The Feminist Findings Zine Uncovers Forgotten Histories of Feminist Publishing

A curious mix of logos meet on the cover of the Feminist Findings zine. From the sinuous, fluid logo of Sorcières, a ’70s French literary and feminist periodical, to the masthead of Spare Rib, designed from twisted tissue paper, to the hand-scrawled logo of Swiss feminist magazine Emanzipation, each looks nothing like the other, but they all have one thing in common – they were imagined and created by women.

Inside the pages of the zine, articles and essays dig into the little-known histories of 20th-century feminist periodicals from all over the world, built on the research of 26 womxn and non-binary folks. It’s the creation of the L.i.P Collective—an acronym for ‘Liberation in Print’—that formed in the early days of the lockdown and met through their laptop screens in a workshop initiated by le Signe, the National du Graphisme in Chaumont, France. Working remotely from their kitchen tables and bedroom desks, each member chose a periodical to research, with an emphasis on underrepresented and marginalized histories and perspectives, then every Wednesday met on a video call to discuss their case study and share their findings with the team. The results of their research took the form a zine, and spilled onto an exhibition, also called Feminist Findings, currently on view at Berlin’s A–Z Presents.

Feminist Findings also marks the first project from Futuress, an online magazine and community space from the workshop’s mentors—Corin Gisel and Nina Paim of the design research practice common-interest and journalist (and former Eye on Design editor) Madeleine Morley—launching in fall of this year. “Feminist research can be a lonely undertaking, so together as the L.i.P. Collective, we wanted to create the space to support one another in our endeavors,” says the Futuress team. With libraries and archives shut due to the pandemic, the digital archives that the mentors were already sifting through presented  an opportunity to continue research while at home, and sparked the idea for the remote workshop.

The diverse stories collected in the zine leaps across cultures, continents, and decades. In an interview, graphic designer Zenobia Ahmed talks to Urvashi Butalia, co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist press launched in 1984; the conversation meanders through Butalia’s efforts to highlight the powerful voices of women missing from Indian literature, and recounts the beginnings of the country’s first feminist journal, Manushi: A Journal about Women and Society. Researcher and designer Floriane Misslin dissected the Playboy-look-alike covers of the ’60s magazine Nova to understand how its design capitalized on the women’s movement, only to align it’s definition of the “new kind of woman” to one that fit the expectations of the heterosexual male gaze. And in her essay, “Financing Feminism Through Beads and Brioche,” designer Fanny Maurel discovers how, in ’70s Paris, writer Yolaine Simha started an underground salon that disguised itself as a tearoom to smuggle subversive ideas, and financed the project through the sale of cakes and lemon curd brioche.

Although the access of digital archives was the basis of the virtual workshop, not being able to visit libraries and archives in person did present its challenges, especially for participants who were looking for very specific issues or journals that represented more marginalized perspectives. When Maya Ober began searching for Jewish feminist periodicals, for example, she realized that these publications were only very seldomly archived, and if they were, they haven’t been digitized yet. Confronted with this absence, Ober wrote about her experience of leafing through Jewish magazines focused on culture, politics and art in her search for Yiddish feminist periodicals.  The only information she gathered was through extracts from scarce scholarship on feminist discourse in women’s Yiddhish press.

The challenges, however, were balanced by a smattering of serendipitous surprises. Noemi Parisi, a designer and student in Basel, discovered that one of the original designers of Emanzipation lived just down the street from her. When social distancing softened in Switzerland, she visited the designer, who then lent her a near complete collection of the magazine.

Each L.i.P member designed their own story for the zine, using typefaces by womxn type designers, and in a brilliant, riso-friendly color.  Meanwhile, the nuances of the research and the little pockets of details that couldn’t fit on a page found its way to the exhibition.
“We conceived the exhibition as an extended, expanded, and exploded footnote of the zine,” says Futuress. Parisi’s copies of Emanzipation are on view, along with a hand-stitched, typographic banner by designer Klaudia Mazur, created as an homage to the team of women behind the ’70s German feminist magazine Courage, and snippets from reader’s letters that appeared in ’70s lesbian separatist periodical, DYKE A Quarterly, amongst other artifacts.

While the challenges of creating a feminist praxis in the twentieth century is echoed in the solitary, often difficult pursuit of feminist research today, the opportunities presented by both are also quite synonymous. Whether it be an all-women editorial meeting in an underground salon in ’70s Paris, or a remote workshop amidst a global lockdown attempting to rediscover lost feminist periodicals, they both present an opportunity to create a community, and as Futuress succinctly put it, come with “the power of finding each other”.

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