Lilith: a feminist history journal, no 1, Winter, 1984

In Sisterhood: collectives for women, by women

In the late 20th century female writers were supported by relationships with publishers and the editors of feminist journals, whose aim was to nurture the development of writing by women, for women.

Founded by a close team of five women, including Hilary McPhee and Diana Gribble of McPhee and Gribble fame, Sister’s Publishing was a feminist company with working relationships with significant female writers such as novelist Beverley Farmer, historian Patricia Crawford and poet Rosemary Dobson.  Joyce Nicholson, one of the founders of Sister’s Publishing, outlines their purpose   “to ensure that anything worthwhile written by women would not be overlooked”[1]  a goal with both positive and negative consequences as “we felt that every woman who had ever written anything got it out of her bottom drawer and sent it to us.”1 The workload was too great to sustain and in 1984 Sister’s Publishing ceased operation.

Still in publication, Lilith: a feminist history journal was born from an undergraduate seminar conducted by the History Department of the University of Melbourne in 1983. By 1985 the Lilith Collective was publishing “historical articles and reviews informed with a feminist consciousness”; providing a platform for feminist history students and writers to share their work.

The impact of Lilith is evident not only it the fact that it is still published, but also in the personal impression on readers. Correspondence from a subscriber working in the library of a high school describes her value of the journal, asking for more articles as she was “trying to give a gender balance to the material which usually exists in schools.” She relays that the Lilith articles she has included so far have been “very well used by the senior girl students” The letter is signed, “In sisterhood”.[2]

Whether or not this letter inspired the editors to introduce the journal to new audiences, the minutes of 23 November 1988 reveal that the idea to publicise Lilith to History teachers was raised to assist this mission of a gender inclusive curricula in schools.[3]

UMA has a range of collections from other feminist publishing houses and journals, including Sugar and Snails, a group established in 1974 to counter sexism in children’s literature, Vashti Voice, published by the Women’s Liberation Carlton group around June 1972, and editorial material of Joyce Thorpe Nicholson.

[1] Problems of a Feminist Publishing House, Box 10, Sister’s Publishing Collection 1999.0016

[2] Letter to Meg, 17th October 1988, Box 1, Lilith Collective Collection 1997.0056

[3] Minutes, 23rd November 1988, Box 1, Lilith Collective Collection 1997.0056

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