A Subjective History of Mama Zines/Organizations and Related Topics
by China Martens [read an interview with China, author of the zine The Future Generation]
Over the years I have managed to fill boxes with letters and related miscellaneous zine stuff. I am going through them now - trying to piece together some history of mama zines as seen through my experience.
La Leche League was founded in 1956.
No doubt, we must credit the 1960's that brought forth so many changes that we are still incorporating to this day, in the counter-cultural press, feminism and radical reform in how we parent: like home birth and ideas in education. (However, I realize starting at the 1960's is really not going back far enough - if we look at influences in modern ways of raising children. For example - Summerhill was founded in 1921. A.S. Neill, in turn, was influenced by his 1917 visit to Homer Lane's `Little Commonwealth', a community for delinquent adolescents, and saw self-government at work. Lane was a firm believer in the innate goodness of children. He acquainted Neill with Freud's `New Psychology')
There was a Kid Lib movement in the 70's - an examination of age-ism among the other isms that make this an exploitive society. Growing without Schooling - the bimonthly newsletter started by John Holt, for mutual support and contact among homeschooling/unschooling families - was started in 1977. Also early in the punk days (1976 on up), with ideas of anarchism, questioning authority, and smashing the patriarchy - was radical youth groups, underground high school publications, and the creation of the zine itself.
Mothering magazine, started in 1981, was and is a vital source of information for "natural parenting".
Children and Feminism, a self published book by The Lesbian and Feminist Mothers Political Action Group came out in 1982. L.A.F.M.P.A.G. organized daycare at events in Vancouver and raised awareness of teaching others to include mothers and children at events and do their own daycare. (circle A's abound in this book - I highly recommend it)
The Compleat Mother - I don't know when it came out! I heard someone mention seeing issue in 1986 - so I know it has to date before then. Complete Mother is a newsletter and support network for natural parenting - all about respect for mama's who nurse their children as long as they want and raspberry tea and stuff.
Welfare Warriors/Welfare Mothers Voice Newspaper - by, for , and about mothers in poverty - started in 1986, inspired by Maria, Liberation of People - a Mexican mother's newspaper. Awesome, still going strong. I didn't see my first copy until around 1992. Check it out: welfarewarrior.org
1989 Youth Lib zine starts up/ Syndicat des Eleves - its origins are in a 1986 anti-authoritarian student organization in high school - Canada. Last issue was #6 in 1991
1989 spawns Punk Parent and The Future Generation. As far as I know there has been no parent zines before these except the widely distributed classic pamphlet - "As Soon As Your Born They Make You Feel Small" in 1985 and Family Instincts/Best of Kids Lib News 1985-92 by Mycall Sunanda. (based on parenting experiences in the 60's and 70's)
I only saw one issue of Punk Parent. My zine (TFG) actually came out in the spring of 1990. In December 1990, I received the very first issue of the Ely Fire Fly, "a tiny glow in a forest of darkness" - coming from Ely, Minnesota.
I am looking at a stack of Fire Fly's in my hands. Wow. I can't believe I still have issue number one. It is composed of one tabloid sized paper, folded in half. Articles include: Foam on the Range, soap bubbles in the Boundary Water Canoe Area; One Woman's Visit to the Ely Clinic, about being pregnant and having a bad time with people at this clinic; A Night Out in Ely, a hysterically funny, in a down home "Northern Exposure" way, positive review of a local Bowling Alley; Boycott Nestle: formula of death; little drawings and stuff about the Holidays; and an article on Bob Mould of Husker Du. The letter from editor, Jane Kirby - is a masterfully written anti-war piece as our country prepared for the gulf war. "In our January issue: Home Schooling, Beans, Welfare Myths, and More "
I traded zines with Jane for the next nine years, when she and her family left Ely, lived on a Reservation, as she had her third child, homeschooled them, got married to Jon, moved again, became a midwife and I have to pick out the Fire Fly as my number one favorite mama zine of all time. The last I heard from Jane was #39 in 1998. She would write for community papers and sent me one - Women of Nations (Native American Newspaper coming out of Saint Paul, MN).
