Feminism and Magazines

One of the richest source materials within Exeter’s Hypatia Special Collection is its collection of feminist magazines. Magazines are a rich text of academic study, that are invaluable to the historian’s pursuit of the past. This is not only due to their commentary on contemporary social and cultural events, but their variable presentations, layered meanings and dynamic dialogue between author and audience. Magazines aimed at a female audience are interesting historical arenas in which women can find advice, information, companionship and inspiration. Women’s magazines have the potential to be political, however, they took on new meaning in the late twentieth-century as a new genre of feminist periodicals began to hit the stands.

 During the 1960s the counter-revolution movements began to utilise the presses in order to reinforce their agenda, and put forward their ideas. One such cultural movement, Second-Wave feminism, utilised the underground presses to articulate their grievances and allow women across the UK to debate and discuss their patriarchal experiences. A range of periodicals from local group circulation to mass market publications discussed hot topics of the movement such as masturbation, working rights, equal pay, abortion, orgasms, sexual objectification and harassment. These feminist magazines are then helpful to the academic in discovering the popular discourse that helped circulate the feminist agenda in Britain at this time.

 Some of the magazines this collection has include Spare Rib, On The Issues: The Progressive Women’s Quarterly, M/F: A Feminist Journal, The Female State: A Journal of Female Liberation, Enough: The Journal of the British Women’s Liberation Group, Trouble & Strife. By looking through these feminist magazines, the academic can find what kinds of articles feminists were wanting to promote and even what kinds of adverts they thought their readers would be interested in. Each magazine was spearheaded by their own unique group of women, who approached the feminist movement in their own way. The conversations both between these magazines and within their own pages is indicative of the arguments and challenges that confronted women between the 1960-80s. From the mass produced Spare Rib to the regional Enough magazine in Bristol, they aimed to open up questions and articulate the theoretical, political and practical issues that contemporary women faced in a deeply patriarchal society.

 The Hypatia Collection is rich with these feminist magazines, and offers a valuable insight to those seeking to explore the internal conversations of one of the most significant social movements in recent history - Second-wave feminism.

Sarah Hough

Laura Davidson

Anna Hartley 


Anna Hartley, Laura Davidson, Sarah Hough