WomaNews

Curator's Letter

Overview

Timeline

Gainesville in the 1960s

"The Florida Paper"

Sexual and Physical Abuse Resource Center

Gainesville Women's Health Center

The Women's Center

WomaNews

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Further Reading

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Addendum

Digital Collection

   

Every New Cultural Wave Needs a Published Organ

Women Unlimited published its first issue of WomaNews, a monthly feminist newsletter, in May of 1975, two months after the opening of the Women's Center. The writers of WomaNews reported most of the movement activity in Gainesville. One feminist comments on the importance of the newsletter saying,

"I know that during the Civil Rights Movement I think one of the lessons that everyone learned was that we had to have some sort of written document, some sort of newsletter, some sort of newspaper that really carried the message. Every new cultural wave needs a published organ, alternative or whatever one wants to call it...or its dead in the water."

The newsletter centralized The Women's Center by making public the leaders and leadership responsibilities, policy and structural guidelines, meeting times, fundraisers, and other pertinent news and events that organized the institution to function as one unit.

WomaNews issues also reached the hands of local right-wing conservatives, who cringed while reading articles on women's sexuality and spirituality. A WomaNews columnist, who wrote the "Radical Ravings" section, spoke about their reaction to the publication, saying, "The right-wing did not like their tax-payers money going to promote lesbianism and witchcraft."

Once the Women's Center began receiving the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act grant, community conservatives pressured state and government officials to cease funding to the feminist institution, making unsubstantiated claims that Women Unlimited violated grant requirements by publishing WomaNews.

After six months, two investigations, one review, and unrelenting pressure from conservatives, the County Commission decided to cut funding to The Women's Center before the case reached Washington D.C. and prior to giving Women Unlimited a fair trail (WomaNews Dec. 1977). WomaNews staff ceased operations shortly thereafter in 1978.

The end to radical feminist print culture was not near, however. A new lesbian feminist publication began circulating six years later in Gainesville called Mama Raga. According to one account, three women founded Mama Raga in 1984 in response to the blockbuster hit, Gandhi, which emphasized the importance of the press by asserting that "Without a journal of some kind you cannot unite a community" (Sony Studios 1982).

As a result, women compiled newsletters and distributed them once a month, publishing articles on women's sexuality and politics, poetry, and other forms of creative writing. The publication also features a calendar of events, listing fundraisers, social events, and other local happenings as well as a classifieds section and a directory of local lesbian businesses.

Throughout the decades, the Mama Raga Collective has struggled to continue operating due to a lack of financial support and volunteers; however, the collective's small core, overall minimal expenses, and a steady stream of committed lesbian feminists has allowed for its continual operation.

Today Mama Raga continues as a group of loosely linked activists who meet once a month in the Pride Community Center in order to produce "The Lesbian Feminist Newsletter of North Central Florida." The group also communicates daily through a Yahoo message forum in order to assemble the newsletter - a technological advancement that allows for new ways for coordinating communication in the next cultural wave.

 

The History of Feminist Bookselling in Gainesville >>