The serials collection comprises more than 500 titles which can be accessed through the Library’s catalogue, Libraries Australia and Trove. Serials can be viewed in the Library and inter-library loans are available for individual researchers through educational institutions and certain government agencies.
The Library has a diverse and substantial holding of rare serials, mostly Australian but also from the UK and USA. Academic journals are well represented with titles such as Australian Feminist Studies, the London-based Feminist Review and Hecate: A Women’s Interdisciplinary Journal from its first number in 1975 until 2008, after which it can be accessed online.
Refractory Girl is held from the 1972/3 issue to 1999. It was the first Australian women’s studies journal with the ultimate purpose of forcing “an awareness in all those who presume to write about society that the world is not composed entirely of men”. Its editorial bewailed the fact that “the majority of scholarly journals ignore women, or where their existence is acknowledged, it is most often in a token fashion.” A close reading of the full series of this journal provides a fascinating insight into the many phases and stages of women’s struggle over two decades.
There is a long running series of Off Our Backs dating from 1974. This feminist news journal by, for and about women was published continuously from 1970 to 2008, run by a collective on a non-profit basis. Based in Washington DC, it provides a historical overview of debates, campaigns and controversies in the American women’s movement.
The collection includes most of the early feminist newspapers like Mejane, Mabel and Rouge. These tabloids are rich in content about women’s liberation campaigns and activities, as well as stories and poetry and reviews of feminist writing.
A full range of specialist magazines donated from the Sydney Women’s Liberation House library forms an important part of the collection. Amongst these are Womanspeak, which provided a vehicle for women to speak their minds from 1974 to 1994; Magdalene, a Christian newsletter for women published by Christian Women Concerned from 1973 to 1990 and Scarlet Woman, commencing in 1975 and dedicated to “the need for a basic change in the economic and social structure of society to one of a democratic, self-managed socialism.” Some of these were based in NSW, but others were published in rotation in different States and run by different collectives. Most were distributed or circulated nationally so there was always a great deal of political cross-fertilisation. The complete early editions of Lesbians on the Loose open up a debate on commercialisation and depoliticisation of lesbian culture and would make a worthy comparative study.
Some of the most prized materials are the newsletters of various women’s groups. The collection includes the newsletters of Sydney Women’s Liberation, Women’s Electoral Lobby and the Older Women’s Network of NSW. Women in Film and Television was a national organisation with a newsletter dedicated to advancing women in that industry and eliminating sexism in the portrayal of women in film. The Library also holds many publications of regional and local women’s groups. If you are studying the grass roots women’s liberation movement of the 1970s, there are huge rewards in searching through the newsletters of the many women’s organisations which flourished during that era.
Much of the material donated to the Library as archives has contained a mixture of archival, book and serial material. By amalgamating the serials from the various donations into a single collection, the Library now has a diverse and substantial holding that spans more than four decades. Governmental and agency reports and conference papers are a valuable resource within the collection as it has been difficult to keep track of women’s policy machinery in government, since the formation, reorganisation and abolition of agencies has been so poorly documented. Much of the material is not accessible online and not held by other Australian libraries.
The serials collection was founded also on materials from the Canberra Women’s Archives (CWA), which Professor Jill Julius Matthews of the School of History, Australian National University, entrusted to the Library in 1993 upon the demise of the CWA. Material also came from the NSW Women’s Coordination Unit library. Other substantial gifts came from the Newcastle Working Women’s Centre and the South Australian Women’s Studies Resource Centre.
The collection continues to grow. Organisations such as Homebirth Access Sydney provide free copies of their publication Birthings in order to ensure both a safe repository and public accessibility. The editor of Hecate, Carole Ferrier, generously provided missing back issues of the journal.
There is variety, complexity and intellectual challenge in this impressive and unique collection.