Fireweed was founded in Toronto, Canada, in 1978 by a 24 women collective. Originally called Fireweed: A Women’s Literary and Cultural Journal, the journal adopted the name Fireweed: A Feminist Quarterly of Writing, Politics, Art & Culture in 1980. The foreword to the first issue described Fireweed as a “feminist journal devoted to stimulating dialogue, knowledge, and creativity among women” and stated that the journal’s collective was “committed to an editorial policy of diversity.” Collective members have included Gay Allison, Lynne Fernie, Hilda Kirkwood, Liz Brady, Elizabeth Ruth, Makeda Silvera, Carolyn Smart and Rhea Tregebov. Issues of Fireweed usually focuses on a theme or topic, such as "Writing" (#10), "Fear & Violence" (#14), "Women of Colour" (#16), "Sex & Sexuality" (#37 & 38), and "Language" (#44/45), though there are frequent "open" issues. They published the first collection of Jewish feminist works (#35) to critical acclaim. Beginning in 1982, Fireweed invited guest collectives to edit issues of the journal. This was an opportunity for under-represented groups to define their own issues.
Fireweed was committed to an editorial policy of diversity and not intended to represent a particular style or aesthetic. The collective was also committed to print both established and new women authors including works from native and immigrant communities. However, in the beginning of their history Fireweed did not completely adhere to this mandate. Most of their first issues included little or no works from writers of colour, native women, or immigrants. This exclusion created some adverse reactions from the community. By 1982, all but one woman resigned from the original collective and a new eight woman collective was formed. This collective, which included two women of colour, argued extensively about the aesthetics and contents of the journal. By the mid- to late-1980s and beyond, Fireweed began to paint a broader discussion of race, class, and sexuality. Several themed issues that gave voices to minority groups including two issues on Asian women’s writings, Lesbiantics: an issue for and by lesbian women, and a double issue on class. Even though they received letters about certain issues, themes, and writings, Fireweed never compromised their vision. The journal published fiction, poetry, reviews, essays, photographs, and drawings from women around the world. The collective encouraged women from every background to submit their works to the journal. They wanted women to articulate how they were perceived in popular culture. They had an extensive editorial system that involved a group consensus when considering submissions.
The Fireweed collective also wanted to encourage and support women to pursue writing and other arts. They continuously participated in the Ontario Arts Council’s Writer’s Reserve grant system that provided Fireweed the opportunity to recommend funding to writers for individual projects. Their continued work with the arts community created an annual Fireweed festival, which showcased various artists and works from the feminist community. The journal also showcased writing from a number of renowned Canadian artists including Margaret Atwood and Rina Fraticelli, the future head of Studio D at the NFB. Similarly to many other publications, the collective system was not entirely efficient or beneficial to the journal and began to show strain in 1983. By the mid-1990s a new organization was developed to better manage the publication of the journal. First, a 6-member editorial collective was responsible for the editorial direction especially with the development, solicitation, and selection of issue contents. The staff collective included coordinators for sales and marketing, editorials, office management, and the design of the journal itself. Finally the board collective as the legal entity was responsible for overall organizational and staff issues as well as all fiscal matters.
Fireweed was published from 1978 to 2002 with a final double issue on women, race, and war resistance. The quarterly's ISSN is 0706-3857.