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Feminism Before the First Wave

Fairbairns, Zoe
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Five Leaves Publications (N/A)
Published: May 9, 2022
ISBN: 9781910170946
32 pages
Country of publication: United Kingdom


“I have no quarrel with the use of waves as a metaphor for feminism. On the contrary – waves and feminism have a lot in common. Waves are powerful and often beautiful. So is feminism. Waves move things about. So does feminism, Waves rock the boat. Exactly.”

The ‘first wave’ of feminism is usually considered to have begun around 1860 and ended in 1920. The ‘second wave’ supposedly began in the 1960s. But this does not mean that there was no feminist activity before 1860, or between 1920 and 1960. Zoë Fairbairns argues in this essay that to consider only the ‘waves’ of feminism is to exclude and erase the ideas and actions of women writers, activists, and others who strove for freedom and equality outside those ‘waves’.

“…let’s leave erasure to the erasers, and keep our minds open to the possibility, the certainty, that there was feminism before the first wave.”

Zoë Fairbairns first heard of the Women’s Liberation Movement in 1970 and joined at once. Her activism has included campaigning for equality at work and at home, and writing: her novel Benefits and her short story collection How Do You Pronounce Nulliparous? are both published by Five Leaves. Her website is at www.zoefairbairns.co.uk

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