Liberating Histories: Women's Movement Magazines, Media Activism and Periodical Pedagogies

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Arts, Design and Social Sciences


Liberating Histories is the first comprehensive study of feminist print activism in the UK from the beginnings of the Women's Liberation Movement in 1968 to the present day. The project develops new methodologies for interpreting print and digital media and adapts these methodologies for teaching media literacy skills in the classroom. Distinctively, this project not only draws on existing periodical archives, but also works in collaboration with the creators and consumers of feminist periodicals to generate a new archive of resources that will be made publicly accessible via the project website. These resources include filmed public events, podcasts, digitised content from feminist periodicals, first-person testimonies from activists past and present, and an innovative 'Periodical Pedagogies' toolkit to facilitate the study of periodicals by scholars and students. The website will host the first online Interactive Guide to Feminist Periodicals, providing overviews of their content and form(s) as well as a 'Periodical Pedagogies' toolkit that will present scholars, educators and students at Key Stages 4 & 5 with strategies for analysing periodicals. In addition, the project team will assemble an advisory group of teachers, students, media stakeholders and policymakers to develop a flexible 'Active Reading' workshop for students at KS 4 & KS 5 that uses periodicals to improve media literacy within the framework of the National Curriculum. A 'Periodical Pedagogies' symposium will share these findings and build a transatlantic network of world-leading academics, archivists and activists to exchange good practice, resources and new research.
While recent scholarship has usefully mapped the work of British suffrage periodicals (DiCenzo et al 2011), twentieth-century women's magazines (Winship 1983; Forster 2015), and feminist periodicals in the US (Beins 2017), Liberating Histories dedicates itself to the study of feminist periodicals that have emerged in the UK since 1968. Using this material, Liberating Histories will define the role that feminist periodicals have played in debates about gender-based violence, reproductive rights and intersectionality, while connecting these issues to contemporary campaigns such as #MeToo, #WhyIStayed and #EverydaySexism.
The project will make a major contribution to scholarship on periodicals through the monograph Women's Activism, Periodical Form and Political Feeling, the first comprehensive study of feminist print activism in the UK from the beginnings of the Women's Liberation Movement in 1968 to the present day, and a special issue of Feminist Media Studies devoted to 'Media Activism in Transition'. Both publications develop new methodologies for analysing the representation and mediation of print and digital activism.
With its focus on post-1968 periodicals, Liberating Histories is uniquely poised to capitalise on the existence of a living readership. By putting out calls through mailing lists, feminist organisations, and media outlets (including R 4's Woman's Hour), the project will invite a range of readers to create written, audio or video testimonies to share their views about feminist periodicals. Contributors will deposit their testimonies on the project website, creating a rich, expandable and freely accessible archive of readers' voices that will be of substantial use and interest to scholars, practitioners and the public alike. The Women's Library will host some elements of this archive of original testimony and pedagogic resources, ensuring they remain publicly accessible beyond the duration of the project.


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