PEI

Women's Network P.E.I. relaunches 'groundbreaking' feminist journal for 35th anniversary

Common Ground was published from 1982 to 1995.

'There were some issues that people didn't want to hear about'

Common Ground was published from 1982 to 1995 and consisted of submissions from Island women ranging from editorials, to poetry, to original art. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Women's Network P.E.I. is relaunching a special edition of an Island feminist journal to celebrate the organization's 35th anniversary.

Common Ground was published from 1982 to 1995 and consisted of submissions from Island women ranging from editorials, to poetry, to original art. 

Anne McCallum was the magazine's managing editor and said it started because of the momentum of the women's movement growing across the country in the '80s.

"It was felt that a publication — and this was you know the days before the internet — a publication would give them a place, a forum for presenting their ideas, for telling their stories, for using their voices for strengthening, you know, their work toward helping women," she said.

"And to just celebrate what women do in our society."

'The core issues are still the core issues'

McCallum said they published nearly 80 issues and that the first issue contained "whatever we were able to get."

"We were keen to do a number of things. One was to not forget the traditional roles that women play in building families and building communities," she said.

"We didn't just want to come out with a publication that said well we should all now be you know, career-minded."

Sandy Kowalik, Anne McCallum and Michelle Jay contributed to Common Ground. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

She said putting the journal together was a balancing act of acknowledging the roles women have traditionally held, but also introducing the new roles women were stepping into. 

McCallum said there was some resistance when Common Ground was first published.

"There were some issues that people didn't want to hear about … some people saw it as a little bit threatening," she said.

"We thought it was groundbreaking and we were thrilled."

I just knew they were the kind of women that were doing things that were important to me.​​​​​- Michelle Jay

Sandy Kowalik was a contributor to the magazine and recalled it covering issues ranging from reproductive rights to the treatment of women in the court system.

She said despite the journal's 13-year run, many of the issues facing women back then are the same today.

"The core issues are still the core issues and there's been lots of evolution, lots of change, some going backward, some going forward, but we're still looking at so many of the same things," she said.

Kowalik said she's proud of those who contributed to the journal over the years.

"It was a huge effort of this Island community and it still exists today. People are still really passionate about change and still working on these issues."

Special edition will be published next year

Michelle Jay was also a contributor and said as a young women in her mid-20s at the time, she was excited to be part of it.

"I just knew they were the kind of women that were doing things that were important to me."

She said the magazine made her feel seen as a queer person. 

"I know that at the time, I wasn't out as a lesbian or a queer person … but I was thinking about it. And seeing articles written by other women … that was not something that I saw anywhere else on P.E.I.," she said.

McCallum says they published nearly 80 issues. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

Jay said the magazine also reflected the changing demographics of the Island. 

"It was the one place that there was kind of some multicultural reflection of who women were on P.E.I. that weren't just white women, weren't just middle-class women," she said.

She said finding this community was crucial to her staying on the Island. 

"If I hadn't found like-minded women and women who were looking to expand our view of who we could be in the world, women's rights and also women's experiences and value all of that, I, I would have felt really lost and excluded here."

Jillian Kilfoil, the executive director of Women's Network P.E.I., said anyone that identifies as a feminist can submit their work before Nov. 24.

She said the special edition of Common Ground will be free and published in the new year. 

More P.E.I. news

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isabella Zavarise is a video journalist with CBC in P.E.I. You can contact her at isabella.zavarise@cbc.ca

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