From the Archives: 35-37 Cowley Road
Uhuru Wholefoods, 1970s-1980s
Uhuru was established in 1974 as a Co-Operative, which set up a small café selling vegetarian food and crafts from Tanzania. It was situated at 35 Cowley Road. The name "Uhuru", which means "freedom" in Swahili, was chosen because several African countries were gaining their independence at the time. As well as selling crafts, Uhuru started an early fair trade movement with a campaign entitled 'The World in Your Coffee Cup'. Nearer to home, Uhuru was involved in various social issues, including establishing the East Oxford Community Centre, charities for the homeless and, in later years, women's aid.
Uhuru later acquired the property at 48 Cowley Road and converted it to a shop selling wholefoods, where it remains today. The café at number 35 continued and also became a meeting place for groups such as: Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Rape Crisis, and the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard.
Eventually, the running of both the café and the shop became too much, and Uhuru sold the building (number 35) to the Oxford City Council on the understanding that it would continue to be used as a Women's Centre.
Text adapted from: UHURU, [1970s-1980s]. OXFORD WOMEN'S CENTRE. Oxfordshire History Centre. GB 160 O20/3
Oxford Women's Centre, 1984-1991
The Oxford Women's Centre was set up in 1984 and was situated at 35-37 Cowley Road. It was used as a centre for local women.
The Women's Centre had a café and a crèche, and many women's groups in Oxford met at the Centre. The centre was partly supported by Oxford City Council, but relied primarily on its own fund-raising activities, donations, and rent from groups using parts of the building. Amongst others, groups that met in the women's centre included: the community workers support group, a discussion group, a writing group, new student lesbian group, Oxford Women and Ireland group, lesbian mothers group, women's archive, healing room, rape crisis, women and homeless group, and the claimant's union women's group.
Numerous courses were held at the women's centre, such as assertiveness training and bicycle repair workshops. A women's night bus service also operated for a while on Friday and Saturday nights. A Rape Crisis phone line and a Lesbian phone line were set up and operated from the women's centre to provide information and support.
The Oxford Women's Centre was re-named the Oxford Women's Community Centre in 1988. The Centre had to close in 1991 due to lack of funding.
Text adapted from: OXFORD WOMEN'S CENTRE, [1970s]-1991. Oxfordshire History Centre. GB 160 O20.
The posters, leaflets, and fliers below give a good insight into the types of events and causes promoted at the Oxford Women's Centre.
Lilith Magazine, 1982-1988
Lilith was produced by a collective of women who felt there was a need for an alternative women's magazine in Oxford. It aimed to bring together articles and information of particular interest to Oxford women. The name of the magazine was inspired by certain biblical traditions which say that Lilith was the first wife of Adam, but was removed by God for failing to be suitably submissive.
The first edition of Lilith came out on 1st March 1982. Lilith was first produced in Jericho, Oxford, but eventually the editorial team moved to an office at the Oxford Women's Centre.
Text adapted from: LILITH, THE OXFORD WOMEN'S PAPER, 1979-1988. OXFORD WOMEN'S CENTRE. Oxfordshire History Centre. GB 160 O20/2