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Broadsheet Collective

1972 – 1997

This essay written by Carmel Daly was first published in Women Together: a History of Women's Organisations in New Zealand in 1993.

1972 – 1993

Broadsheet became one of the world's longest-lived feminist magazines: the first issue was produced by the publications sub-committee of Auckland Women's Liberation in July 1972. Sandra Coney, editor from 1972 to 1985, described the founders as primarily middle class housewives who were also either recent graduates or students. [1] They had been eagerly attending consciousness-raising groups and were now keen to act in some way. Publishing a magazine seemed to be the best use of their skills and talents; in the mainstream media, 'Our concerns and actions, and the movement itself, were consistently ignored, trivialised and distorted.' [2]

Early articles focused on 'liberating women from the female role … We saw sexism as this accident of society'. [3] However, reproduction issues featured strongly from the beginning. As Broadsheet matured along with the movement, the perspective changed 'from talking about equality on men's terms to rejecting all aspects of male power'. [4] Issues such as violence against women and sexual harassment were discussed in Broadsheet well before they became general social concerns.

From the outset, both the magazine and the collective had a strong political role, building, nurturing, analysing and critiquing the women's movement. Collective members planned and took part in workshops, conferences, and demonstrations. The magazine and its office were a central point for distributing information and planning actions – including the travelling political roadshows of 1982, 1983 and 1987. [5]

At first, anyone wanting to work on the magazine was welcome, but this approach soon led to difficulties: 'Conflicts arose when people had goals which were different from the majority and when people made decisions which were not based on either knowledge or commitment.' [6] From 1975, those who had already demonstrated commitment formed a closed collective, making policy and other decisions through consensus, and inviting other clearly committed workers to join. The closed collective system continued into the 1990s, though many other women also worked for Broadsheet.

The first committee was interested in the process of working together and spent much time discussing this. Members believed in sharing skills, but practicalities meant that particular women became responsible for specific areas. As the magazine and the workload grew, and new women joined, process became less of an issue, though debate continued over responsibility, knowledge, commitment, power, performance and payment.

For three years, no one was paid for their work. Many of the early collective members had other paid jobs. In 1975 the collective embarked on a plan intended to lead to payment for all work; as a start, two part-time wages (a third was added in 1977) would be funded through advertising revenue. However, many types of advertising, for example for cigarettes, were not accepted. Finance was a continuing difficulty, and much of the work, including the writing, remained voluntary.

Developments and changes were contentious. When the original typed, side-stapled, foolscap format was replaced by a professionally produced magazine in 1974, the collective was divided on how far the changes should go. There were a number of very personal and painful departures from the collective, most notably the 'split' of 1978. The roots of this lay in the wider feminist community, where groups were forming around diverging feminist philosophies.

In July 1978, Christine Dann wrote an editorial expressing her view that 'Our hope lies in uniting against the weight of our common oppression and not in fighting amongst ourselves over who is the "most oppressed", "most radical", or whatever.' [7] Many readers wrote agreeing with Dann's comments; others were outraged and felt that they negated the position of lesbians. Within the collective, these comments and others in the editorial increased the tension that already existed, particularly as it was seen by many to be a collective view. When a difference of opinion arose over whether the collective should share their new premises and lease with a lesbian Women's Art Collective, the four lesbian members walked out, calling for a 'dykecott' of Broadsheet. The remaining women continued to produce the magazine, with some lesbian support.

Sometimes the collective ran ahead of readers. When Broadsheet published three essays by Donna Awatere on 'Māori Sovereignty' and other articles by Māori women on racism (1982–83), the collective was concerned by the preponderance of letters expressing racist views, and responded with a statement of strong support for Awatere. Broadsheet later published her series as a book. [8]

The Broadsheet Collective, 1987
The Broadsheet Collective, 1987.

Both these events showed Broadsheet's propensity to reflect what was happening in the wider women's community. Its problems in the 1990s suggested that this pattern remained unchanged. Broadsheet became a company in 1987, and changed to a larger, glossier format. But in 1991, the widening gap between rising costs and falling income from subscriptions and donations dictated its becoming an incorporated society, cutting back from ten to four issues a year and a cheaper format, and once again doing all work on a voluntary basis.

The collective saw these changes as a positive response to difficulties caused mainly by the general economic recession and its effects on women in particular. The letters received, however, suggest that the magazine's relevance was being questioned. One woman wrote saying she saw 'no reason to continue to support a product which – although it does contain good material – clearly does not meet the needs and interests of feminists in New Zealand ... if women don't want the magazine then do they need it?' [9]

However, Pat Rosier, editor from 1985 to 1991, believed that 'the magazine is as necessary now as it has ever been – when so many alternative voices are being silenced in so many ways it seems really important that women don't lose theirs.' [10]

Carmel Daly


[1] 'The four women generally attributed with "getting Broadsheet going" are Sandra Coney, Anne Else, Rosemary Ronald, and Kitty Wishart.' Rosier, 1992, p. 10.

[2] Coney, 1982, p. 11.

[3] Coney, 1985, p. 35.

[4] Coney, 1985, p. 35.

[5] 'What Did You Do in the War, Mummy?', ‘Asking For It', and 'Born to Clean', all written and directed by Renée.

[6] Cederman and Coney, 1975, p. 31.

[7] Christine Dann, 'The State of the Movement', Broadsheet, No. 61, July 1978, p. 7.

[8] Donna Awatere, Māori Sovereignty, Broadsheet Magazine Ltd, Auckland, 1984.

[9] Alison Jones, letter, Broadsheet, No. 192, Summer 1991/1992, p. 3.

[10] The Collective, 'An Important Message to Our Readers', Broadsheet, No. 191, September 1991, p. 2.

Published sources

Cederman, Sharyn and Sandra Coney, 'How Broadsheet Grew', Broadsheet, No. 31, July 1975, pp. 31–32.

Coney, Sandra, 'Broadsheet, Ten Years On', Broadsheet, No. 101, July/August 1981, pp. 12–19

Coney, Sandra, 'Memoir of a Survivor', New Outlook, Winter 1982, pp. 11–13

Rosier, Pat and Jenny Rankine, '14 Years of Broadsheet' (interview with Sandra Coney), Broadsheet, No. 133, October 1985, pp. 33–37

Rosier, Pat (ed.), Been Around for Quite a While: Twenty Years of Broadsheet Magazine, New Women's Press, Auckland, 1992