The setting up of feminist publishing house Kali for Women in New Delhi in 1984, was a watershed in many ways. 25 years later, Anita Roy retraces the journey.
In the early seventies, a trio of young, wild-haired women — Harriet Spicer, Carmen Callil and Ursula Owen, got together in London to launch a feminist publishing house. They chose the name Virago — meaning ‘a fierce or abusive woman’ , according to the dictionary. The munched apple logo on Virago’s book spines became synonymous with women who — from Eve onwards — have wanted to taste forbidden fruit, a Biblical reference also echoed in the pioneering British feminist magazine at the time, ‘Spare Rib’. The Women’s Press came along a few years later, its name, and distinctive logo — an upturned iron — played on the idea that ‘women’s work’ is domestic and mundane. Another important publishing house, Pandora, promised to lift the lid and unleash women’s words on the world. During the next decade, several feminist publishing houses sprang up across the world: Spinifex in Australia, Flora Nwapa and Co and Sritti ya Sechaba in South Africa, Domes in Japan, Cuarto Propio in Chile, Le Fennec in Morocco. In South Asia, there was Simorgh and Shirkat Gah in Pakistan, Asmita Women’s Publication House in Nepal, and in India, there was Kali for Women, set up in New Delhi in 1984 followed six years later by Stree, set up Mandira Sen in Calcutta.
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