Laurie Purden Obituary | Magazines


My friend and former boss Laurie Purden, who died at the age of 93, was the doyenne of the women’s magazine industry in the second half of the 20th century. She started as a secretary at a publishing house and went on to become editor of Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Journal and Woman & Home. Her goal over her long career was to delight readers and expand their world – and her work earned her an MBE for services to women’s journalism.

Laurie was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, to George Purden, a stationery salesman, and Constance (née Sheppard). Her mother was an artist whose sketches for fashion houses showed styles and trends (long before color photography was used in publishing) and decorated the cases of popular paper patterns designed for home seamstresses.

Laurie attended Harecroft School in Tunbridge Wells and entered publishing in her mid-teens, newly graduating in shorthand and typing. She started with publisher George Newnes, as a junior secretary in the London office of Woman’s Own editor James Drawbell. Her rise was rapid: she became editor of the paperback magazine Home Notes and worked on the teen magazine Girl before being appointed deputy editor of Woman’s Own, which, like its rival Woman, had a circulation several million weekly.

In 1957 she married Keith Kotch, who worked at Hulton Press, then run by Marcus Morris (creator of the Eagle boys’ comic strip). He inspired Laurie to join the business to edit the glossy monthly Housewife, a direct rival to Hearst’s Good Housekeeping, and she broke new ground by employing specialists such as Constance Spry (flower arrangement) and Rosemary Hume (cordon bleu kitchen) to provide innovative ideas and opinions.

Morris was appointed managing director of National Magazines in 1965, and Laurie accompanied him to Good Housekeeping. While she was editor-in-chief there, she made a big deal of the Institute, a subsidiary of the magazine, which tested products for the benefit of readers. Good Housekeeping’s circulation then skyrocketed.

In 1974, Laurie hired me as editor of Womancraft, the first craft magazine for women. In 1977 it was sold to IPC, publisher of Woman’s Journal and Woman & Home, and a year later Laurie became its editor. She retired in 1988.

Laurie had an innate instinct for what her readers liked to see and read, confirmed by the enthusiastic reception of the Woman’s Journal annual fashion shows at the Savoy Hotel. Everyone who has worked with or for her remembers her elegant charm and wonderful laugh.

Keith died in 1979. He is survived by his daughters, Emma and Sophie, as are his stepson, Nick, and grandchildren, Macy, Ned and Betsy.


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