The content of these newsletters are amazing, they give a flavour of what society was like when WEL first started in 1972, and how constricting life was for women.
The technology was very different in 1972 – there were no printers, computers, photocopiers, mobile phones, etc. There were only manual typewriters and the electronic typewriters (only IBM) were only just becoming popular. The landline phones not only had numbers, but letters of the alphabet as well – MX1234.
In 1972 to produce the 36 page newsletter was an enormous task. There was just so much to say that it could not be said in the few pages that newsletters are generally produced with now. But it wasn’t a matter of sending off to a printer to be produced and stapled. First a stencil had to be cut (a special waxed form which when typed on cut ‘holes’ in the waxed surface) and the stencil was then fitted to an ink-filled drum, which when rotated, it pressed against the surface of the paper and the page was produced.
You will notice if you look at the earlier editions of the newsletter that each page has been scanned twice. This is because the pages were printed on foolscap size paper – which is longer than the A4 size of today. My scanner could only accommodate A4, and so I had to scan the top of the page and then redo to make sure that the final paragraph was also captured.
Newsletters weren’t the only means of communication – the other process used by WEL was the ‘telephone tree’. This meant that there were groups of women who communicated messages with others and each taking responsibility for passing the message on. How they would have loved the technology of today with instant messaging and Facebook!
Some of these newsletters have been made available on the WEL website as a resource for students or for people interested in the history of the women’s movement. We have a concern that copies of the newsletter which reside in libraries and archives are not as accessible as they should be.
We want to honour the founders of the Women’s Electoral Lobby and to ensure that the names of women who have worked so diligently across the years in the fight for an equal society for women are not lost forever.
Anne Barber 17 August 2015