I found a review of the first issue of my zine in ANARCHY: a Journal of Desire Armed #25 - in 1990. It's grouped in the Anarchist press review. Interesting to read the other zines reviewed, these are big names in the anarchist press and many had already been around for so long: Kick It Over #25, Love and Rage #1, Fifth Estate #334, Social Anarchism #15, Profane Existence #3, The Shadow #11, Endless Struggle #12, Bayou La Rose #31 (in its 11th year of publication), Ideas and Action #13. In the Alternative Press review I see Maximum RocknRoll #82, Factsheet Five #35. The Feminist press review contains On Our Backs, Off our Backs, The Women's Alternative Times (TWAT) and The Big Red Rag. (I have never heard of the last 2 zines)
(My impression of zines in the beginning of me reading them - where that they were often about politics and music. Not to say there wasn't personal writing or self expression in them but it came from a "the personal is political" context. The concept of the Perzine (personal zine) is fairly new and I think an important development to clear the path for mother's self-expression. When I think early perzine influences, I think of Cometbus -in its second start in 1990)
1991 brings many good things in the mail to my zine: The Freedom Voice, newspaper of NCRA - the national childs rights alliance and Barnemakt (Kid Power) - a group of youth founded at Blitz in Norway to do political work, inspired by the Kid Power groups in Denmark that started in the early 70's. We (my 5 anarcho-punk roomates in their early twenties, some other friends and 2 moms from NYC) go to the Youth Liberation Gathering (possible an Anarchist Youth Federation project?) in Ottawa, Canada to find out the only children there are the ones we brought. Meet Kid Lib people from Nurnberg, Germany - they are kinda weird - get their zine: International Children + Senile meeting. We moms sit in a van outside a show and brainstorm how we would love to make a real gathering for kids and parents. I get letters from other punk and alternative parents.
a flyer titled Communicate, from England - " Are you parents, or a single
parent, with an "alternative" lifestyle? Would you like to be put in
touch with others like yourself? Just to write or even visit? This is where we
would like to help out. It is our aim to build up a list of names and addresses
of people with children, circulate them, and hopefully build up some kind of network
where people can write to each other for advice, help, ideas, and friendship.
People bringing up vegan or vegetarian children might have a bit of difficulty
knowing what to feed them, especially with young babies, eg: baby lotions, talc,
toothpaste's which are cruelty-free, or people concerned about putting their children
through the State education system might like to find out more about the alternatives,
eg; free-schooling, education at home, etc. By being in contact with others you
would be able to share your knowledge or learn from them.
Yet when I wrote them - they wrote that the idea of being a giant network was over - they would be a small communication - asked me more about myself - to write back and converse if I would like.
Also: Not your Bitch - small zine of assorted angry women from Minneapolis, at least one a mother.
Love came out in 1992 - 94 - written by a European punk parent Lara. She seemed
to be influenced by the zine Punk Parent and had a great amount of dialogue going
on between parents from different countries - France, England, America, Slovenija,
Denmark and more! I loved this zine - yet never heard about it until 1999 - when
it had ceased to be! She became overwhelmed by the zine, by parenting "parents
are too busy being parents to write about it" and wanted to start a zine
in her mothertounge (french) instead of english, and not only focus on parenting.
She said she had a different point of view now that her daughter was 7. And that
she found my zine inspiring and empowering and wanted to zerox and distribute
HipMama started in 1994. I heard about it a year or so before so I was excited to find my first issue (#15) in 1998. It was very magazine glossy and I was impressed with how well made and sassy it was. "Your Blueprint for the mama revolution" Ariel Gore is quite the innovator: she began her zine as a single mother and college student on welfare; debated Rush Limbaugh on MTV; writes books and put out an anthology of mother voices along with Bee Lavender on Seal Press.
1995 Rollerderby started in 1990 - (I love this zine - it is such trashy enjoyment) - but when Lisa "Suckdog" Carver had her son - Wolfgang - you know we all had to be interested - what will a woman so free and wild - have to say about life as a mother? I like how she explores the limits of sex, than religion, and all the while says you can find adventure anywhere.
Also: Pam Davis starts Drop Out, in Sacramento CA on newsprint. Second issue she splits with another zinester (fuck high school) and they print 6000 copies - following the same format as Alphabet Threat - and go national. Local crew and community center to follow.
