Back in February Dame B reported on the launch party for the Feminist Library’s new premises in Peckham. A fun time was had by all, and I was looking forward to a continuing involvement with the Library – which I enjoyed for a few brief weeks.
After an induction session, I helped out on Feminist Library stands at Lush at Paddington Station (can you believe there was ever a time when people piled into shops at will and went around randomly touching things?) and at the Festival Hall during the Women of the World event. Two weeks later, all thoughts of rubbing shoulders, literally, with fellow feminists were dispelled by lockdown.
But it takes a lot more than that to keep a good feminist down. Though its lovely new home is closed, the Library is still providing a forum for all who are interested. Both book clubs – English and Spanish – have moved onto Zoom, and it’s just launched the first edition of the Feminist Library zine after a call-out for contributions a couple of months ago on ‘Care in a Pandemic’.
This theme was chosen because ‘women and their families are being failed by the state and all the legitimate authorities they have been taught to trust.’ The editors’ introduction to the zine declares ‘… care means many things. It is the principle at the root of resistance; we struggle, we oppose, because we know that we could live differently, and that the other worlds that we strive for are worlds where callousness and indifference to suffering are impossible,’ and the content of the zine bears this out.
What a wealth of material is here! It’s impossible to do it all justice in one review, but to give you an idea of its range, it goes from images of Lily Hughes’s face masks embroidered with phrases culled from the non-stop stream of media, such as ‘It’s too soon to say’ to poetry, to meditations on grief and much more.
There’s a humbling account of how Harry Josephine’s support for friends recovering from transgender surgery turned out to be the perfect model for, and foundation of, a city-wide mutual aid project. The interview with ‘Mary’, a black domiciliary care worker, bleakly confirms how much coronavirus has added to the difficulties of her already unsatisfactory working conditions: split shifts mean she has to hang around between home visits as there’s not enough time to get home and back, but the closure of cafés and libraries has meant this waiting has had to be done on the streets.
This is just a fraction of what’s on offer in the zine, and of course the Feminist Library site itself is a repository of information, reviews, book lists and online fora. To provide additional support during the pandemic, they’ve started a resources page offering contact details for everything from independent bookshops to domestic violence services. You could do a lot worse than to follow the winged horse (the library’s logo) and lose yourself on https://feministlibrary.co.uk/.