The WomanSource Catalog & Review


The concept for The WomanSource Catalog & Review began with my thinking seriously about information and who controls it and what that means for women. It began with my thinking about the real implications behind the existence of a woman’s community connected and powered by information. The book itself was preceded by several evolutions and offshoots: local information packets for women; a mail-order catalog of women’s resources; and the formation of The Launch Pad, in 1992, as the beginning of a global women’s information network ( click here for more information on Launch Pad projects). Following a trip to Eureka, California, where I first met my birth mother and unearthed an old Whole Earth Catalog on her bookshelves, the concept bloomed into a book proposal.

When I first began to lay the groundwork for The WomanSource Catalog, the idea of self-reliance as a crucial possession for real equality among everyone (not just women) kept resurfacing. Today, most of us have lost our ability to be self-reliant, lulled into complacency by the seductions of mainstream media and the expensive and often harmful conveniences of a modern, consumer society. This is particularly true for women. Many of us learn from a very young age, through example and instruction, to rely on men or the male power structure. After all, it is still men who pull the strings, run the institutions and make the tools that are readily available—from education to government to medical technology. It is men who are best versed on how to use these tools and who determine when and how they will be employed. Who’s making decisions about and performing most of the hysterectomies in the country? Who’s fixing your car? Who built your house? Whose philosophy do you quote? Whose history do you read? Who controls the media? Who markets the consensus, the common cultural icons?

These are the subtle nuances of reliance, of dependence propagated and perpetuated by those who hold information, create its form and manage its distribution. It is not through legislation or lip service that equality or empowerment will ever be found; that power balances will be shifted. It can only ever come through individual action. For women to achieve true self-reliance, we must have access to the tools that build society, expand intellect and breed knowledge. Even more, we must create our own tools. The WomanSource Catalog is about creating a woman-centered frame of reference not based on profit or ego or power-over. It is about setting new agendas and providing access to the tools and ideas needed to forge a new world view. It is reflected in our choice of resources and in the language we use and even in what we choose to talk about.

The community of women exists across the globe in many different forms. The WomanSource Catalog gathers many of the seeds scattered throughout this community with the intention of promoting both awareness of and access to resources that empower women, human groups and all living systems. So what will you find here? A little bit of everything, from how to educate and protect yourself as a medical consumer to tools for improving relationships; from how to run for office to how to build a house; from how to get online to how to garden organically. The WomanSource Catalog is meant to be a tapestry representing a holistic reflection of life. It is not only a vehicle for accessing an incredible amount of information, but it also creates an understanding of how things interrelate. Because everything is connected, and understanding those connections is a crucial part of making the system (life) work, our information is dimensional. We don’t just give you resources to buy a car or fix one. We want you to think about that car, to rethink the whole issue of transportation and technology, of how it affects women, of how it impacts communities and the global village, and to think about alternatives, to explore the options—ultimately to see the big picture. This is a big-picture book.

We want to offer new ways of thinking about information, categories and connections. At the same time, we want to have anchors within the main framework that are familiar, and that reflect the concerns and interests of a wide variety of women. The result is seven chapters divided further into fifty-two subtopics. In selecting resources, we focused on those that are definitive, promote a do-it-yourself approach to life and offer alternatives to conventional ways of thinking and doing. Many of these resources are out of the mainstream—hard to locate unless you know where to look. The WomanSource Catalog is designed to increase their visibility. Our criteria for selection was based on the utility, innovation and practicality of the resource as it exists within the framework of educating and empowering women. Research and writing was done by our staff, with certain subtopics edited by domain editors (women with a special interest or expertise in their topic), and by women contributors globally.

We put the word out that we were looking for the best tools for women and the response was overwhelming. We painstakingly screened and evaluated everything that came through our doors; less than 20% of the resources we reviewed made the final cuts. Most of us are not experts, but rather information midwives delivering the most outstanding resources we could find. Women who contributed guest reviews and articles that were published received $25.00. No advertising was accepted and no resource providers were charged to appear in the catalog. Our hope was that appearance in the catalog would provide national exposure and support to women-oriented resources and women-run organizations.

We have sought out resources that are created, designed and produced by women, and that are inclusive of many groups of women. Our selection process is a reflection of the combined efforts of a group of contributors with differing points of view, as well as opinions shared by those who are sage in their fields. Our core staff included women of all ages and experiences, and while most of this group was white, our contributors and guest reviewers represent women from diverse racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds, orientations and creeds—a true mosaic of women’s voices. The WomanSource Catalog is subversive by definition and political by nature, though not necessarily "politically correct," at least not on purpose.

The WomanSource Catalog & Review is literally homegrown. Although the resource reviews and articles that make up this book were contributed by women spanning the globe, in true cottage-industry style the entire production process resided in my house. Computers were networked (and set up in almost every room), a tabletop photo booth was constructed for book and product shots, phone lines were added and bookshelf upon bookshelf sprouted to accommodate the hundreds of review copies of books, magazines and products we combed through. The bedrooms were converted into offices for staff members, my living room became the graphics station, my dining room housed the "conference table." From conception to fruition, the research and production of this book took place over a three-year period (although at times it seemed more like thirty) and involved the contributions of more than 200 women. The creation of The WomanSource Catalog brought together women of passion, committed to a re-visioning of society—cutting-edge thinkers—women who raise children, write books, make movies, run companies, run shelters, do the good work of society. Some were local, others more geographically distant and networked by modem or telephone or snail mail. Here is what we brewed. Sip from it leisurely and with intent, contemplate the flavor, think about it.

As my birth mother, Judith Meyer, is fond of saying, "It’s all good theatre; the price of admission is just paying attention." You can start paying attention here, now. Learn how the scaffolding is constructed, who’s behind the curtain; think about the essence and origin of things. When someone gives you information, question the agendas. Ask yourself who benefits and why. Don’t buy into the myths just because they’re comfortable, just because they’re common knowledge. This book is about giving you the tools to help write the script, to change the script. Think for yourself, don’t blindly believe the "experts"—then do it yourself.

~ Ilene Rosoff
Managing Editor

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