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Spare Rib: Every issue of landmark women’s magazine now free to read online

Spare Rib: Every issue of landmark women’s magazine now free to read online

Ground-breaking British magazine, Spare Rib has today had all its issues put online for free.

The seminal magazine ran between 1973-1993, with its initial success coinciding with the growth in the Women’s Liberation Movement.

It was a must-read for feminists – including many lesbian and bisexual women – and featured articles that challenged the status quo and showcased the work of many up and coming writers and illustrators.

From today, all 239 editions of the magazine can be viewed online. On top of this, the British Library is to host a curated Spare Rib website, showcasing 300 selected pages, along with articles from contributors and activists about the magazine, its history and influence.

Until now, past issues of Spare Rib were only available to view in paper format in the Library’s reading rooms.

The process of digitizing them has taken a considerable amount of time due to the fact that the collective who created the magazine took thousands of editorial submissions from all over the world, leading to a tremendous amount of copyright clearance.

‘Funny, irreverent, intelligent and passionate, Spare Rib was a product of its time which is also somehow timeless,’ said Polly Russell, Curator of Politics and Public Life at the British Library, in a statement.

‘Detailed features on feminist issues such as domestic violence and abortion, and news stories about women from the UK and around the world sit side-by-side with articles about hair care (including the unwanted kind), how to put up a shelf and instructions on self-defense.

‘Just as varied were the breadth of voices in the magazine; early editions of Spare Rib involved big-name contributors including Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Margaret Drabble and Alice Walker, but alongside these were the voices of ordinary women telling their own stories.’

Someone heavily involved with Spare Rib in the 1980s was the activist Linda Bellos, who writes on the British Library website about how she felt the need to challenge the Spare Rib collective to write more articles that didn’t focus on ‘white middle-class women’ – pushing for more editorial contents for black, lesbian and disabled women.

Marsha Rowe, a co-founder of Spare Rib magazine, said she was thrilled that the magazine could now be read online: ‘It’s as if the magazine has been given a new lease of life. By making the magazine freely available over the internet, it can encourage women round the world to act together for change and be a resource in support of their struggle for rights and freedoms.’

Check out the Spare Rib archive here