Broadsheet Row in Nelson


Broadsheet was a feminist periodical published in Auckland from 1972 until 1992. It contained news and articles not only about feminist issues such as domestic abuse, birth control and motherhood, but also about race relations in New Zealand and international human rights.

Broadsheet. Cover issue 72, 1979. Click image to enlarge

This publication became the source of controversy in Nelson in the early 1980s, when the Nelson Library’s subscription to this periodical was brought into question by some male Councillors, who objected to the reference to lesbianism which appeared in some issues of the periodical. It was suggested that Broadsheet promoted ‘undesirable and anti-social activities’, and that ‘people who have poor upbringings and other deficiencies’ would wrongfully be exposed to this material through the library ‘at the expense of the ratepayer.1

Several Councillors insisted that as this publication ‘has not come under scrutiny of any authority that is charged with looking after decency of the printed word’, it should be kept in the library to ensure ‘public access to information’, even if some disagreed with the content of the material.  Even though the Nelson Library was managed by the Nelson City Council, the final decision about which material should be kept in the library rested with the City Librarian, Bryce Jones.2  Broadsheet was subsequently kept at the Nelson Library. 

One former Councillor suggested that the library’s insistence on keeping this magazine in the public library in part contributed to the lack of support the library received from the Council in obtaining a more suitable library building.Although widely regarded as an unsuitable library building, the Nelson Library did not shift out of the Hardy Street building into the new Elma Turner Library until 1991.

Broadsheet, which ceased publication, remains in the Elma Turner Library archive collection today. All issues have also been digitised by the University of Auckland:

2011 (updated 2023)

Sources used in this story

  1. Feminist magazine’s backing sparks male-female row (1982, July 15)  Nelson Evening Mail; Feminist mag’s place in library questioned (1982, August 5).  Nelson Evening Mail.
  2. Feminist magazine’s backing sparks male-female row
  3. Interview with a former Nelson City Councillor, October 2011.

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  • "Broadsheet remains in the Elma Turner Library archive collection today." For balance, it is also important to recognise and acknowledge the aspects of Second Wave Feminism that Broadsheet as a publication represents. In particular, the "split of 1978" (liberal feminism vs. radical feminism) and the poignant criticism of Broadsheet by Donna Awatere (later Awatere Huata) in "Maori Sovereignty". Broadsheet articles were from a white, middle class and well off, and well-educated perspective. These women had the "dominant historical narrative" and maintained and contributed to "hegemonic feminism". They were involved in "conscious raising groups" for women like them but assumed that all women experience the same oppressions. In this homogenised interpretation, women from working backgrounds, or the poor, or those facing significant challenges, or not university educated, or Maori, or Pacific women, or ethnic or immigrant communities, were not represented. Their voice just wasn't there.

    Posted by Broadsheet Row in Nelson?, 22/10/2023 4:01pm (9 months ago)

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Further sources - Broadsheet Row in Nelson



  • Feminist magazine’s backing sparks male-female row (1982, July 15)  Nelson Evening Mail.
  • Feminist mag’s place in library questioned (1982, August 5)  Nelson Evening Mail.

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