Roles of Magazine and Women Before Independence

In the earlier post, I have mentioned a little bit about pin up girls,a series of western magazine covers which touches the topic of women’s liberation. They portray a lot of sexy appearance and free mindset of western women from illustrated version to photography based magazine. Magazine becomes one of their tool to communicate ideas and create sense of community. From that direction, I made further research and I found out there were magazines that discussed a lot about the transformation of  female in Malaysia which also involve ideas of liberation, emancipation and nationalism.

Before Malaysia Independence, magazines related to the idea of femininity and roles of female were playing the significant roles in history of Malaysia. They provide a platform for females to exchange ideas and discuss about the society issues  while the country was experiencing revolutionary changes from the colonialism influence and process of getting freedom.

Bulan Melayu by the Malay Women Teachers Association of Johor is established during the British colonial era and known as the first female magazine in Malaya . This magazine was mainly about the highly educated female teachers in gaining freedom and changing the common stereotype that women were only qualified to stay at home. They want to prove their determination, capability and efforts in achieving success. During 1938, this magazine shown how Malay teachers in raising up the illiterate issue among daughters due to the narrow minded of the Malay parents who afraid the lost of Malay identity once they were influenced by the western culture, as well as the importance of education among the malay women. Malay women were motivated to begin small business with the skills they have such as cooking, sewing and making accessories as they might have the potential to sell their products in a wider market if they work well. From this perspective, magazine here became the tool in educating malay women to have faith in themselves and try their best in maintaining their status in the society with certain contribution.  Forming of islamic modernist society achieve the goal of Bulan Melayu which was to “assist fellow women, whether those working at home or those working outside, such school teachers” and to bring “enlightenment to the Malay world.” (Anon, 2015)

bulan melayu

Illustration above shows the magazine cover screenshot from a well known Malaysia website “Sejarah Wanita”.(, 2015)

Through the illustration above, you may see women engaged themselves in various type of careers.Those educated malay women teachers were The illustration shows that they are really capable and their existences played important roles in society because they involved not only in household work such as cooking and sewing but they also draw, write and type as well. Furthermore, you could observe that they were wearing the same traditional Malay costumes, signify their love toward their identity and culture did not change though they accepted british’s education.


image above shows Mujallah Guru, 1957

Furthermore, there was non-women magazines that voiced out idea of femininity and roles of women too. For example, Mujallah Guru that published in 1924 by Malay Teachers Association is the first magazine that allocated a special column for women writers, entitle”Bahagian Perempuan”. These female teachers were given opportunities to share their traditional Malay ideas on femininity and roles of women as wives and mothers. Consciousness about issues related child marriage, abusive act and violence against women as well as education opportunities among daughters were raised through this magazine. (, 2015)


image above shows Fajar Asia, 1943

During Japanese colonialism, mass communication mediums such as newspaper and magazines have been used as propaganda tools. Involvement of japanese culture could be seen through Japanese sponsored magazines such as Fajar Asia and Semangat Asia that both published in 1943.  In these magazine, women’s section were provided to implement idea of adopting japanese women’s culture and putting them as role model in Malay female society. This was to encourage Malay women to love and ready to sacrifice for the society just like the . attitude of japanese women in dealing with their husband’s household, raising and educating children as well as working in the industry (, 2015)

In conclusion, we could see that magazines before independence were mostly used to express the mindset of femininity and roles of women in society.This is important as it represent the starting point of how female magazines developed and become a significant trend mark in society later.

Annotated Bibliography

Anon, (2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2015]., (2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Sejarah Wanita » Women’s Magazines in Malaysia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Jun. 2015].

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