Early feminist publications

The Ladies' Monthly Museum

Published 1798-1830 by 'a society of ladies'. Though mainly about fashion, domesticity and the arts, it did run feature articles on distinguished women. Articles such as 'Plan for the Emancipation of the Fair Sex' (1801) may seem tame these days but even mentioning such a subject in 1801 was unusual.

La Belle Assemblee, or Bells' Court and Fashionable Magazine

In 1830 it published an article called 'The Rights of Woman Asserted'.

The English Woman's Journal

In 1856 Bessie Rayner Parkes met Scotswoman Isa Craig (1831-1903; from 1866 Mrs Knox), a journalist on The Scotsman and assistant secretary to the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science. They both wrote for the fortnightly Waverley Journal, edited by Eleanor Duckworth.

In 1857 it changed its name to The English Women's Review and four issues later Bessie Rayner Parkes and writer Matilda Hays (who had been trying to start a feminist magazine for a decade) became its editors, with Isa as assistant. They moved it from Edinburgh to London. One of the essays it published was Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon's hard-hitting essay 'Women and Work'.

They thought of buying the magazine but the price was too high and so they were advised by George Hastings to start up a fresh one instead. The women edited the Waverley Journal for the last time in February 1858 and a month later Bessie and Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon founded in its place The English Woman's Journal. which ran for six years (72 editions, each of 72 pages) under the editorship of Bessie and Matilda until 1862, when Emily Davies took over until 1864, when she handed the baton to Elizabeth Elioart (later to become a prolific novelist). Its main theme was employment.

Most interestingly, like-minded readers began to visit the offices at 19 Langham Place, and soon it became a meeting place for feminists, seventy of whom subscribed to its reading room by 1858. As a meeting place it was open till 10pm.

The Journal was set up as a limited company. Among its shareholders were Matilda Hays, Bessie Rayner Parkes , Mary Merryweather, Mary Sturch (sister of Elisabeth Reid), Catherine Taylor, Maria Rye, Helena, Comtesse de Noailles and Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon and her husband Eugene Bodichon. Although Barbara was the major shareholder, because she was by this time married she could not hold the shares in her name and registered them to her sister Anne. Eleven men also had shares in the company, as did Barbara's sister Bella Leigh Smith.

Jessie Boucherett saw the English Woman's Journal on a railway bookstall and dashed down to London to get involved with it.

The Journal's circulation was impressive considering its avant-garde feminist stance. In its second year it had 450 annual subscribers and sold an additional 250 copies a month. From 1860 it was printing 1000 copies a month to sell and a further 250 to store (to cover demand for back issues).

It ceased publication in February 1864.Bessie Rayner Parkes founded the short-lived (16 months) Alexandra Magazine and Englishwoman's Journal. Jessie Boucherett took over the magazine in 1866 and was its editor until 1882. It was published from 19 Langham Place as The Englishwoman's Review, and continued until 1903.

Women and Work: A Weekly Industrial, Educational, and Household Register for Women (Jun 1874-Feb 1876)

Founded, edited and printed by Emily Faithfull, it was a weekly, eight-page magazine, whose stated aim was to be 'a complete and reliable organ for women seeking employment and employers seeing workers' (6 Jun 1874). It also included articles by Bessie Rayner Parkes , Adelaide Procter, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon. It cautioned: 'Women wishing to enter the dramatic profession, should never answer anonymous advertisements in the press' (Women and Work, 1 Jan 1876).

The Women's Penny Paper (1888-1891) later called the Woman's Herald (1891-1893)

Described by David Doughan as 'the most vigorous feminist paper of its time', it was founded by Henrietta B. Muller, who was also its editor, under the pseudonym 'Helena B Temple'. She launched the paper because 'One of the things which always humiliated me very much was the way in which women's interests and opinions were systematically excluded from the World's Press ... I realised of what vital importance it was that women should have a newspaper of their own through which to voice their thoughts...' The aim of the paper was 'to further the emancipation of women in every direction and in every land.'

Henrietta B. Muller was editor until April 1892. She was succeeded by Mrs Frank Morrison, Christina Bremner, Lady Henry Somerset. The paper was taken over by the Woman's Signal, which ran from 1894 to 1899, edited by Florence Fenwick-Miller from 3 October 1895.

This website is 'work in progress' and therefore pages may not yet be started, let alone finished.

All pages © Helena Wojtczak 2009. Corrections and additions are warmly welcomed. Email me