Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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Fenston, Esmé (1908 - 1972)

OBE

Born
29 July 1908
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died
16 April 1972
North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation
Editor, Journalist and Print Journalist
Alternative Names
  • Woolacott, Esmé (maiden name)

Summary

Esmé Fenston served for 22 years as editor of the Australian Women's Weekly. She was appointed O.B.E. for services to journalism in 1967.

Details

Esmé Fenston was educated at Sydney Girls' High School before taking a job as a reporter for Triad magazine at the age of 17. From there she began work on the women's pages of the Daily Guardian and Daily Telegraph Pictorial. In 1930, she was married to Jack Fenston, who became circulation manager of the Land newspaper. She was soon editing the women's pages of the Land, and in 1933 joined the staff of the Sydney Mail, becoming social editor.

In 1938, Fenston was seduced by a lucrative offer from the Australian Women's Weekly, switching from the Fairfax to the Packer media empire. She became sub-editor of the magazine, and in 1950, succeeded Alice Jackson as editor. The magazine was already enjoying a circulation of 750,000. Fenston had an excellent feel for its readership, and aimed to reflect public taste rather than lead it. In the 1960s, issues on controversial subjects such as the contraceptive pill and women's knowledge of sex attracted 800,000 readers. Fenston worked very closely with Frank Packer, who admired her judgement. In later years he bought a car and a large home for the Fenstons near the Lane Cove River, closer to the Weekly office, and funded a trip to England.

Esmé Fenston was appointed O.B.E. for services to journalism in 1967. She died in 1972 after 22 successful years as editor of the Australian Women's Weekly.

Sources used to compile this entry: Lawson, Valerie, Fenston, Esmé (Ezzie) (1908 - 1972), Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006. Also available at http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A140159b.htm.

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Edited

Barbara Lemon

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National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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