Feminary should be seen, therefore, in the context of an emerging print movement within the larger feminist movement and not solely within the confines of local feminism in action.
The Feminary‘s first issue was published on August 11, 1969. Starting as just a couple of pages and selling for just 2 cents each, financial support came from UNC, where it was mimeographed. The newsletter was distributed between women’s groups and from the UNC campus student union, but grew as more women became involved and invested in its content and distribution.
“The feminist movement sought to create vehicles for public discussion that were controlled by women, created by women, and used by women. It was in this environment of putting feminism into print that women in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina, in 1969, began to publish the Research Triangle Women’s Liberation Newsletter, later known as the Feminary.” ~Sara Evans
Women’s sole control over production gave them an opportunity to be portrayed on their own terms. In addition, newsletters of this type helped to build a sense of community locally. It could inform and bring together women in the Durham-Chapel Hill area quickly. Simultaneously, the newsletter also a way that women could learn about the initiatives of other activists around the country. The Feminary quickly spread in its reach, as more women’s organizations began to swap publications. People who would have never come into contact were able to share information through this print culture, specifically about the different initiatives they were undertaking. Feminary as a publication, and as a representation of collective action within the feminist movement, can be viewed as an example of feminist activism.
“Acting out of a need for community, dealing with dissention, carving a niche for itself in the later part of the 1970′s- – in all these ways Feminary is a model both of the successes and failures of the feminist movement and of the social activist attempts at movement-building”. ~Sara Evans
The focus of Feminary changed with the inception of Triangle Area Lesbian Feminists (TALF), the two being closely related because of their constituencies. It became especially a voice of lesbian-feminists, who used it as a mouthpiece for events within the lesbian community in Durham.
The publication was also a space to address issues within their own feminist communities. In the above publication entry, the writer discusses how she feels there is a lack of community among feminists and critiques the current state.
On the first page of the first Feminary newsletter, the women state: “We try to be an egalitarian women’s collective, sharing information on the diverse concerns and activities about which we hear…to reflect the vitality of our women’s community”.
Source: Jennifer Gilbert, “Feminary of Durham-Chapel Hill: Building a Community Through A Feminist Press” (Master’s thesis,Duke University, 1993)
History of Feminary, Box 30, Folder “Notes on Newsletter 1973-1978,” Minnie Bruce Pratt Papers, 1870-2005, Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.