Feminist History Goes Digital:  Broadside & Rise Up Join Forces

by Philinda Masters and Susan G. Cole

About twenty years ago a group of women met at the home of a Broadside collective member to celebrate the life of a late co-founder of Broadside: A Feminist Review. Almost as an afterthought, someone asked why we didn’t digitize the newspaper. After all, with the technology now available, digitizing was the easiest way to ensure that Broadside would live on.

The idea took, and over the next few years, a small group reconstituted the Collective and started the work of digitizing ten years’ worth of Broadside. We scanned the entire newspaper, about 2000 pages altogether, and spent many hours creating searchable categories that would help with feminist research (something definitely missing in mainstream indexes). On June 21, 2012, the newly digitized version of Broadside (that you’ll find here in the Rise Up Archive) was launched. It was a success..

This button supports Broadside, a Canadian feminist newspaper published in Toronto between 1979 and 1989.

A year or so later, Phil ran into a socialist feminist friend who told her that she and some colleagues were thinking of using the Broadside model for a similar project to digitize socialist feminist publications, which were fast disappearing from sight. Phil agreed to come to a meeting to see if there was anything we could do to help, based on Broadside’s experience. By the time that happened, it was obvious they didn’t need any help, and that far from producing a simple documentation of socialist feminist publications, they had clearly morphed into a compilation of Feminist Everything, that came to be known as Rise Up! Feminist Digital Archive. They were obviously up to the task.

In 2019, just as we were nearing the end of producing our book Inside Broadside: A Decade of Feminist Journalism, our website was hacked, and our host had to shut us down. Even though they did everything they could to get us up and running as quickly as possible, it became obvious that we needed a more stable environment, a new host to take us into the future (and keep us there). It also became obvious that Rise Up was the perfect choice.

Broadside’s subscribers numbered close to 3,000 at its peak. That might sound preposterously low, but at the time in the mid-80s it was actually impressive, rivalling many more mainstream publications. So, think of how thrilling it is for us to imagine reaching thousands in the digital age. That’s now possible, thanks to our new relationship with Rise Up. The Broadside group who initiated our original digital project was motivated by pride in what we’d achieved but also a deep fear that Canada’s feminist history was fading away. Now, academics and researchers looking for source material and historians and feminists curious about the period when the movement in Canada burgeoned and thrived have access to the hundreds of articles published in Broadside’s pages, covering activism, transformative changes in Canadian law, essential feminist theory, and more. And the website is now fully searchable and, finally, stable, something we could not manage as an ad hoc collective.

Because we’ve been connected in one way or another to Rise Up for a long time, it seems right that we will now be housed in their Archive. It makes sense to us because we share so much: a feminist perspective and understanding of the issues; an understanding of feminist activism and organization; similar goals; and the fact that we have similar antecedents.

It’s also gratifying to be on a site featuring so many feminist organizations, which, in turn, creates an interconnectedness that reflects Broadside’s past as a newspaper that depended for ideas and inspiration on our links to feminist organizations and thinkers.

So now, dig into Broadside and get information on feminism in the 80s, all the issues that mattered, covered by women who were experts in their fields and by those who fought so intensely for women’s equality and liberation.

Philinda Masters (former editor, Broadside)
Susan G. Cole (former columnist, Broadside)

Last year, Rise Up welcomed the opportunity to add the complete collection of Broadside to our online archive. Published for ten years by a Collective of political activists, this newspaper provides an entry into the exciting history of a burgeoning Canadian feminist movement.

This piece by Philinda Masters and Susan G. Cole, long-time feminist activists and members of the Broadside Collective, describes Broadside’s own journey into digital archiving in order to protect this period of Canada’s feminist history from disappearing.

Broadside joins several other publications now housed directly on the Rise Up website, as well as on their own sites. These include Northern Woman JournalHealthsharingAlberta Status of WomenBranching Out, and The Pedestal. We are grateful to all those who have so generously shared their collections in this way, ensuring that Rise Up reflects the full scope of grassroots Canadian feminism! Your donations help support partnerships like these.

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