Tag Archives: Collections

Alison Bartlett – Researching the International Feminist Peace Movement

We asked Alison Bartlett, currently a visiting scholar at the University of Bristol from the University of Western Australia, to write about her experiences researching in the FAS.

In the spirit of Greenham activism, she ‘widened the (feminist archive) web’ to collections relating to the feminist peace movement in Australia.



As an Australian researcher interested in feminist cultural histories, the Feminist Archives South is one of the main reasons I applied for a Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor position at Bristol University. My research into the 1980s women’s peace movement and especially the two women’s peace camps held ­in Australia has always been in relation to Greenham Common women’s peace camp. The opportunity to sift through the rich archives of this iconic feminist event is a rare treat.

At the same time, I’ve been reading Kate Eichhorn’s book The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order (2013) which proposes that the growing interest by feminists to delve into archives is to make sense of the ‘legacies, epistemes, and traumas pressing down on the present’. Eichhorn argues that neoliberalism of the late twentieth century has not only individualized our capacities as subjects but eroded our sense of collective agency, something that archives like the Feminist Archive South restores. Rather than understanding archives as nostalgia for the past, she claims archives reorient our understanding of the past and therefore enable us to reimagine our present.

Triangular shawl with different coloured webs sewn together

Shawl collectively made by women at Greenham Common

The boxes of material on Greenham Common are full of letters, flyers, newspaper clippings, court documents, photographs, stickers, postcards, and even a multicoloured spiderweb shawl and a piece of the green military fence tied with webs of string. I read with astonishment that some Greenham women took US President Ronald Reagan to court in New York over the deployment of nuclear missiles onto English common land. And the letters sent to women arrested and sent to Holloways prison are particularly poignant.

The ferocity of their belief in the necessity to stop escalating military interventions and nuclear arms is inspiring, and it’s easy to see how it motivated a worldwide movement of women protesting war and militarization. Together with the women’s movement, the women’s peace movement formed a significant set of arguments about the continuum of male violence, and women’s agency to imagine other ways of living, loving, and doing civilian politics.

My research into the 1980s women’s peace camps in Australia indicates that they were a direct response to what was happening in Berkshire. They were conceived as support actions but also to bring attention to the particularities of the US military in Australia. The first camp was held in central Australia outside the US military base at Pine Gap in December 1983, coinciding with the day the Cruise Missiles arrived at Greenham. The second camp was held a year later in 1984 at Cockburn Sound on the west coast near Fremantle, a major port into which US naval vessels docked and sailors took their rest and recreation.

Unlike at Greenham Common, an umbrella organization was formed specifically to coordinate the peace camps in Australia, bringing together a coalition of women’s organisations, peace, and anti-nuclear groups. The archives are largely filed under the name of the group: Women For Survival. There are substantial collections at the Jessie Street National Women’s Library in Sydney, and the University of Melbourne Archives in Melbourne which holds the Victorian Women’s Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives. But almost every State Library and many university libraries around Australia also hold some material. The Murdoch University Special Collections in Perth holds material in the Gay and Lesbian Archives of Western Australia (GALAWA) collection; and in Adelaide the State Library of South Australia now holds some of the dispersed resources from the Adelaide Women’s Liberation Archive; the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne; and the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland in Brisbane hold material. There are some badges displayed at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra where you can also hear questions in Parliament being played on rotation, and there’s a student film made at the Pine Gap camp available at the National Film, Television and Radio School online. The Northern Territory Archives Service in Alice Springs has a great collection of oral history interviews.

bath women's peace group

There was a traffic of ideas, people, rituals, telegrams, letters, songs, and even parts of the military mesh fences between Greenham and the Australian peace camps. There are traces of this in the Australian archives and in the Feminist Archives South. Zohl de Ishtar stands out as a regular writer for the Greenham Newsletter, campaigning relentlessly to raise the profile of colonized and militarized Pacific nations, especially those used as nuclear testing sites from the 1950s. But it’s the thousands and thousands of women who went to Greenham for a day or a week or a year who register the impact of collective action, and whose traces in the archives demonstrate the mass attraction of arguments for de-militarisation amidst the threat of nuclear war during the Cold War period. I can’t imagine how 30 000 turned up on December 12, 1982 to hold hands around the entire 9 mile perimeter of the US Air Base at Greenham to ‘embrace the base’.

Eichhorn argues that archives themselves are forms of activism, as are archivists. The Feminist Archives South certainly demonstrate the value of feminist archives, and remind us of the possibilities for changing our worlds through collective action.


