Branching Out: Second-Wave Feminist Periodicals and the Archive of Canadian Women's Writing

Article excerpt

Look, I push feminist articles as much as I can ... I've got a certain kind of magazine. It's not Ms. It's not Branching Out. It's not Status of Women News.

Doris Anderson

Rough Layout

WHEN EDMONTON-BASED Branching Out: Canadian Magazine for Women (1973 to 1980) began its thirty-one-issue, seven-year history, Doris Anderson was the most prominent figure in women's magazine publishing in Canada. Indeed, her work as a journalist, editor, novelist, and women's rights activist made Anderson one of the most well-known faces of the Canadian women's movement. She chaired the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women from 1979 to 1981 and was the president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women from 1982 to 1984, but she is best known as the long-time editor of Chatelaine, Canada's longest lived mainstream women's magazine, which celebrated its eightieth anniversary in 2008. As Chatelaines editor from 1957 to 1977, she was at the forefront of the Canadian women's movement, publishing articles and editorials on a wide range of feminist issues, including legalizing abortion, birth control, divorce laws, violence against women, and women in politics. When Anderson passed away in 2007, then Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson declared that "Doris was terribly important as a second-wave feminist because she had the magazine for women and it was always thoughtful and always had interesting things in it" (quoted in Martin). Anderson used a mainstream women's magazine as a vehicle for feminist advocacy, working within the Maclean Hunter publishing empire to bring feminist content to mainstream readers.

Chatelaines often-overlooked feminist past has been analyzed by Valerie Korinek in Roughing It in the Suburbs: Reading Chatelaine Magazine in the Fifties and Sixties, published in 2000. Korinek's study "demonstrates the gendered tensions at work in the often idealized suburban consumer society and restores Chatelaines role in the growth of second-wave feminism in Canada" (23). Roughing It in the Suburbs expands our understanding of an iconic Canadian magazine and of second-wave feminism. While it is not surprising that the first book-length academic study to address the connection between Canadian feminism and the periodical press is a study of Chatelaine--because of Chatelaines accessibility and continued prominence among Canada's magazines--Chatelaine is only a small part of the story of the intersection between feminism and periodical publishing in Canada. Chatelaine may have been "the magazine for women" in Canada during Anderson's tenure, but it was not radical enough for many Canadian feminists. Beginning in the late-1960s, first dozens and then hundreds of explicitly feminist periodicals were being published across Canada. Better-known titles include Tessera, Room of One's Own (now Room), Fireweed, Broadside, Kinesis, Herizons, and Status of Women News, while lesser-known but more radical titles include The Pedestal, The Other Woman, Prairie Woman, The New Feminist, The Northern Woman, On Our Way, and Webspinner.

In what follows, I provide a short cultural history of the lesser-known but only national feminist magazine published in Canada in the 1970s, Branching Out: Canadian Magazine for Women. I draw on book history, archival research, and interviews with Branching Out participants to tell Branching Out's story and locate this remarkable magazine within the Canadian 1970s and 1980s women-in-print movement, which was part of the international women-in-print movement that began in the 1960s with the rise of second-wave feminism and paralleled other forms of alternative publishing. During this period, increasing numbers of women began to establish feminist presses, publishing houses, periodicals, and bookstores as ways of countering women's exploitation in the mainstream media and as a reflection of the common belief, despite ideological differences among feminists, in the power of the printed word. …