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Red Rag

Title: Red RagDates: 1972-1980
Periodicity: irregularPrice: 7p (1972); 20p (1975); 40p (1980)    
Circulation: 4,000Place of Publication: London


A Marxist feminist magazine that was collectively run. Although many of the women who set up Red Rag were affiliated with the Community Party of Great Britain, the magazine quickly detached itself from any affiliation with the Communist Party. Instead, it adopted a non-hierarchical collective structure, fusing together the American-style consciousness-raising feminism of the Women’s Liberation Movement and the more formal party politics of those who were or had been Community Party members. In total, it published 15 issues comprising 144 articles by over 100 contributors over a 9-year period. 

 [Details derived from Rosalind Delmar (2020) ‘Introducing Red Rag’ and Beatrix Campbell and Val Charlton, ‘Red Rag – from beginning to end: the women we were and what our politics became‘]      

’Our first commitment is to the Women’s Liberation Movement… We are feminist first and foremost because of the political movement which emerges as women’s response to their own oppression. The material base for this oppression is men’s real power and privilege, that is their economic, social, cultural and psychological dominance.’

Red Rag 4
A separator made up of women symbols from Red Rag 8
Women’s symbols from Red Rag No 12
  • Domestic labour debates
  • Reproductive rights
  • Women and trade unions
  • The feminist strike
  • Love and sexuality

A bold visual style, with consistent periodical codes and comparatively professional production values, all of which signalled a coherent political identity. Its two column format is more suggestive of political pamphlets than magazines. Discursive articles and theoretical discussion punctuated by cartoons, children’s artwork, and photographs that sustain a more handmade ethos. Frequently used the colour red to link the magazine’s feminist and Marxist commitments. The logo is unapologetic, with a slightly ‘barbed’ outline to the letters, and contains several meanings: ‘a red rag to a bull’ means to incite anger or outrage; to be ‘on the rag’ refers to menstruation; and a ‘rag’ is a derogatory word for a newspaper or magazine. The influence of countercultural magazines such as Black Dwarf evident in RR’s visual and verbal playfulness. Alison Fell and Val Charlton, both art school graduates, were part of the RR collective. Headlines are often punning, tabloid style.

[Some style notes derived from Bazin (2021, 2020) – see further reading below]        

A drawing of an Equal Pay rally from Red Rag
Artist Unknown, ‘Illustration’, Red Rag 8 (1975), p. 31.

First published in the same year that Spare Rib launched, Red Rag was at the vanguard of feminist periodical publishing in the second half of the twentieth century. It folded shortly after the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 – but also, and more significantly, after the last of the national women’s liberation conferences where most copies were sold.

49 women passed through the changing editorial collective. Those who stayed for more than three issues include:

  • Beatrix Campbell
  • Valerie Charlton
  • Nell Myers
  • Sue O’Sullivan
  • Sheila Rowbotham
  • Sally Alexander
  • Elizabeth Wilson
  • Angela Weir
  • Michelene Wandor
  • Alison Fell
  • Roberta Henderson
  • Maria Loftus
  • Margaret Edney
  • Mandy Merck
  • Adah Kay           

Printed by SW (Litho) Printers Ltd; initially distributed through Central Books, the Communist Party’s retail and wholesale outlet, who refused to stock or distribute thereafter; later distributed by Publications Distribution Cooperative  

Drawings of a woman dancing with a big pen and a bottle of ink from Red Rag 12
Woman dancing with a giant pen and ink pot from Red Rag No 12

Sales (at women’s liberation conferences, feminist bookshops and radical bookshops), and subscriptions

Members of the original collective were drawn from the London Women’s Liberation Workshop, who also produced Shrew; Alison Fell went on to work on Spare Rib 

Victoria Bazin (2021) Red Rag Magazine, Feminist Economics and the Domestic Labour Pains of Liberation’, Women: a cultural review, 32:3-4, 295-317

—-(2020) ‘”It’s Capitalism, Not Me, Sweetheart”: Women’s Activist Magazines on the Left’, in Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain 1940s-2000s ed. Laurel Forster and Joanne Hollows, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 245-260

Rosalind Delmar, ‘Introducing Red Rag’

Beatrix Campbell and Val Charlton, Red Rag – from beginning to end: the women we were and what our politics became’

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Where to find Red Rag:
British Library;
Feminist Archive South;
Feminist Library;
Women’s Library
Digitised copies:   
A repeated "HELP" stamp from Sappho

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