FEMININE GRACE & SUBSTANCE
Seven decades after Kandathil Varghese Mappilai opened a residential school for girls in 1904, Manorama created another unique world for women.
It launched "Vanitha", a magazine exclusively for women, in 1975, the International Year of Women.
Women grabbed it with both hands, The magazine mixed tradition with modernity.
The opening page had an invocation to the goddess of music by the poet G. Sankara Kurup, the first Jnanpith award winner
Several articles grooming and etiquette, fashion and cinema, sports and fitness followed.
For the more cerebral, it spread out an interview with the new woman chief minister of Goa, featured double-income families, and even found someone brave enough to write ' Why I remained a spinster!'
A doctor wrote an article dispelling doubts about contraception, another advised pregnant mothers, and yet another article dealt with child rearing.
Several pages were devoted to embroidery, fish, culture, gardening and working from home. A piece on women's liberation was accompanied by a column on the male perspective.
The chief editor, Mrs. K M Mathew, was a well-known cookbook writer who had travelled the world and admired the independence women enjoyed in the west.
Mrs. K M Mathew (1922-2003) used Vanitha to foster family values, motivated working women to go places, encourage their talents and enhance respect for womanhood.
Vanitha began as a monthly, turned fortnightly in 1987 and became the best-selling women's magazine in India. It foaled a Hindi edition in 1997.
If Malayali women have broken through gender barriers and glass ceillings, a bit of the credit goes to Vanitha.