‘It was the first avowedly feminist literary journal with any class, in some ways ahead of its time,’ wrote novelist Naomi Mitchison of Time and Tide. ‘Lady Rhondda was always tremendously encouraging and gave gorgeous parties. I remember driving back from one of them, […] feeling splendid, as though the whole world was opening up and everything would work out, not only for myself, but for women in general.’
It was in Lady Rhondda’s ‘gorgeous’ party spirit that we met on 14 May 2020, to celebrate the centenary of Time and Tide’s first issue. We had planned to mark the occasion with a Festival of Women Writers and Journalists, but with the world closed down by COVID-19, we met on Zoom instead: 16 of us in total, representing project organisers, collaborators, and Partners. After several weeks in comparative isolation, it was delightful to be in the company of so many interesting and intelligent women, and we greeted each other enthusiastically from our homes on both sides of the Atlantic.
Besides celebrating Time and Tide’s centenary, the party was an opportunity to update collaborators and Partners on the project’s progress. In particular, we wanted to celebrate the Time and Tide Souvenir Edition, edited by project leader Catherine Clay and produced by Pippa Hennessy, on behalf of Five Leaves Publications. Guests had received digital versions of the Edition beforehand, and arrived full of praise and eager to discuss it.
Cathy welcomed everyone by reading the passage by Mitchison quoted above; then project officer Ellie gave a progress update on the website, at that point still under development.
Next, Pippa spoke about the process of making the Souvenir Edition. The original had been produced using moveable type: reproducing it on a computer involved replicating different fonts – some now obsolete – measuring font sizes and line spacing, and then making careful adjustments until each article fitted its allotted space. For the print copies, the weight and quality of the original paper, no longer produced, would also have to be replicated. Pippa loved the entire process – especially reading the content, which gave her new insights into interwar feminism. She sneaked a copy to her mum, who responded with the best possible review:
‘Wow! Fantastic! I was crying all over my keyboard with emotion and laughter. Men’s page indeed! Desperately intelligent, top notch writers.’
Following Pippa, Cathy invited Professors Maria DiCenzo and Barbara Green, scholars of women’s periodicals from Wilfred Laurier University and the University of Notre Dame, to give responses to the Souvenir Edition. Maria began, praising the Edition for making Time and Tide more accessible, and emphasising that knowledge of the magazine matters now because of the challenge it poses to history. Offering a world mediated by some of the most important feminist figures of its time, Time and Tide invites us to re-evaluate our understanding of interwar society and culture.
To Barbara, the Souvenir Edition highlights Time and Tide’s close engagement with interwar arts and culture, through articles, reviews, and letters by leading feminist writers. This material develops an exciting dialogue between highbrow and lowbrow writing on the magazine’s pages, and contributes to ‘a feminist intermodernism’ that alters the shape of the interwar literature and culture. ‘Feminist literary criticism and feminist literary theory began in the feminist periodicals’ she concluded, emphasising these publications’ importance to literary scholarship.
Maria and Barbara’s words were received with smiles and exaggerated nods of agreement, non-speaking guests having muted ourselves in accordance with Zoom conventions.
The Souvenir Edition’s significance having been established, Cathy outlined plans for further Time and Tide centenary events. These include a rescheduled Festival of Women Writers and Journalists, now set to take place in November, and an Exhibition of Interwar Women’s Magazines, due to be held at The Women’s Library between January and April 2021. Details of both events will be published on this website, so – watch this space!
To crown proceedings, Cathy invited Professor Angela V. John, biographer of Time and Tide’s founder and funder, Lady Rhondda, to propose a toast to the magazine. Echoing Mitchison’s words, Angela described it as ‘an amazingly innovative weekly,’ and the Souvenir Edition as ‘a cornucopia of treasures’ – more exaggerated nods. Mary Joannou toasted the project’s organisers, on behalf of the Friends of The Women’s Library; then we closed with some discussion, notably about the ‘hunger’ amongst today’s women journalists for ‘intellectual copy’ of the sort provided by Time and Tide, to which Barbara Rowlands of Women in Journalism drew our attention. Some worlds remain closed to women, despite Mitchison’s optimism.
Happy 100th birthday, Time and Tide! It was a shame we couldn’t mark the occasion in person. Nevertheless, the Zoom party was a gorgeously happy event, a highlight in these isolating times.
By Dr Eleanor Reed