1996 is when Bee Lavender asked Ariel is she could create a Hip Mama web site. Bee created hipmama.com, including the discussion boards, girlmom.com, mamaphonic.com and Yo Mama Says; which is the largest accomplishment of mama networking that I have ever seen. Being technophobic, I did not get online until 1999 - once a part of the hipmama boards, I found a dream come true and wished I'd had this in my early days of parenting. The community development on these sites managed to create what some zines (mine included) had tried to do and failed - a long lasting support/ info resource.
I am also going to place Velvet Grass at 1996. But it had to come out earlier as I got issue # 26 - #30 in 1997. Girly Perzine put out by young mom with excellent comic/illustration skills, diary entries and such. She wrote a piece about the welfare system inspired by an article reprinted in my zine - Capitalistic Casualties - from the Fire Fly.
Also: Hip-Hop Housewife and Happy Hour, zany comic by mom
1997 I found out about Ajax Maple through Rollerderby: interesting bits of life (in Vermont) and thoughts from a lovely individual on her path of life, love and motherhood. I got issue # 2 and # 3, then lost contact when she moved, so I don't know if she did anymore-but what I have left a lasting impression.
Also: Here Be Dragons - a zine put out by young teachers getting out of college, who teach English, like hardcore and are thoughtful about their place in the world and their students - start somewhere around this time. Synthesis - a beautiful zine from London - should be mentioned also as put out by a zinester getting her doctorate in sociology/children's rights movement and collecting info on punks becoming school teachers, social workers, etc.
1998 - La Dama - another beautiful wondrous zine put out by a mama! Editor Nic is 21 from Ohio and got pregnant when she was 15. The first time I read the kind of empowering teen mom writing I have seen from Alison and girlmama - was in this zine. She's punk, active, spanish and a great writer. I have the first 3 issues of La Dama and then I think she started writing a different zine with co-editor Craig - called West Side.
Also: Red Under - a cool perzine by the best of Aunties (love how she writes about the twins when they are sleeping babies and then in #6 in 2000 (the last one I saw) you see a picture of herself, and them in matching rainbow skirts and shorts she sewed!); Mothers Information Network and Exchange (Richmond, Va) add is printed in Babel; Miranda comes out (although she didn't start writing about being a mom until she had a child in 2000); Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom is published (her original goal was to be published in WW3) ; Earth First prints a Birth First insert in their newspaper (kinda cool but also kinda scary how Earth First is so anti human sometimes and the writers must justify why they have children) ; Chris(tine) of Slug and Lettuce - a zine supporting the do-it-yourself ethics of the punk community, asks me to do a parents column for her newspaper. (In 2002, another mother (and zinester) joins me, at S+L - Candyce - with her brilliant column - The Radical Mother.); and Afterbirth zine #1 comes out by Faith (co-editor of issue #8 of TFG in 1997 and regular contributor since)-she made a 2nd issue but it never got zeroxed.
1999 East Village Inky - comes out regularly, wins many hearts, and much notice (like the firecracker award), and has a cross over audience of non parents too. A little hand written and drawn mini zine that has created a big stir - another mama zine milestone.
Also: Crumbs, a zine for parents. I only saw one issue. Was there ever more?
2000 - Maximum RockNRoll puts out its "Punks with Kids" special issue. Jessica Mills contributed to that issue and starts her own column in MRR that September - My Mother Wears Combat Boots. After 3 years of writing monthly columns, Jessica (editor of Yard Wide Yarns zine) is going to be putting out a compilation zine of her columns this summer!
I am going to leave off at the year 2000 - like I saw another zine history book did. After all we can figure out what has gone on in the last 3 years ourselves, can't we? But actually I stop here, because of the Mama Zine Explosion - I literally have no idea of all the mama zines out there - I only know that I can not count them on my hands and toes.
One big change is the Internet. If you haven't noticed, a lot of this history places a zine at the date it came out in, but I often didn't find it until years later. The internet has sped up lines of connections and is making communication happen much faster and in some cases creating networks of people in ways that just wasn't the same when you had to rely on the mail alone.
in All I find myself missing the zinesters I have lost touch with? Are they still
making zines? Please get in contact with me if you are one of these people or
if you have more mama zine history to add to my own highly subjective one.
This article was first published in a similar version in MamaPhiles: A mama zine collaboration and was posted here with the authors permission by Elke Zobl, January 6, 2005
Email China and order her zine!
Future Generation - China Martens