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Master Thesis

The coverage of the reproductive freedom movement from 1980 to 1993 in American feminist newspapers : Sojourner, Big Mama Rag, off our backs and New Directions for Women

Abstract : In the 1970s, the women’s liberation movement enabled women to make their voices heard through print. Many feminist publications emerged at the time, as it was the optimal choice of media for activist groups. This study will focus on four alternative publications: Sojourner, Big Mama Rag, off our backs and New Directions for Women. These publications have been chosen for their similarities – they are all feminist newspapers that came out in the 1970s and dealt with reproductive health issues, but with slight differences. As underground newspapers operating independently, away from the mainstream press, funding was often an issue, sometimes to the point where they had to cease production. For example, Big Mama Rag only survived twelve years. The three others survived until the 1990s, and even the 2000s, relying on their readers and other contributors, although never becoming mainstream as Ms. Magazine, which had a circulation of 350,000 in 1973 (Ms. vol. 1, no. 7, 96-97). To put this in perspective, off our backs peaked with 15,000 copies sold in 1977 (Farrell 24) and Big Mama Rag distributed around 2,700 copies each month in 1980 (Big Mama Rag, Inc. v. U.S. ). Ms. was considered mainstream because it saw rapid success and attracted influential advertisers such as Sheaffer, while alternative newspapers advertised for lesser known and women-owned businesses. This essay will study the newspapers’ position as underground publications, including their struggles as such, and will analyse the movement’s demand for “women’s forums” – a place where women are given a voice and can exchange information on various issues. Moreover, this thesis will analyse how the issue of reproductive freedom took up considerable room within the feminist agenda and thus within the four newspapers’ pages, at a time when women’s reproductive rights were still threatened. To start with, in 1976, Republican Congressman Henry Hyde presented an Amendment to ban federal funds for abortions, which passed Congress in 1977 and took effect in 1980. On another front, sterilisation abuse was a major issue faced by women of colour. Young women’s access to contraception or abortion without their parents’ consent was also being debated. The four newspapers regularly dealt with these subjects, taking the broader definition of what “reproductive freedom” means into account. Every news section of every issue mentioned at least once the words “abortion” or “sterilization”. Several feature articles focused on abortion or reproductive health in general. The words “abortion”, “sterilization” and “reproductive” were mentioned more, by far, in the 1980s than in the 1970s. This paper will therefore study the coverage of the reproductive freedom movement in Sojourner, Big Mama Rag, off our backs and New Directions for Women from 1980, when the Hyde Amendment came into effect, to 1993, when President Clinton reintroduced the rape and incest exceptions to the Amendment.
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Master Thesis
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https://dumas.ccsd.cnrs.fr/dumas-03428886
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Submitted on : Monday, November 15, 2021 - 12:55:51 PM
Last modification on : Monday, December 13, 2021 - 12:02:52 PM

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Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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  • HAL Id : dumas-03428886, version 1

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Émilie Jacob. The coverage of the reproductive freedom movement from 1980 to 1993 in American feminist newspapers : Sojourner, Big Mama Rag, off our backs and New Directions for Women. Gender studies. 2021. ⟨dumas-03428886⟩

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