The Gendered Subjects group were excited by a visit to Feminist Archive North in Leeds recently: http://www.feministarchivenorth.org.uk/north.htm The Archive holds a fantastic collection of feminist material, including a wealth of periodicals, magazines, pamphlets and newsletters, personal and institutional collections, oral histories and dissertations. We went to explore the magazines and pamphlets as we are in the formative stages of a project based around second-wave publications. This Archive will be a brilliant resource for us. As well as the famous and influential magazines, such as Spare Rib, it was fantastic to look through several issues of Catcall: A Feminist Discussion Paper, started by Catcall Collective in London in 1976 and Anarcha-Feminist Newsletter, which was first published in 1977. Both of these publications were clearly produced ‘on-a shoe-string’ budget; their typewritten pages oozed a sense of urgency and vitality of their debates. We also looked at some editions of Banshee, the Irish Journal of Women United, which gave a remarkable insight into the particular problems faced by Irish women. For some information on Banshee and online copies see http://dublinopinion.com/2010/09/29/banshee-journal-of-irish-women-united-looking-left-dctv/
We ended up having quite a discussion about the topics of debate in these publications from the 1970s and how they are so familiar to us today: reproductive rights; equal pay; violence against women; women’s spaces; representation in the media. This archive of feminist history serves as a reminder thus not only of what has been gained but also as a reminder of the history of an ongoing fight, of those entrenched issues that still need to be fought for.
However, a feminist archive seems always to be a fragile thing. The collection of the Women’s Library in London serves as a very prominent, topical reminder of this: http://savethewomenslibrary.blogspot.co.uk/ That collection is in the process of being reduced as the Library faces a move from its purpose-built building to become part of a larger library at LSE. Feminist Archive North has its physical home as part of the Special Collections at the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. The Archive, though, is run entirely by dedicated VOLUNTEERS and is financed mostly by charitable donations. Do check out and support this valuable resource if you can.