What are Women’s Movement Magazines?

Women’s Movement magazines are the magazines produced by women who campaigned for equality during the 1970s and 1980s.

We are looking at a range of magazines, from the early issues of Shrew (1969-78), to magazines such as Red Rag (1972-80), Spare Rib (1972-93), Scarlet Women (1972-82), Outwrite (1982-88), Mukti (1983-87) and Shocking Pink (1981-92). Many of these magazines were produced by collectives, they were often typewritten and sometimes handwritten, reproduced using gestetners (a duplicating machine), photocopiers or in some cases, such as Spare Rib, they were sent to the printers (for a detailed discussion of the design process at Spare Rib see this article).

Compared to magazines today, these publications contain fewer images and advertisements. They are often non-commercial ventures, produced on a shoe-string budget and reliant on free feminist labour. The financial support of the Greater London Council was vital to magazines such as Spare Rib and Outwrite while Mukti had funding from Camden Council. Red Rag was initially bank rolled by the Communist Party of Great Britain but then came to rely on sales to sustain it. Members of the Shocking Pink collective remember fund raising as being an important way of paying for printers, see this article for further details: https://thefword.org.uk/2011/08/shocking_pink/

The word ‘magazine’ comes from the Arabic word makhzan meaning storehouse.  

In other words, a magazine contains lots of different things that are brought together under one title. Women’s movement magazines are no different in that they contain a variety of articles on a range of topics; they include different perspectives as well as different modes of address such as letters, advertisements and editorials. Magazines tell multiple stories about women’s activism and they reveal the extent to which that activism was based on conflict as well as consensus.

Magazines tell multiple stories about women’s activism and they reveal the extent to which that activism was based on conflict as well as consensus.

The history of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the UK as well as the history of feminist publishing is, perhaps inevitably, dominated by a London-centric view. By drawing on a range of magazines, including magazines such as Harpies and Quines, based in Scotland and Scarlet Women, which was based in North East of England, this project extends its reach to regional, grassroots activism. It also includes magazines that reflect black women’s perspectives by including Mukti and Outwrite and the experiences of young women by examining Shocking Pink.

A line of Women’s Movement magazine covers including Mukti, Red Rag, Sappho, Scarlet Women, Shocking Pink, Shrew, Spare Rib and Trouble & Strife

Want to tell us your story?…

Part of this project is collating stories of the women, like you, who read magazines like Spare Rib, Red Rag, Outwrite, Mukti, Scarlet Women etc. and the impact they had on their lives and attitudes.

If you would like us to include your story in our archive, check out this page to find out how to get involved…