We welcome all our readers to write about their experiences researching in the Feminist Archive South. It helps us to understand how people engage with our collections, and communicate our holdings to wider audiences.

If you have a FAS story you want to share with readers of this blog, please send it to us (no more than 1000 words).

 Many thanks to Alison for taking time to write up her visit!

Volunteer opportunities in the Feminist Archive South

The Feminist Archive South holds 160 metres (plus) of inspirational materials. Unfortunately we have not yet had a chance to transfer all of our paper catalogues and lists on to our online archive catalogue.

We need some kind volunteers to help with typing up word lists, access databases, and other random listings, which can converted into one catalogue, so people both in Bristol and elsewhere, can easily evaluate what is in the archive, and order up resources to use. At the moment, a significant amount of our lists are on paper alone.

Ensuring the archive is catalogued really helps researchers, and members of feminist communities, discover the Feminist Archive South’s contents. It also helps to preserve material in the long run (because of less handling and we are able to access materials from store in a more precise way).

Bear in mind everything won’t be catalogued at the end of this project, but if you would like to get involved it would really help us.

We envisage people will be taking printed or photocopied lists and typing them up and converting them into another format.  It can be done in Special Collections, or we can supply copies of lists for you to work on at home. We will provide a template for you to fill, which should be easy to use and follow.

You don’t have to have any prior experience of archive work, just be keen to learn about feminist histories and have a good eye for detail.

Do get in touch and we are happy to discuss this further.

There is no deadline, as we envisage this kind of support will be ongoing for the immediate future.

Women’s Liberation Music Archive – catalogued and available for use

Fliers for the Women's Liberation Music ArchiveThe Women’s Liberation Music Archive is now available for consultation in the University of Bristol Special Collections, and is stored with the Feminist Archive South.

It has the reference DM2598 and contents can be viewed on our online catalogue.

It consists of 7 boxes of materials relating to Music and the Women’s Movement in the 1970s and 1980s.Street Performance of Clapperclaw

Gems include audio and audiovisual recordings of bands such as Clapperclaw, Jam Today, Ova, the Fabulous Dirt Sisters, Feminist Improvising Group, Frankie Armstrong, The Mistakes, Guest Stars,  and Contradictions, as well as a range of fascinating ephemera including fliers, diaries, budget books, manifestos, songbooks, posters, oral histories and much more.

Listening and viewing facilities are available within the archive for this material.

Big thanks to Sarah Cuthill who catalogued the material for us.


Women’s Radio Workshop – Women and Music

We are slowly migrating our audio cassette-based collections to digital files and we thought we’d share some of the fruits of our labour here.

The Women’s Radio Workshop programme ‘Women and Music’ provides a rare and unique insight into women’s liberation music making.

Women and Music Front women and music back

The programme features ‘seven women who play and write music’ including Rosemary Schonfeld, Jana Runnalls (Ova), Andrea Webb, Janie Webb, Judya Manthis (sp?), Lawrie Strike, Louise Marsden, Rosie Fisher and Sarah Gillam.

For more background on music making and the WLM visit the online Women’s Liberation Music Archive, in particular read the introduction to the Sisters in Song book. The physical WLMA has been deposited in the FAS and is in the process of being catalogued – check back soon for updates on this!

For now, enjoy!

Sistershow materials catalogued and searchable

The materials from the Heritage Lottery Funded Sistershow Revisited project, which took place from 2010-2011, have now been catalogued and are searchable on the University of Bristol’s Archive Catalogue. They bear the reference ‘DM2606 Sistershow Revisited’.

Two women sit under a giant hat, one pulls a funny face, both look mischeivous

Pat VT West & Jackie Thrupp sit together under a giant hat that was made by Jackie for the first Sistershow performance in March 1973

In the meantime, enjoy these photos that we digitised as part of the project:

A party scene in a house, women dance dressed up in clothing from the 1930s and 1940s

The figure dressed in red satin is Alison Rook, who donated a large archive for the exhibition, and was instrumental in getting the project off the ground.

Two women lay a wreath at the war memorial in the centre of Bristol in memory of women who had died from illegal abortions

Part of Helen Taylor and Brenda Jacques tape slide project that was used to raise awareness between women/ feminist groups about the activities and ideas behind women’s liberation

Two women stand either side of a person dressed in a suit, wearing a face mask

One of the few photographic documents of the Sistershow performances. This is the first show, that took place at Bower Ashton. Note the degradation of the image.

We still have catalogues from the exhibition available and you can get one for a small donation.

