The Women's Library, Sydney

Coordinates: 33°53′43″S 151°10′51″E / 33.895375°S 151.1807113°E / -33.895375; 151.1807113
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The Women's Library
33°53′43″S 151°10′51″E / 33.895375°S 151.1807113°E / -33.895375; 151.1807113
Location8-10 Brown Street, Newtown NSW, Australia
Access and use
Access requirementsOpen to members
Other information
WebsiteThe Women's Library

The Women's Library ("TWL") in Newtown, Sydney, Australia, is a community-based library and a hub of lesbian and feminist activity. It stocks books "by women, for women" and aims to make feminist and lesbian literature more accessible.


The Women's Library has been built on the efforts of volunteers and the donations of thousands of women since its establishment. It continues to be fully managed and staffed by volunteers and the collection of donated books and periodicals numbers approximately 20,000 items.[1] It is an example of an urban commons.[2][3]

A diverse range of lesbian and feminist groups have called The Women's Library their home over the years, using the space as a meeting place outside of opening hours. Regular groups have included Lesbian Open House, Sydney Feminists, Gay Ladies First Sunday Book Club, Moonlight Feminists, Feminist Legal Clinic, Women's March Sydney and the Edna Ryan Awards Committee.[4] Other groups such as The Flying Bats and Lesbians Incorporated (LINC) have held their Annual General Meetings at this venue.[5]

The Women's Library has also been used as an art exhibition space[6] and hosts many cultural activities and events including book launches,[7] women's choirs, film nights,[8][9] drumming circles, art therapy classes and the Women Write Wiki project.[10][11]

The Women's Library is a separate entity from the Jessie Street National Women's Library which is also located in Sydney and has a greater archival and research focus.


Work on setting up The Women's Library commenced in 1991 when a group of women decided there was a need for a library focused on lesbian and feminist literature along the lines of the Women's Library in England. A long list of prominent Australian women supported its establishment including Eva Cox, Ann Deveson, Justice Elizabeth Evatt, Dorothy Hewitt, Caroline Jones, Clover Moore, Meredith Bergman, Sandra Nori, Dale Spender, Faith Bandler and Bobbie Sykes.[12]

With the coordination of Vicki Harding, it was formally established as an incorporated association in 1992[13] to comprise a lending library, a reference library, an information exchange and community centre. Under its constitution it is stated that it should "be a safe and supportive space where women, including lesbians, can relax, read, study and exchange information".

In 1993 it was nominated for Best New Parade Entry in the annual Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. In 1993 The Women's Library also became a registered charity, enabling it to receive tax deductible donations.[14] It opened its doors in its first home in the Alexandria Town Hall in 1994. It moved to its current home in Brown Street, Newtown in January 1998 and continues to occupy these premises, courtesy of an accommodation grant provided through the City of Sydney Council.[15]

In 2016 The Women's Library received an Edna Ryan Award for making a feminist difference through its contributions to the Arts.[16] The award was accepted by Vicki Harding who had returned as Public Officer.[17] It celebrated 20 years in Newtown in May 2018.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2016 EDNA Recipients | Edna Ryan Awards". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  2. ^ Williams, Miriam J. (2018). "Urban commons are more-than-property". Geographical Research. 56 (1): 16–25. doi:10.1111/1745-5871.12262. ISSN 1745-5871.
  3. ^ McGuirk, Justin (15 June 2015). "Urban commons have radical potential – it's not just about community gardens". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Calendar – The Women's Library". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Timeline-LInc Australian Lesbian Community Grants". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  6. ^ ""OFF THE WALL" ART SPACE – The Women's Library". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Book Launch - "To Charm a Bluestocking" - Womens March Sydney". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Sydney Australia". Mamapalooza. 29 February 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Documentary Screening: The Purity Myth @ Newtown Women's Library, Newtown | VAMOS". VAMOS - The Event Guide. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Annual Reports – The Women's Library". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Big weekend for Sydney lesbians - Star Observer". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  12. ^ "TWL Herstory". The Women's Library. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  13. ^ "The Women's Library Incorporated". ASIC. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  14. ^ "The Women's Library Incorporated". Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  15. ^ "Accommodation grants - 2016-17" (PDF). City of Sydney. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  16. ^ "2016 EDNA Recipients | Edna Ryan Awards". Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  17. ^ LOTL Staff (5 May 2016). "Founding Member Of Newtown's Women's Library Returns". LOTL. Retrieved 19 May 2018.

External links[edit]