Although hidden within a rather old, inconspicuous building, The Feminist Library on Westminster Bridge Road (just a short 10 minute walk from Waterloo East Station) is home to a large collection of Women’s Liberation Movement literature, particularly second-wave materials from the 1960s up to the 1990s. Hidden in the recesses of a few cramped rooms on the first floor of this inconspicuous Multipurpose Resource Centre, The Feminist Library stocks everything from fiction written by women, to non-fiction, magazines and zines. I was surprised to find out that they stock over 5,000 non-fiction books, which have been donated, and date back to the 1900s. Topics cover the arts, women’s history, mental health, physical health and politics. It was an impressive collection to look at and I was drawn to so many titles!
The bookshop itself is actually only open on Saturdays from 10am-6pm and is located in the space outside of the office and library. It is rather small, however, they have a fascinating collection of back issue copies of the feminist magazine Spare Rib for sale, as well as numerous pamphlet books on different topics for a couple of pounds each. There is also a small selection of new publications, such as Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune’s Reclaiming the F Word: Feminism Today and a couple of books by Susan Sellers, including the interesting Vanessa and Virginia, based on the relationship between Virginia Woolf and her sister, Vanessa Bell (I was almost tempted to buy this).
I was most drawn to the secondhand rack of books, which included a mix of fiction and non-fiction. I came back with a very interesting haul, which I look forward to reading!
- Down Among the Women by Fay Weldon – tells the story of three generations of women living in 1950s England. Each of them is unhappy and unfulfilled with their restricted lives. As the blurb states: all are ‘discontented in various ways until they recognise that what they think they want is not what they need’.
- Writing For Their Lives: The Modernist Women 1910-1940 by Gillian Hanscombe and Virginia L. Smyers – a detailed analysis of female writers, such as Dorothy Richardson, Djuna Barnes, Marianne Moore and Mina Loy who ‘were at the forefront of literary experimentation’. They are reinstated alongside such figures as James Joyce and Ezra Pound, highlighting that their work was just as innovative and influential as their male counterparts. As someone who only knows Virginia Woolf when it comes to female modernist writers I feel like this book will be very informative (as well as damaging for my bank balance!).
- Beyond Power: On Women, Men and Morals by Marilyn French – after reading The Women’s Room at the beginning of the year I am drawn to the rest of French’s work. In this non-fiction book French asks the question: ‘how is it that a relative handful of men have come to have such complete power over the lives of hundreds of millions of men and women?’
- Spare Rib, January 1986 – I chose this copy of Spare Rib simply because it has an interview with Keri Hulme, the writer of the Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Bone People. I have had this book on my shelf for quite a while now so this interview should be a good accompaniment when I get round to reading it!