Final Stop for Ellen’s Archives

The final stage of the Ellen Malos’ Archives project – a trip to Bristol University’s Special Collection store to deposit the catalogued items.

Boxes in the back of a van

Sarah, project archivist, stands in front of archive boxes on a shelf

Sarah stands in front of her handy work

Books on a shelf including titles by Susan Griffin and Janice Raymond

Two shelves of box files

Shelf of box files labelled 'Pat VT West'

A shelf of periodicals Books including Janet Frame and Zoe Fairbairns

Don’t forget, Ellen’s archives are available to consult so do get in touch if you want to see them. As always, you will need to plan your trip in advance to ensure the items you want can be retrieved from store.

Final event for Ellen Malos’ Archives – documentation

On Tuesday 24 September we held the closing event for our Heritage Lottery Funded project, Ellen Malos’ Archives.

We welcomed Cherry Ann Knott from the Heritage Lottery Fund, project archivist Sarah Cuthill presented the contents of Ellen’s archive, and Ellen provided a response.

Typewriter, multicolored background, 'What Can History Do?' collected by Feminist Archive South

The evening also launched our booklet What Can History Do? which is available for a donation through this website.

After the formal presentations, attendees had the opportunity to browse material from Ellen’s archive, as well as have good chat.

Thanks to everyone who came and participated in the wider project. We are working on some new ideas for funding bids, but will of course keep this blog updated with regular information about relevant events in Bristol and beyond.


Ellen’s archive is catalogued and available to view in the Feminist Archive South, so don’t forget you can pay us a visit if you are curious about its contents.

In the meantime, enjoy the photos!

Sarah & Ellen Present a selection of the archive material on display An attendee browses the archive material Banners and archive material from Ellen's collection An attendee reads the archive material displayed at the event five women chat together

Attendees converse

Attendees Browse the archive

Final Event for Ellen Malos’ Archives – 24 September 2013

The Feminist Archive South warmly invites you to the closing event of our recent project, Ellen Malos’ Archives, which has been generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It takes place on Tuesday 24 September 2013 from 7-9.30pm at M Shed, Bristol

Project archivist Sarah Cuthill will introduce the contents of Ellen’s collection, followed by a response from Ellen Malos.

Ellen Malos was a key figure in the Bristol Women’s Liberation Movement. The first Women’s Centre opened in the basement of her house in 1973, and her work supporting vulnerable women has been recognised through an Honoury Doctorate at Bristol University (2006), and in the naming of the Next Link Women’s Safe House, ‘Ellen Malos House’ (12 June 2007). As activist and later, academic, Ellen was involved in advancing gender equality locally, nationally and transnationally.

Ellen Malos stands at a filing cabinet.

Ellen Malos stands at a filing cabinet in the Women’s Centre, 1973.

Her archive comprises rare historical material, including documents that have shaped some of the most significant legal and policy transformations within British history relating to gender equality.

The presentation of Ellen’s archives will be followed by a report from Project coordinator Dr Deborah Withers who will discuss the outcomes of our workshop series.

Ellen stands at the front of the picture. Behind her are shelves full of books and files

Ellen with her archives, 2013

The final event is also the launch the Feminist Archive South’s pamphlet What Can History Do?
The booklet, comprised of contributions from project volunteers, includes resources about
public history and the study of women’s history.

The final event is free to attend but places are limited so please confirm your attendance by
emailing us.

Refreshments will be provided.

Event address: MShed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN

MShed is a wheelchair accessible venue. Please contact us beforehand if you have other access

Final Workshop – Bristol Women’s Aid: Saturday 20 July, MShed, 1-5pm

Join Ellen Malos, Nicola Harwin and Jackie Barron to discuss the history of Women’s Aid in Bristol on Saturday, 20 July, Studio 2 MShed, 1-5pm. All welcome.

The majority of Ellen’s activist life is dedicated to the ongoing struggle to end Violence Against Women.

For the final workshop in this series, Ellen is joined by colleagues who helped develop vital services to protect and support vulnerable women in Bristol and the UK.

Ellen Malos sits on the bed in the women's centre. Women's Liberation posters adorn the walls

Drawing on material from Ellen’s Archive we will look at the history and development of Bristol Women’s Aid and link it to the wider national context.

We will explore questions such as:

  • How and why did the Women’s Liberation movement come to support women and their children who were experiencing violence within the home, and to build an autonomous movement against it?
  • How has it now become supported by local and national governments ?
  • How did Bristol Women’s Aid begin and what did it do?
  • How did things change after the early 1970s?
  • Where are we now?