16 Nov 2016

Jean Wishart remembered as a 'wonderful boss'

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 3:23 pm on 16 November 2016

Jean Wishart, the editor of the New Zealand Woman's Weekly from 1952 to 1985 has died.

Under her editorship the weekly achieved unparalleled circulation and popularity.

In this 1962 photograph, Vic Staines (production), Jean Wishart (editor), Joy Lee (assistant editor) and Michael Wilson (photographer) discuss the design of the 30th-anniversary issue.

In this 1962 photograph, Vic Staines (production), Jean Wishart (editor), Joy Lee (assistant editor) and Michael Wilson (photographer) discuss the design of the 30th-anniversary issue. Photo: Te Ara

Jenny Lynch worked with her and took over the editorship of the magazine in 1987 and remembers her as a “wonderful boss”.

Wishart had a particular vision for the magazine which she felt should move with the times and yet not jolt readers as it changed, she says.  

“One of the first things she did was axe the social pages which she thought were an anachronism.”

Although Miss Wishart to staff on the magazine, she was always Jean to readers, Lynch says.  

“She set out to be a friend to readers, to give them a magazine that informed and entertained and diverted. She always said she wanted to produce a magazine that was 'chock-full of goodies'.”

Gradually celebrity news entered the frame, but royal news was always been a mainstay of the magazine.

“The Royals were an enormous thing for Woman’s Weekly and I have to say she was teased a lot because of this, readers sometimes thought we had a hot line to the palace.”

One of the first celebrities to strike a chord with readers is largely forgotten now, but in the late 70s Farrah Fawcett Majors was a big deal.

“She was a wonderful celebrity for us and we ran a competition a look-a- like Farah Fawcett Majors competition. We had loads and loads of entries. Girls went to the hairdressers and got their hair done and all the rest - and it was wonderful!”

Jenny Lynch says Wishart was a “wonderful boss.”

“She was so poised and beautifully groomed and gracious, she had a lovely speaking voice. She could have been on radio anytime she was a lady-like sort of person and I never saw her lose her cool.”