The Feminist Library in London

Currently in-between homes, London's Feminist Library is one of the UK's most unique and resilient archives.

A Library for the Liberation Movement
The Feminist Library was founded in London in 1975. The preceding decade had seen the explosion of energy that was the Women’s Liberation Movement, a time of intense political campaigning and lively collective organising. Feminist groups met around the country and self-published their own newsletters. Feminist publishing houses were set up. Women felt empowered to write - fiction, women’s history, politics, health, criticism and arts - on a scale never seen before. A group of women decided that this cultural and political moment needed recording and set up the Library, then called the Women’s Research and Resources Centre (WRRC) in one small room. 

A unique collection, a unique classification scheme
Kept going by the passion, energy and dedication of a changing group of volunteers,  the library's collections have grown over the years. The Library has amassed more than 7000 books and 1500 periodicals from all over the world. The collection is unique and a day exploring the Library feels like diving into a vast sea of feminist history and consciousness, one that has contributed profoundly to the political liberation of women today. 

The non-fiction books have a unique Classification System,devised by feminist librarian Wendy Davis in 1978. This was the first classification scheme to take issues of concern to women as its central organising principle, rather than placing them as a subcategory. As all librarians know cataloguing is a political business!  This classification scheme is itself an important piece of feminist scholarship and activism and has been adopted by other feminist libraries around the world.

A new home for the Library
The Library has had many homes over the years - upstairs from the Sisterwrite Bookshop in Upper Street, Islington; next to Spare Rib in Clerkenwell Close; and above A Woman’s Place on the Embankment, before moving to its present home in Southwark in 1986. 

It receives no government funding and so it has always been a fight to keep it open. There have been many campaigns to save it over the years – all thankfully successful so far! 

One of the reasons that the Library has always found a way to survive is the special place it holds in the hearts of many Londoners, and feminists, around the world. Since the beginning, it has provided a social space as part of its remit. Open to visitors of all genders, people use the space to organise meetings and campaigns, and the Library has its own rolling programme of discussions, book clubs, art exhibitions, workshops and cultural events. 

The Library is on the move again, and fighting once again for its survival.  The Library’s home in Westminster Bridge Road is being redeveloped and Southwark Council has offered the Library a new building in Peckham at ‘The Sojourner Truth Centre’. The Library’s volunteers are currently running a campaign to raise the funds needed to move the Library, and to completely refit this new space. 

Crowdfunding the Library
A public fundraising campaign was launched in October 2018. Since then thanks to the public’s generous support they have raised over £30,000.

The Library is hoping to reach its stretch target of £65,000. If you would like to donate to the campaign you can do so here:

The Library is closed while the move takes place. It aims to be open again later in spring 2019. Watch out for the opening party, which will celebrate the successful continuation of one of London’s most resilient and unique archives!


Photograph of Feminist Library volunteers taken by Eva Megias.


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