How did Marion Jean Lyon fit in to the world of Time and Tide? She was not one of the celebrated women writers we associate with the magazine, nor was she a well-known feminist and academic like Professor Winifred Cullis. Yet from 13 August 1926 (notably after Lady Rhondda took over as editor) we find her on the magazine’s board of directors in the company of Winifred Holtby, Rebecca West, Cicely Hamilton, Professor Cullis, Liberal MP Margaret Wintringham and Lady Llewellyn. But well before 1926 Lyon had been in the sights of Margaret Rhondda who hoped to bring her business acumen to bear on the running of the magazine.
Marion Jean Lyon was the formidably successful Advertisement Manager of Punch magazine, a post she held from 1922 until her death in February 1940. Born in Strathaven, Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1885, she trained as a shorthand typist and began her career in Glasgow. By 1906 Lyon was in London, working first for the Remington Company, then for American ad-man Paul E Derrick where her skills must have become apparent. In 1910 she moved to Punch as chief assistant to Roy V Somerville, the magazine’s Canadian-born advertising manager; when poor health left him unable to work it was Lyon who stepped in. Following Somerville’s death in July 1922 Lyon was appointed Punch’s new Advertisement Manager – the first woman executive ever employed by Punch and the first woman advertisement manager of a major publication.
There followed a stellar career which led to Lyon being one of the best-known women in advertising – and, as Advertiser’s Weekly noted, one of the best-liked. We do not read of Lyon in histories of feminism and women’s issues during the interwar years. Nevertheless, she was at the forefront of promoting senior roles for women in business through involvement in bodies such as the Business and University Committee established by the indefatigable Lady Rhondda with Professor Caroline Spurgeon in 1925. This committee of leading women educators, like the heads of Oxbridge and London colleges and top girls’ schools, and prominent businesswomen (including Lyon), hoped to encourage employers to hire women graduates. Lyon was also a member of the Women’s Provisional Club (provisional in its never-achieved aspiration to become a full member of the male-dominated Rotary Club), another Rhondda initiative, serving on its committee between 1925 and 1927.
But Lyon was most influential in the rapidly professionalizing advertising industry where women were making their mark. On 3 September 1923 Lyon was one of nineteen women advertising executives who gathered for a dinner in the luxurious setting of the Hotel Cecil on London’s Strand to discuss the formation of an advertising club for women – a dinner, ironically, hosted by men. John Cheshire, C Harold Vernon and William Crawford were leading ad-men and members of the Thirty Club, who earlier that year had persuaded their American counterparts to attend the International Advertising Convention planned as part of the giant British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924. With 2,000 US delegates expected, they recognised that many women advertising professionals would make the journey across the Atlantic and the organisers would need help hosting them.
The Women’s Advertising Club of London (WACL) was duly founded and Lyon elected its first president. Lyon was to use her position to speak publicly of the role of women in advertising in the press and at industry events. During the Wembley convention WACL hosted a dinner at the Savoy Hotel on 13 July 1924 attended by over 400 professional advertising women. Both Lyon and Lady Rhondda were principal speakers during the dinner and their speeches were reported not only in trade journals, but in mainstream papers like the Daily Telegraph and The Times.
Just over a month after the momentous Hotel Cecil dinner, now in her late 30s, Lyon married the widowed 56-year-old Punch cartoonist Leonard Raven-Hill. Raven-Hill was a man so ardently conservative that even the upper-class proprietor of Punch, Philip Agnew, had once described him as a rabid Tory, and one wonders how Lyon continued to pursue her ground-breaking career. Yet though the management of Punch were concerned Lyon might resign after her marriage, and despite taking on a new persona as Jean Raven-Hill (as those associated with Time and Tide knew her), continue she did, with Raven-Hill frequently accompanying her to industry and Time and Tide events.
The Time and Tide connection brought Lyon new friends – Cicely Hamilton was a particular one. Another was E M Delafield, a contributor, then board member from 1927; in 1933 Delafield dedicated General Impressions, a collection of her Time and Tide writings to Lyon – the year, perhaps not coincidentally, that Delafield began contributing work to Punch.
By Helen Walasek, formerly Curator of the Punch Collection and Archive. She is currently working on a book on personalities involved with Punch in the interwar years.
Clay, Catherine 2018 Time and Tide: The Feminist and Cultural Politics of a Modern Magazine. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Haughton, Philippa 2018 “Fashioning Professional Identity in the British Advertising Industry: The Women’s Advertising Club of London, 1923–1939” in Fashioning Professionals Identity and Representation at Work in the Creative Industries (eds Leah Armstrong and Felice McDowell). London and New York: Bloomsbury, 95–114.