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Finding Aid for the Broomstick magazine records, 1972-2005
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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Broomstick magazine records
    Date (inclusive): 1972-2005
    Collection number: 1976
    Creator: Broomstick Magazine.
    Extent: 56 document boxes (40 linear ft.) and 8 oversize flat boxes.
    Abstract: Broomstick, founded in 1978 by Maxine Spencer and Polly Taylor in the San Francisco Bay area, is an independent, self-published radical feminist magazine dedicated to supporting and promoting women and lesbian activism and art for an audience of women over forty. Its main goals focused on confronting ageism, stereotypes of the disabled, and breaking down gender conventions in publishing. The magazine ran through 1993 and explores topics related to radical feminist politics, lesbian culture and art, spirituality of the Crone, women and aging, and feminist coalitions and communities. The collection contains a complete run of the magazine, organizational records, financial statements, correspondence, submissions and rejections, and many of the plates used for printing the magazine. The collection also contains Spencer's personal papers documenting her personal experiences with radical feminism, lesbianism, disability, sexism, and age discrimination.
    Language: Finding aid is written in English.
    Language of the Material: Materials are in English.
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    Open for research. STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact UCLA Library Special Collections for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UC Regents. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Donated to the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives   in 2012.

    Processing Note

    Processed by Sandra Brasda in 2012 in the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), with assistance from Jillian Cuellar.
    The June L. Mazer Lesbian Archive   at UCLA is an outreach and collection-building partnership between the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives  , the UCLA Center for the Study of Women (CSW)   and the UCLA Library  . These collections expand the pool of primary source materials available to researchers and to the community at large.
    The processing of this collection was generously supported by Arcadia  funds.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Broomstick magazine records (Collection 1976). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 7059422 


    Maxine Spencer and Polly Taylor founded Broomstick in Berkeley, California in 1978. The idea for Broomstick was born when eight women over forty attended a Crone's Caucus and organized a loose coalition that would support, fund, and collectively address concerns specific to older women. This peer-led group would also function as a supportive network for activism. Together, Spencer and Taylor approached a newly formed feminist organization in Berkeley, "OPTIONS for Women Over Forty." They asked OPTIONS for its endorsement and financial support to create a feminist political journal for and about women over forty. In exchange, Spencer and Taylor pledged to publicize OPTIONS in the journal and promote their programs. Though OPTIONS gave initial support and funding, Broomstick grew into an independently published and funded magazine. Production of Broomstick ended in 1993 due to fiscal insolvency, as evidenced in their financial statements and annual budget records.
    As co-editors, Spencer and Taylor intended to develop and expand the mainstream feminist position in support of a growing subculture in the lesbian community that promoted a more radical feminist agenda. Broomstick would provide a unique social and political challenge to the feminist literature of its time. The magazine's staff borrowed skills learned from their earlier feminist activities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as consciousness raising sessions and feminist networking. Articles explored issues related to disability, lesbianism, ageism, sexism, and class struggle. Broomstick's editors and contributors hoped that the journal's content would promote a greater understanding of older women's situation. The magazine sought to honor and rescue the image of the Crone – an old woman, often called witch, historically revered as healers and for their wisdom – from public derision. The name Broomstick was chosen to symbolize women's shared skills and labor (homemaking), change and improvement (the new broom sweeps clean), power (the witch flies on the broom), healing (the witch as ancient healer), and speaking out about what society considers ugly. The magazine also explores a growing subculture of pagan and Wiccan spirituality, venerating the Crone.
    Because the Broomstick records were largely created and collected by Maxine Spencer, they provide a clear portrait of her life as an active radical feminist and artist. Born in 1927, Spencer lived most of her adult life in the San Francisco Bay area. She was a life-long artist, creating sculptures, mosaics, oils, watercolors, and acrylics. In the last decades of her life, Spencer also created paper paintings using a technique she developed after becoming allergic to her paints. As an activist, she was involved in civil rights, anti-war and feminist organizations; she often used her creative and artistic abilities in her activist work.
    A former housewife, Spencer was married for fifteen years and had two sons. After her husband's death she returned to school to pursue her PhD in psychology. At the age of forty-seven, she graduated and was unable to find employment, allegedly because of her age. Her experiences in graduate school and struggles in the job market gave her intimate experience with ageism and sexism.
    Spencer viewed her work on Broomstick as both personal and political. She closely managed the magazine's business structure, and oversaw its production, organization, financial health, and public image. As co-editor, she was very selective and protective about the magazine's political messages, as evidenced in her extensive correspondence with contributors, subscribers, potential authors, businesses, institutions, and other feminist organizations. Her experiences as a poor, pagan, Jewish, radical feminist are clearly reflected in the magazine's ideology. Because the journal specifically targeted women over forty, its contents were meticulously screened. Only women over forty could publish within the periodical, and men were strongly discouraged from submitting material, purchasing subscriptions, or contributing to the discourse. The magazine's editors were sensitive to material that they felt may send the wrong political statement or offend its readers.
    Broomstick created a unique and important network between editors, authors, and readers. The large, complex community that revolved around Broomstick's maintenance and distribution was a self-supported underground rich with resourcefulness, networking, and interaction. Evidence of the legacy of independent feminist magazines like Broomstick that existed in the 1980s to the early 1990s may be found in the subsequent feminist zine culture that arose in the mid 1990s.

