Scarlet Women is described as “the newsletter of the socialist current of the Women’s Liberation Movement” of the 1970s, produced by a feminist collective based in North Shields and distributed across the UK.
Scarlet Women Issue 15: Women Oppose the Nuclear Threat (1983/2019) was designed, laid-out and edited by the Scarlet Women editorial team in 1983, however due to the testing circumstances of committed campaign work of all its members, it was never published for its readership. Holly Argent from Women Artists of the North East Library and original editor of the Scarlet Women, Penny Remfry, printed the issue in 2019 on the occasion of screening Sandra Lahire’s Anti-Nuclear trilogy of films at the Star and Shadow Cinema, and presented it alongside an exhibition of Penny Remfry’s extraordinary personal political poster collection.
Penny Remfry’s forward to the issue provides a fitting introduction to the Scarlet Women and reflects on it’s significance as a socialist-feminist newsletter working at the height of the women’s liberation movement…
Scarlet Women was the ‘newsletter of the socialist feminist current in the Women’s Liberation Movement’ with 14 issues between 1976 to 1982. It was produced by an editorial collective which was based in North Shields and included women from Tyneside, the north west and London. The purpose of the newsletter was to discuss issues faced by women who identified both as feminists and socialists – this at a time when the left by and large were of the view that the liberation of women from their oppression had to wait until the workers’ revolution had triumphed. Issues of the newsletter reported on campaigns and discussions in different parts of the country, as well as issues such as women’s reproductive rights, financial independence, imperialism, new technology. It was always concerned with trying to reflect a variety of views on the topics being discussed.
The last printed issue of Scarlet Women came out in early 1982. This issue on the Nuclear Threat was put together by Ann Torode, a key member of the editorial collective. She did much of the interviewing, requesting of articles and selection for printing. The issue never got published because by the time it was ready for printing in 1983 the other members of the collective had melted away, involved in other activities and concerns.
As a remaining member of the Tyneside part of the editorial collective I am delighted that this issue will now see the light of day, thanks to Holly Argent from the Women Artists of the North East Archive. It has been produced in conjunction with the Star & Shadow for an event looking at some films produced in the 1980s about nuclear issues. As with so many of the articles in previous issues of Scarlet Women many of the articles here are still relevant, drawing attention to issues and activities still current and still unresolved.
A new issue of Scarlet Women is being prepared, thanks to Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM), with the theme: What’s changed for women since 1982? It will form part of the TWAM archive on Women in Tyneside and a copy will be available on their website from June 2019. More information about Scarlet Women and its origins can be found there.
Finally I’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Ann Torode without whose energy, determination and intellectual clarity Scarlet Women would probably not have existed. Ann (1943 – 2017) was born in London and came to live in Whitley Bay from Leeds in 1972. She was a founder member of the Coast Women’s Group which initiated the discussions which resulted in Scarlet Women, and with others established the North Tyneside Women’s Aid Refuge and Tyneside Rape Crisis Centre. Ann was a passionate feminist and a lifelong campaigner against oppression and exploitation in all its forms. She would have been so happy to see this issue of Scarlet Women finally published and its contents made available to others to read and discuss.
Two printed copies of Scarlet Women 15 are kept in the Library collection or you can download a PDF
Scarlet Women today
The legacy and archive of Scarlet Women is cared for and maintained by Penny Remfry in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside. Copies of Scarlet Women 1-14 can be found in various archives across the country including The British Library, London. In July 2019, Scarlet Women digitally published a brand new issue on the theme of Power and Influence, in association with Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums ‘Women of Tyneside’ project.
You can download a copy of the special issue from Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums here
Penny Remfry was born in Birmingham but moved to the North East in 1973 and was involved in establishing a women’s refuge in North Tyneside and Tyneside Rape Crisis. She campaigned for the Working Women’s Charter – a trade union campaign for equal pay, equal opportunities, maternity leave, and childcare – and worked on producing the Scarlet Women newsletter in North Shields.
If you would like to know more about the work of Scarlet Women, please get in touch and we can put you in contact with Penny Remfry directly.