New Feminism in Chicago: The Feminist Voice

By Chris Mattix


This post is part of the WLA blog’s 2022 series written by guest writers. These writers are graduate students in the Public History program at Loyola University Chicago. Each visited the archives during Fall 2021, delved into the collections, and wrote about a topic not yet explored here. We are excited to share their research and perspectives!


On August 26, 1971, The Feminist Voice, a magazine “published in the interest of women” was first released in Chicago. Four years earlier, in 1967, the first “new feminist,” later known as “second wave feminist,” group in the United States was formed and released a regular newsletter, Voice of the Women’s Liberation Movement. It was from this Chicago Women’s Liberation Union newsletter that The Feminist Voice drew inspiration to report on the rise of new feminism in Chicago and the larger nation. The date of the first issue, August 26th, was of key importance to the writers of the magazine as it was the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which recognized women’s suffrage nationally, a victory that inspired Second Wave Feminists.[1]

Figure 1. Cover page of The Feminist Voice vol 1. no, 1 August 1971.

The Feminist Voice collective was composed of a diverse group of women; married women, divorced women, women with and without children, lesbian and heterosexual women, politically organized women, and “loners” [2]. While they shared little philosophically, the collective shared a few key beliefs that the magazine would be used to address. The first editorial column published in The Feminist Voice made their central cause clear: “We know that the liberation of all women must become women’s number one priority. We will not be talked into fighting for another’s cause as our sisters in the 1920s and 1960s were when they fought for the civil rights of other people. We have learned that fighting for the rights of others keeps us from facing our own oppression. We believe that people must free themselves from forces that oppress them [3].” The Feminist Voice would serve as a place for these women to express their “reasoned rage” in alternative to the “male-dominated press” and a space for self-discovery [4].

Figure 2. In the sixth edition of The Feminist Voice Ginny Tormey explored the emerging concept of intersectionality. Tormey addresses the intersection of race and feminism, focusing on the shared oppression of womanhood and the unique oppression of racism.

Over the course of its publication, The Feminist Voice covered a variety of taboo topics including abortion, vasectomy, pregnancy, women’s history, and racism. Lesbianism and safety and self-defense for women also had recurring places within the pages of The Feminist Voice. Because of the topics they covered, and the absence of a central ideology, The Feminist Voice faced criticism for “being too literary, not literary enough, too political, to apolitical, too Marxist, too anti-Marxist [5].” Contrary to this criticism, The Feminist Voice collective planted its feet firmly within the politics of change, refusing to be complacent in their roles as feminists and women, constantly looking for avenues to grow personally, and as a society.

Figure 3. “The Lavender Women,” first appeared in the second issue of The Feminist Voice. “The Lavender Woman” was eventually spun off into a standalone publication in 1971.
Figure 4. Moving to its own publication allowed Lavender Women to address a wider variety of topics. The first issue of the third volume addressed lesbian motherhood.

A regular section in early issues, typically located at the end toward the events calendar, was “The Lavender Women,” a monthly forum produced by members of the Gay Women’s Caucus. “The Lavender Women” provided the readership with “a free space for Lesbian thought, opinion and self expression [6].” After four months of publication, The Feminist Voice cut production of the column and Lavender Woman became a standalone publication in 1971. The collective behind Lavender Woman confronted issues such as Lesbian pride, Lesbian parenthood, faith, lesbian interactions with gay men, and identity in Chicago in the 1970s. Lavender Woman remained in print for five years, until 1976.

Throughout its publication, The Feminist Voice, and its spin-off publication Lavender Woman, served as an avenue for feminists in Chicago to speak truth to power. The Feminist Voice allowed for expression of feminist rage, thought, creativity, and self-expression and allowed for these expressions to be utilized to fight for change. From the first editorial, The Feminist Voice collective made their goals for the paper clear: “Our newspaper will use the abundant talent of women to support other women in the women’s movement, to help create women’s history, straight from the viewpoints of women, getting down the events of what will be one of the great revolutions in the history of Western Civilization [7].” In this, The Feminist Voice prophesized its legacy and place in the collections of the Women and Leadership Archives. The Feminist Voice, held in the Connie Kiosse collection at the WLA, offers much insight into new feminism and what it stood for.

Figure 5.This advertisement appeared in the first issue of The Feminist Voice. Many issues included a cartoon, often of a “liberated woman,” to spread the word and increase circulation of the magazine.

Chris Mattix is a graduate assistant at the WLA and is in their second year in the Public History MA program at Loyola. Chris focuses on Queer history in America and Germany in the pre-Stonewall era. In their free time, Chris is a baker, drag queen, and dog parent.


[1] “Editorial” The Feminist Voice vol 1. no. 1, 25 August 1971. Box 2, Folder 4,Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

[2] “Editorial,” The Feminist Voice vol 1. no. 1, 25 August 1971. Box 2, Folder 4, Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Editorial,” The Feminist Voice vol 1. no. 6, March 1972. Box 2, Folder 4, Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

[6] “The Lavender Women,” The Feminist Voice vol 1. no. 2, September 1971. Box 2, Folder 7, Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

[7] “Editorial” The Feminist Voice vol 1. no. 1, 25 August 1971. Box 2, Folder 4,Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

Images:

Figure 1. Cover page of The Feminist Voice vol 1. no, 1 August 1971. Box 2, Folder 4,Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

Figure 2. “Black Feminism,” The Feminist Voice vol 1. no. 6, March 1972. Box 2, Folder 4,Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

Figure 3. “The Lavender Women,” The Feminist Voice vol 1. no. 2, September 1971. Box 2, Folder 4, Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

Figure 4. Lavender Woman vol. 3 no. 1, September 1971. Box 2, Folder 7, Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.

Figure 5.“Advertisement: Liberated Woman” The Feminist Voice vol 1. no, 1 August 1971. Box 2, Folder 4,Connie Kiosse Collection, Women and Leadership Archives, Chicago, IL.


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About Women and Leadership Archives

Established in 1994, the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) collects, preserves, and makes available permanently valuable records of women and women’s organizations, which document women’s lives, roles, and contributions. The WLA grew out of the need to care for the records of Mundelein College and expanded to collect papers of women leaders and women’s organizations. Collection strengths include the subject areas of activism and women’s issues; authors; education; environmental issues; public service; social justice; women religious; and the fine, performance, and visual arts. The WLA is part of the Gannon Center and Loyola University Libraries and serves a wide variety of users, ranging from students and scholars to the general public. The WLA makes records available at the Archives in Loyola’s Piper Hall, offers remote reference services, presents programs, and provides online resources. Staff include a Director, Assistant Archivist, and graduate assistants from Loyola’s Public History Program.

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