Winnipeg Women’s Liberation

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Winnipeg Women’s Liberation Newsletter began about 1973 as the communications vehicle of Winnipeg Women’s Liberation. The organization began about 1969-70 by a group of young University of Manitoba activists, as a development of the consciousness-raising sessions begun in the living room of Millie Lamb, a feminist and high school teacher. The Newsletter was a way for those of us involved on the left wing of the women’s movement to communicate with each other, and to provide support to those women who were unable to participate in meetings, but were exploring feminist ideas. The Manitoba Status of Women had organized around the Royal Commission about the same time, but did not work on feminism within a socialist or social democratic framework.

Regular meetings were attended by 20-30 women but we had a mailing list of 250-300. At the time, there was very little written theory in the feminist world, and we worked out our policies and positions on issues through animated discussions and consensus decision-making. There were some women with years of political experience in the NDP, particularly the Waffle, and the Communist Party.

The newsletter was produced monthly, most of the time, and by a volunteer group of about 20 women who we could call upon to help with any issue. A lot of it was hand-written and photocopied, or reproduced by gestetner and stapled together by us. We believed in a non- hierarchical structure with consensus decision-making, and therefore, as a collective, we didn’t sign our last names. Although the newsletter had lots of good material, it was never very polished. We were able to send it out, including mailing for about $3.00 a year!

It was a time of optimism in Winnipeg and the feeling that we were involved in historic change. The NDP was in power during many of the years of the WWL and we were busy doing public speaking, writing up presentations to government and legislative committees, and mobilizing around abortion, day care, family law, and participating in labour union actions. We were the noisy group in the Winnipeg women’s movement and the newsletter was another vehicle to organize women. In 1973 Women’s Liberation opened A Woman’s Place, a drop in centre, meeting space, with a resource centre and library. The Newsletter helped advertise activities and actions from there.

By the late 1970s, the group was separating into sub-groups: The Socialist Women’s Collective, Wages for Housework, The Winnipeg Lesbian Society, Women for Non-Sexist Education, and Mothers for Change, Theatre Women, Women in Trades, the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League. The newsletter ended about this time. The Wages for Housework group opened a Women’s Building. By the 1980s the energy that had been going into advocacy and actions was being put into development and management of feminist organizations: The Rape Crisis Centre, a shelter for abused women, Pregnancy Information Services, and the Women’s Health Clinic. In 1981, and for the rest of the decade, a huge amount of organizing energy went into the fight for reproductive choice.

Ellen Kruger, member of Winnipeg Women’s Liberation and Newsletter Collective, 1971-78
Linda Taylor, member of Winnipeg Women’s Liberation and Newsletter Collective, 1970-78

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