Secondary Source

“Feminist Periodical Culture: From Suffrage to Second Wave,” in Women: A Cultural Review (Special Issue)

"Feminist Periodical Cultural: From Suffrage to Second Wave." Women: A Cultural Review, Vol. 27, Issue 4, 2016.

Era: Post-Suffrage Era | Media: Academic Paper, Magazines, Newspapers

In this special issue of the journal Women: A Cultural Review, scholars explore feminist periodicals from the suffrage era to the epoch of second-wave feminism in the 1960s and 1970s in Britain.

From the introduction, “Mediated and Mediating Feminisms: Periodical Culture from Suffrage to the Second Wave,” by Victoria Bazin and Melanie Waters:

This special issue brings together, for the first time, scholarship on feminist periodicals in Britain from suffrage to the second wave. In doing so, it aims to explore the cultures of feminism through the verbal and visual ‘cacophony’ of feminist magazines. These periodicals resonate with the voices of individual women testifying to the everyday experience of feminist activism at a grass-roots level. They are archives of feminist feeling—rich resources for an expanding field of scholarship concerned with recovering a sense of how social movements are formed, how they are mediated and how they are remembered. Above all, these magazines are mediating objects that heighten our awareness of the material histories and cultures of feminism.

Three of the articles in this special issue deal directly with the suffrage era:

As the official organ of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Votes for Women was one of the most successful suffrage papers of the Edwardian period. The famous ‘split’ over militant policies that divided the leadership of the Women’s Social and Political Union in October 1912 severed the suffrage paper Votes for Women from its sponsoring organization. This traumatic event offers a window into the workings of the feminist periodical networks of modernity since it shows how the connections and disconnections of the network are filled with feeling and emotion. Bringing affect theory, especially conversations regarding transmission, to the materialist strategies of new periodical studies provides a new window into the feminist periodical networks of modernity, revealing them to be saturated with affect. This offers a new understanding of the role of emotion and sentiment in the formation of the political movements and collectives of modernity.

This article examines the role of feminist periodicals in mobilizing consensus for and against welfare reform measures such as the endowment of motherhood and birth control in the 1920s. It argues that the tendency to characterize the differences between ‘old’ (equalitarian) and ‘new’ (welfare) feminists as a conflict between equality and difference has been reductive and misleading. Both camps aimed to liberate women from the domestic sphere by ensuring opportunities and access in the sphere of work/professions, but for welfare feminists, equality was not enough because it accepted a world structured for men. The concept of self-determination is central to how new feminists like Eleanor Rathbone attempted to redefine the home and maternal labour as they championed controversial policies aimed at ensuring a degree of economic and reproductive autonomy for women. An analysis of the debates that played out in and between the Woman’s Leader and Time and Tide in the 1920s underscores the role of the feminist press in the processes of political and strategic communication, at a time when self-declared feminists were trying to achieve a range of goals in a context of hostile reaction. The article encourages a reassessment of the ambitious goals of welfare feminism in the interwar period and suggests that these struggles (often obscured by ‘equality’ feminism) have never completely gone away. They resurface in various forms—from ‘wages for housework’ campaigns to assessing the conditions and economics of motherhood for working women—all of which underscore the impact of the welfare state on relations in the family and the home.

This article examines the ways in which one of Britain’s most significant feminist magazines, Time and Tide (1920–79), constructed a modern feminist identity through its interactions with other feminist print media and with the mainstream interwar press. At once drawing on a long tradition of feminist periodical publishing, from the outset this women-run magazine also worked to distance itself from the feminist label in order to take up a position among the leading general-audience weekly reviews. Exploring the tension Time and Tide negotiated over its feminist designation, the article also demonstrates the central role this magazine played both in feminist debates about ‘work’ in this period and in wider public debates about the ‘modern woman’. If Time and Tide’s disavowal of the ‘women’s paper’ category was part of what made this feminist magazine ‘modern’, its commitment to women’s participation in the public sphere is one that would sustain it throughout the interwar years and beyond.

This special issue is available to buy from Taylor & Francis Online. Academic libraries are also likely to have access; to see if there’s one near you, check WorldCat.  

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