Pandora published for nine years between 1985 and 1994 as an alternative to the mainstream media in Nova Scotia. We focussed on the lives of everyday women, encouraging and supporting women to tell their first-person stories. Our collective was a volunteer-run non-profit that included up to 35 women in any single issue. We taught each other how to work together in meetings, how to reach out into community, and how to recognize and apologize for our mistakes. We also learned collectively to write; to edit the writing of others; to take photographs, develop and crop them; and to materially produce the paper first on waxed strips and then on Pagemaker. (Pandora was the first to use Pagemaker and many other feminist publications followed this initiative.) We drove the pages to the printer, picked them up, distributed them on foot, in cars, and by mail. We qualified for second class postage – no small feat. We fundraised with dances and concerts. We sold advertising. But money was never the issue.
Our eagerness and energy allowed us to begin with four issues each year but, over the years, slowly, and then more quickly, as the ten-year mark appeared on the horizon, it was not possible for those who were left to share the time, skills, and energies necessary. A man whose writing was not accepted because of the paper’s policies filed a Human Rights Complaint. Pandora and all her supporters “won” the right to publish “a newspaper produced by, for and about women”. But the process sapped women’s energy.
For the nine years that it was freely distributed throughout the province and mailed throughout the world, Pandora women faced the challenge of having “no collective opinion, no editorial position,” although there was agreement that “we cannot accept material that is oppressive or intolerant.” We did our best to meet that challenge and we provided nourishment for ourselves and each other. Then, we went on to live our lives, together and separately.
Written by Bethan Lloyd (Coordinating Editor for the first 18 months and later a production assistant)