The Feminist Newsletter/Feminary
In 1973, the Feminist Newsletter (which continued in the tradition of the previous and irregularly published Research Triangle Women’s Liberation Newsletter) began publishing every other week, changing its name to Feminary in 1974. Beginning in 1977, Feminary changed to a journal format and evolved into “a feminist journal of the South emphasizing the lesbian vision.”
These publications included reviews of books, magazines, art shows, films, and records; essays and viewpoint and opinion pieces; local and national women’s news; announcements by women’s groups; interviews with local women; creative writing; free ads, and a calendar of events. From the days of stencils and mimeograph machines through desktop publishing, these publications were instrumental in presenting and discussing timely issues (personal and political), publicizing local events, and creating a vibrant lesbian feminist community.
For more information about Feminary and for access to many issues of the journal, see the Feminary, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Mab Segrest papers at Duke University’s Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Whole Women Carologue: A Guide to Resources for Women in North Carolina, 1974
Written by a collective of straight and lesbian women, this resource guide included articles on women’s liberation and covered a broad spectrum of topics including health, athletics, children, politics, the law, aging, lesbians, women’s studies, and women’s spaces, and featured a list of organizational contacts by county. Showcasing women writers, artists, and photographers, it was a tangible guide to the emerging women’s movement in North Carolina.
RFD: A Country Journal for Gay Men Everywhere
RFD: A Country Journal for Gay Men Everywhere is a reader-written quarterly magazine focused on gay country living and alternative lifestyles. Several local gay men were involved in the creation of RFD, and two issues from the 1970s were printed in Durham.
Whole Women Press, 1976-1981
Leslie Kahn and Nancy Blood founded Whole Women Press as a way for lesbian feminists to control their own stories and print items important to them. In addition to small jobs for local feminist organizations and businesses, they printed Break de Chains of Legalized U. $. Slavery—a book written by women incarcerated at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women in Raleigh and compiled and distributed by a coalition of members of Triangle Area Lesbian Feminists and the North Carolina Hard Times Prison Project in 1976. They also printed Sleeping Beauty: A Lesbian Fairy Tale by Vicki Gabriner, Sign Language by Monica Raymond, Crazy Quilt by Susan Wood Thompson, and a number of issues of the journals Feminary and Sinister Wisdom. Other women who ran the press over time were Eleanor Holland, Cris South, and Jackie T.
Audio clip about assembling The Newsletter
Lacking a local newsletter after 1976, a group of women started The Newsletter in 1981, which lasted as a monthly newsletter with an updated mid-month calendar, “Around Our Triangle,” until at least 2001. In this selection from a 2012 oral history, Lucy Harris remembers volunteering with The Newsletter and the privacy recipients needed.
Transcript And The Newsletter was always wrapped. I mean there were like fifty staples around. I mean it was so, so, so, so important for people to not have to worry about the mail carrier or anybody else knowing. There were a lot of very closeted people who got The Newsletter all over the state. Some people also had it delivered in an envelope. They paid extra to have it delivered in an envelope. But for most, for many people, the highlight of the newsletter was the calendar and the inserts. Oh, you know, it probably wasn’t that many pages. You could only have so many inserts to be able to staple it closed. And everybody wanted to have an insert if you were having any event. If you wanted anybody to come, it had to be in The Newsletter or forget it; no one was going to know about it because this is, you know, no computers. And so, if you had—were going to do an event and wanted it to be announced in the newsletter, it could be listed in the calendar. But then if you wanted an insert you had to bring 500 or 1,000 copies and you had to be there at collating to help insert your insert. So sometimes we would have like 20 people at collating. It was actually really fun.
Recollection about creating family through The Newsletter
In this written recollection, Sherry Kinlaw remembers the importance of the community created by The Newsletter.
Transcript The friends I made while working on The Newsletter formed my new family. My fellow lesbian feminists felt like a special secret club. I remember the first Pride March in Durham back in the 70s [actually 80s]. I was a marshal. One of the women marching was caught in a photo that made its way into the newspaper. She lost her job! Everything we did was undercover and out of sight… . We saw ourselves as radical feminists. I still do. Feminary eventually faded and The Newsletter remained viable for many years. This publication was on time and consistent. These were my two priorities. It grew in size and covered many topics, but not in so much depth that it became burdensome. Lesbians were welcome to join the group and some of us left to pursue other interests as they became available. I started a business.
Can you imagine a bunch of young women sitting in a circle in someone’s living room or around a kitchen table to discuss patriarchy, gender bias, and issues of great concern for women and lesbians alike? I imagine you can, because women have gathered in this manner for a long, long time. I imagine women who feel oppressed or on the outside of the norm are still meeting in this manner and having these types of discussions, in private, all over the globe.
Recollection about the The Newsletter’s treatment of the AIDS epidemic
In this written recollection, Patience Vanderbush reflects on the role of lesbian publications such as The Newsletter in bringing men and women together during the AIDS epidemic.
Transcript I think an interesting area of study of lesbian publications over this period would be the degree to which HIV/AIDS was in our consciousness and changing the ways we interacted with and worked with gay men and the ways we perceived our sense of community with them. The very first article that I wrote for The Newsletter was about the Lesbian and Gay Health Project (LGHP) (“Health Project’s Outreach is Community-Wide,” August 1986), and I also wrote articles about “Lesbians and AIDS” (January 1987) and “Lesbians, Gays, and Sodomy Laws” (August 1988). (During the same period that I wrote for The Newsletter, I also wrote some articles about HIV/AIDS and other issues for the Front Page, a statewide gay and lesbian newspaper published in Raleigh by Jim Baxter.) I believe that the community building, organizing, and visibility that came about as a result of the onset and early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic were major factors in the civil rights gains for our LGBT communities in subsequent years.
Recollection from a founder of The Newsletter
In this written recollection, Sherri Zann Rosenthal remembers the resourcefulness required by the founders of The Newsletter.
Transcript I was one of the group that started it, back when we took turns “printing” it on a mimeograph machine in the basement at the 604 W. Chapel Hill Street building, which housed War Resisters League. The mimeograph machine may have belonged to them.
I think a significant part of the story includes that we had very little money. For several years, we would all go up to an office at Duke University after hours, where a friend was a secretary and would let us in to make use of the typewriters to create the mimeo stencils. We also made liberal use of other of the office supplies and used to talk about how “Mr. Duke” was a major contributor to The Newsletter. Typos were a bear to correct and were not very correctable. Later on, a different member of the broader lesbian community who at that time worked for the legal aid office would secretly take pasted-up layout originals of The Newsletter up to her office and make use of a stencil laser burner to create the finished stencils for mimeographing. This was terrific, as it allowed us to have line art (and really poorly reproduced photos).
Our Own Place
“Our Own Place,” a gathering space for lesbians located for several years on Watts Street, was the scene for events such as meetings, potlucks, and dances. It later moved to a building at the corner of Club and Broad Streets, then closed a year or two later.
Southern Exposure magazine and the LGBTQ+ Community
For nearly four decades, the Institute for Southern Studies’ journal Southern Exposure has been a leading source for hard-hitting investigations and thoughtful coverage of the South. See two issues from the 1980s with LGBTQ+ content: