Meet Margaret Shurmer Sibthorp, editor of Shafts: A Paper for Women and the Working Classes, which ran between 1892 and 1899. Its emblem was an Amazon archer, shooting shafts of knowledge at women, the poor and unfranchised: its slogan was ‘Light Comes to Those Who Dare to Think.’ It cost just one penny a week. Although its readership was probably lower middle-class women in white-collar employment rather than the working classes the publication was affordable and concerned with education across existing social divisions.
The first issue included, typically, an article entitled ‘Type-Writing as an Employment for Women’. A complex synthesis of feminism, socialism, and more occult lore related to Theosophy, the journal was prominent in support of access to birth control, anti-vivisection, and universal suffrage.
Margaret Shurmer was raised in Scotland. She married Stephen Sibthorp, who ran a chemist’s shop, in 1873. Before moving to London, where she founded Shafts, the couple lived first in Liverpool and then Wolverhampton and had two children. Later, in 1909, Shurmer Sibthorpe became a founding member of the League of Isis, which campaigned for women’s rights to a healthy sex life, birth control, and medical care in and after pregnancy.