WARNECKE, GLEN WILLIAM (‘GEORGE’) (1894–1981)
George Warnecke helped conceive the Australian Women’s Weekly, and was its first editor from June 1933. He wanted a magazine that took women seriously, but also kept them upto-date with domestic and popular culture.
When Warnecke dreamed up his concept for the Weekly, he was editing Associated Newspaper Ltd’s Sunday Guardian. His career had begun in Sydney on the Evening News and Woman’s Budget before he left to serve in the AIF. In the 1920s, he had moved from the Evening News and the Daily Mail to Smith’s Weekly (whose cable service he started in London) and the Daily Guardian.
Lacking the funds to start the Australian Women’s Weekly himself, Warnecke approached 488 weather and natural disasters reporting (Sir) Frank Packer, son of newspaper proprietor R.C. Packer, and Frank’s partner, the former Labor premier of Queensland, E.G. (Ted) Theodore. Warnecke believed his left-wing politics and his closeness to R.C. Packer contributed to Frank never giving George an equal share in the parent company, Consolidated Press Ltd.
Under Warnecke, the Weekly ran stories on women’s unequal representation in parliament, and hired feminist Jessie Street’s associate, Linda Littlejohn, as a major feature writer in the early months. Progressive stories appeared alongside other pieces on fashion, food and royalty.
As an employee, Warnecke was quickly rendered powerless to influence the direction of the Weekly. After 18 months, Frank Packer changed it from a progressive news, domestic and fashion magazine to one less focused on politics and more interested in Hollywood, in pursuit of a global agenda.
Warnecke was moved sideways to also oversee the editorship of the Daily Telegraph. Even as chief executive of both publications, he felt compromised. In 1939, he left Australia with his Irish-born wife.
Over the next two decades, Warnecke worked as a consultant to the Herald and Weekly Times, for the US Office of War Information and Newspaper News, and set up his own business publishing comics and Family Circle. He retired to Dublin in 1957, concentrating on book-length projects.
But Warnecke’s passion remained the Australian Women’s Weekly. His unpublished memoir, ‘Miracle Magazine’, shows that towards the end of his life he increasingly became disillusioned by what he saw as Sir Frank’s broken promises.
REF: G.W. Warnecke Papers (SLNSW).
CHRIS LAWE DAVIES