GWL doesn’t just have books on its amazing shelves. We also have a fantastic archive of magazines past and present; publications which have pushed forward the cause of gender equality.
I was delighted to discover SPARE RIB in the archive. Spare Rib emerged in June 1972. Its purpose, as described in its editorial, was to explore and create alternative identities for women rather than the socially accepted and narrow roles we were expected to settle for; virgin, wife and mother.
It came out of the London feminist movement. I was a young student in Glasgow at the time, and I remember being so excited by Spare Rib, hiding it in my bag as guiltily as if I was carting porn around, in case my mum found it. Sad, I know, but like most working class students at the time, I still lived at home (no, we didn’t receive limitless free money and grants) and I was terrified my mum would find it and explode – or worse still, get enlightened, run off to a feminist commune and leave me to look after my dad!
So if you fancy catching up with the issues we were battling with back then – from the right to make our own choices in childbirth, to equal pay, to girls being allowed to wear trousers to school – then come into the library and ask to see our SPARE RIBS. Though we’re missing Number One. Can anybody help?
We also have the full collection of HARPIES & QUINES, a Scottish based magazine which was published by a collective of Scottish women between 1992 and 94.
Whereas the title ‘SPARE RIB’ is a biblical reference (Eve having been formed from Adam’s spare rib), Harpies and Quines, while playing on the title of the ultra-glam glossy Harpers and Queens, provided Scottish women with the image of the harpy, a mythical Greek creature with scary hair and wings, and a quine, the Doric (Scots from the north-east) term for a young woman. Harpers and Queens, however,were miffed, and their attempts to sue got the Scottish magazine publicity they could never have dreamed of. Meanwhile it became a mouthpiece for Scottish women and promoted new Scottish fiction writers, myself included.
But we’re not finished yet with GWL’s magazine collection! Fast forward to 2013 and you’ll find the latest kid on the block; HENS TAE WATCH OOT FUR. This attractive wee publication describes itself as a ‘queer, feminist zine’ and the second issue, just published in collaboration with GWL, is out now.
As a student in the early 70s, then a mother in the 80s and 90s fighting for equality for myself and my daughters, it’s easy for me to look back over the years and see how important these magazines, founded by a few feisty women with a passion for a fairer world, have contributed to many of the freedoms and rights we enjoy today. Long may women and girls continue to write and publish their thoughts, poetry, political viewpoints and visions for the future.
And long live Glasgow Women’s Library, which keeps these and many other publications safe and available, not only for us, but for future generations too.