Women’s Library occupation: fighting the cuts on International Women’s Day

James O'Nions reports from the women-led occupation of the Women's Library in London, which is due to be closed imminently

March 8, 2013
2 min read


James O'NionsJames O'Nions is a former Red Pepper editor. He is the head of activism for Global Justice Now.


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Inside the occupation. Photo: Reclaim It

Down a quiet street in East London, close to the capital’s financial district, sits the Women’s Library, a historical archive of the struggle for women’s liberation. Previously run by the troubled London Metropolitan University, which is currently being softened up for privatisation, the library was recently transferred to the LSE. The latter plans to incorporate the archives into its own library, shutting down public access and eroding the library’s independence.

So when a group of feminists decided to reclaim the radical history of International Women’s Day from the corporate-sponsored PR projects that have sprung up around it of late, the Women’s Library was an obvious target for action.

‘We’re protesting the closure of the Women’s Library, but also opposing the cuts, which have a disproportionate affect on women, children and disabled people,’ said Kelly Bornshlegel, who has been here since the beginning at 1pm this afternoon. ‘As feminists we oppose all intersecting forms of oppression, and stand in solidarity with people marginalised by the violence of the austerity agenda.’

‘Despite the seriousness of the issues, it’s a great atmosphere and everyone’s in good spirits,’ she added.

Far from barricading the door, the occupiers have left it openly accessible, and the occupation has seen lots of supporters dropping by throughout the day. A substantial core of people (both women and men) are ensuring the occupation is going strong into the night.

Workshops were being organised on everything from self-defence to ‘theatre of the oppressed’, with a feminist sea shanty band due to provide some entertainment later.

‘We’ve got a programme of events lined up for Saturday and Sunday, including a kids’ space,’ said Kelly. We’re open for anyone who’s interested, so come on down.’

Updates will be posted online at reclaimit2013.wordpress.com. A great little exhibition, ‘The Long March to Equality’, is currently, as a result of the occupation, open 24 hours a day!


James O'NionsJames O'Nions is a former Red Pepper editor. He is the head of activism for Global Justice Now.