I keyed in on the idea that sensibility might be specific to the discourse of artists and authors in the women’s liberation movement. I began to wonder how its usage compared to the word “liberation” in the rhetoric of women who came out of the new left into WLM.

My attempts to use Ngram and Bookworm failed to give me any reliable data. So I began to search out already digitized materials to see what I might find with rudimentary text mining.

From JSTOR I found the Women’s Art Journal (not exactly a movement journal but closest I’m going to get) and Off Our Backs a nationally circulated women’s liberation movement newspaper. I wondered if quanitfying the occurences of liberation and sensibility might correspond with my suspected ideological affiliations of the two words.

OOB 1970-2008
31x more occurrences of liberation

However, the dates of publications didn’t match exactly, and as I also suspected that the discourse of liberation declined over time, I parsed OOB into two time periods.

OOB from period of 1970-1979
Liberation 45X more occurences

OOB Date limited to match WAJ 1980-2008
Liberation 26x more occurences

Women’s Art Journal 1980-2008
Sensibility 1.5x times more occurences

So far so good. Numbers confirm my impression, but I then realized I needed a larger control. So I searched all journals under feminist and women’s studies journals in JSTOR.
Liberation 5.5X more occurences

However that net seemed too wide as many of the journals had little or no movement connections, so I hand selected the following.

arranged in order of date of starting publication
women’s studies newsletter (1972) sensibility 55
signs (1975) sensibility 224
Frontiers (1977) sensibility 64
women’s review of books (1983) sensibility 255

The above revealed no discernable pattern by date.  However the data for liberation, when arranged by date of publication does have a clear trend.

Women’s Studies Newsletter (1972) liberation more occurrences 6.4x
Signs (1975) Liberation 4.X more occurrences
Frontiers (1975) Liberation 3.9X more occurrences
Women’s Review of books (1983) 2.88x more occurrences

All involved more occurrences of liberation than sensibility, but the later the start date, it seems the fewer occurrences of liberation (altho differences between Signs and Frontiers bears further investigation. Was there a declining discourse of liberation in feminist (academic) publications?

or is the difference explained by focus or content, which would seem to be supported by the relatively higher incidence of sensibility in the art and literature focused journals (Women’s Art Journal and the Women’s Review of Books) which seems to confirm my suspicion that sensibility belonged (relatively) to discourse of women artists and authors?

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