo Ground, Victoria, where 'clad in breeches and riding boots, soft shirt and slouch hat', she was a 'different being' from the tailored city journalist. She died of cancer on 26 December 1933 in Melbourne and was buried in Kangaroo Ground cemetery. The Argus continued to publish her magazine until its own demise in 1957.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Fraser and N. Palmer (eds), Centenary Gift Book (Melb, 1934)
  • J. M. Gillison, A History of the Lyceum Club (Melb, 1975)
  • M. O. Reid, The Ladies Came to Stay (Melb, 1960)
  • Woman's World, 1 May 1926, 1 Feb 1934
  • Argus (Melbourne), 27 Dec 1933.

Citation details

Maya V. Tucker, 'Taylor, Irene Frances (1890–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-irene-frances-8761/text15353, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014