    Scope and Content

    Broomstick magazine records document the publication's production process, content, intellectual and political scope, editorial process, administrative and financial history, and advertising strategies. The collection contains a complete set of the magazine, event calendars, correspondence, advertisements, promotional material, submissions, financial records, and many of the templates used for printing the magazine. Included are materials from feminist conferences, talks, poetry, cartoons, and research files.
    A hallmark feature of Broomstick was its principle policy of participatory journalism. Most of Broomstick's content was written by its readers. Letters, poems, short stories, and articles were actively solicited. These participatory records, known as Author Files, comprise the majority of the Broomstick magazine collection. One of the magazine's main goals was to demystify the process of publishing. Broomstick provided a unique venue for older women to publish their art, poetry, creative and feminist writing, while building and supporting feminist coalitions and communities. Though it was a small, do-it-yourself publication, Broomstick often reached a national and international audience, documented by Broomstick's financial records and invoices.
    Broomstick featured recurring themes and columns, such as: "An Apple a Day" (featuring items about the health concerns of women over forty), "Watchcraft" (a dedicated surveillance column for readers to report ageism in public media and commercial establishments), "Show and Tell" (designed to develop positive images of midlife and older women), "Caveat Feminia" (legal issues of concern to women over forty), and "For and About" (a column for women who are not yet forty to discuss their relationships with older women, share their feelings on aging, and learn about ageism). Broomstick published issues on special topics of interest to older women, such as an issue dedicated to menopause, which was so popular that a second printing was necessary to fulfill the demand. The issue furnished information women reported from their own lives. Theme issues included: ageing, appearance/fat, feminism, allergies and other disabilities, grandmothers and older mothers, mastectomy, violence, women and computers, and changing lifestyles. In addition, the magazine was at the forefront of exploring fat phobia and body consciousness issues.
    Broomstick provides a portrait of the growth of radical feminism in the late 1970s and 1980s. Its specific focus on disabled, lesbian women over 40 years old adds to the magazine's unique research value; ageism and disability had not received extensive coverage at that point in the feminist literature. Because Broomstick was specifically geared towards women over forty, it may prove to be an important resource for those interested in the generation gap between second-wave feminists during the 1970s and 1980s. The records also provide evidence of the alternative spiritual lifestyle active in Broomstick's underground feminist network. Broomstick helped establish a spiritual community centered on the venerated image and faith in the Crone.
    The Broomstick records were largely created and collected by Maxine Spencer. The collection contains Spencer's personal papers including unpublished manuscripts, personal therapy notes, correspondence with other feminist organizations, consciousness raising documents, and content from courses she attended and taught. Spencer also collected other feminist publications and the work of some of her contemporaries, specifically Cynthia Rich and Barbara Macdonald. Broomstick records not only document the history and internal workings of the magazine but they also trace Spencer's personal, political, and professional life from 1970 to 1995.
    Broomstick magazine records are organized into 5 series: Magazine Production, Publicity, Administrative, Author Files, and Personal Papers. The vast majority of the Broomstick magazine records are Author Files which includes correspondence to and from subscribers with the editors of Broomstick, submissions and rejections.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Collection is arranged in the following series and subseries:
    • Series 1: Magazine Production
      • Subseries 1.1: Production
      • Subseries 1.2: Content and Research
      • Subseries 1.3: Broomstick Magazine Issues
    • Series 2: Publicity
      • Subseries 2.1: Advertising
      • Subseries 2.2: Public Relations
    • Series 3: Administrative Records
      • Subseries 3.1: Internal Records
      • Subseries 3.2: Financial
      • Subseries 3.3: Correspondence
    • Series 4: Author Files
      • Subseries 4.1: Submissions
      • Subseries 4.2: Rejections
    • Series 5: Personal Papers
      • Subseries 5.1: Maxine Spencer
      • Subseries 5.2: Other Contributors
    Folders are arranged alphabetically. Original order was maintained when available.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Spencer, Maxine --Archives.
    Broomstick (Firm) --Archives.
    Lesbian feminism --United States --Periodicals.
    Older women --Social conditions --Periodicals.

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