Fonds 10-063 - Upstream fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

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Upstream fonds

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  • Textual record
  • Graphic material
  • Object

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Reference code

CA ON0034 10-063

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1970-1985 (Creation)
    Upstream Collective

Physical description area

Physical description

1.83 m of textual records

6 objects

15 photographs

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Administrative history

Upstream was an Ottawa-based feminist news magazine published by the Feminist Publications of Ottawa. In January 1976, after a notice was posted in the Ottawa Women’s Centre, a collective began forming around the idea of a feminist news publication. The first issue was published in October 1976 thanks to a $3000 grant from the Bronfman Foundation and several fundraising endeavours. It began as a bi-monthly publication but changed to monthly when finances became difficult to secure. The collective started as a 16 women team and grew to include freelancers, volunteers, and a number of employees. They also hired students and contract employees through government assistant programs.

The name was adopted in honour of Agnes Macphail, the first woman elected to the House of Commons, who compared her public life in 1922 to a pleasurable but difficult voyage upstream. The staff felt that this paralleled the struggles women experienced going against traditional, exploitative currents in Canadian society. Published from 1976 to 1980, the collective wanted to keep women in Ottawa, and eventually Canada, informed of news and women’s issues from a feminist point of view. It was also a vehicle for encouraging dialogue between their readers.

Conceived of as a completely volunteer publication, Upstream began as a 20 page tabloid with 75% of space devoted to news and 25% to advertising. Each issue would include local news from a woman’s viewpoint as well as arts, sports, editorials, letters, opposition editorials, columns, national, and international news. Staffed by individuals with diverse backgrounds, they wanted to bring a variety of articles to their readers. This organization functioned with a non-hierarchical structure, which eventually caused issues within the group. Upstream was sustained through subscriptions and donations with a goal of generating advertising revenue in the future.

After fourteen months, Upstream developed some internal disharmony especially with regards to the political direction of the paper. Although they wanted a collective with diversity they required a more unified business plan. There are several letters and reports of issues with distribution including missing issues for several months, which is indicative of a lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities within the collective. The disorganization eventually led to several members resigning over creative differences. Although they had steady circulation and revenue from a typesetting business, the paper experienced severe financial difficulties in early 1980. The collective went through a restructuring phase that was meant to create a unified policy that would help with the content, structure, and the political aim of the news magazine. Unfortunately, the reconstruction only identified bigger issues. In July 1980, the final issue of Upstream was published including personal messages on Upstream’s challenges and goodbyes. There was a wave of support both written and financial after the end of publication.

Feminist Publications of Ottawa hoped to expand into other forms of publication including graphic design. In 1978, members of the original collective also received a Secretary of State Grant to create a poster series on Women in History. This series included posters about women in sports, working in non-traditional careers, and a focus on the People’s case. There is no clear evidence that the full series was ever completed.

Custodial history

Scope and content

This fonds consists of administrative documents from the news magazine including financial records, correspondence, and internal documents as well as advertising, distribution, and subscription information. It also contains submissions, edited material, and article research and documents for the creation of a Women of History poster project. It is primarily textual records but also includes photographs and objects.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


This fonds is organized in the following series ; Financial Documents, Correspondence, Administrative Documents, Marketing and Promotion, Subscriptions and Distribution, Feminist Publications of Ottawa Women in History Poster Series, Submissions and Article Research, Ottawa Women's Centre Resources

Language of material

  • English
  • French

Script of material

  • Latin

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

The majority of the fonds is open and accessible, however, some files are restricted for a predetermined period of time. Please ask ARCS staff for further information.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created October 2016

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