In the early 1970s as feminist movements began to gain momentum there were very few forums to conduct serious debate on issues affecting Australian women. Aiming to address this problem, Carole Ferrier established Hecate in 1975, the International Women's Year. As a title, Hecate (the goddess invoked by women who desired freedom from male tyranny) clearly asserts the aims of the journal. The journal's editorial policy was made clear in the first issue: 'As feminists and socialists, we view this journal as a means of providing a forum for discussing, at a fairly theoretical level, issues relating to the liberation of women.'
Since then, Hecate has played a significant part in the development of feminist criticism in Australia by challenging the 'institution' of criticism and reassessing the historical record from a feminist perspective. Early issues frequently examined canonical texts, but this led to the 'recovery' of forgotten writers like Lesbia Harford and Marie Pitt. Following the publication of New French Feminisms (1980), Hecate published a collection of responses in 1981 that attempted to better define Australian feminism. As more book-length publications on feminist issues appeared in the 1980s, Hecate became a site of significant dialogue with important essays by Sneja Gunew, Louise Adler, Bronwen Levy, Marion Aveling and Susan Sheridan.
Hecate continues to publish articles from a range of disciplines on topics such as race, class, and literary and feminist politics. The selection of poetry and fiction reflects the diversity of female experience in Australia, giving voice to many women, including migrant and Aboriginal writers. Despite a short period in the 1990s when funding from the Literature Board was suspended, Hecate has endured, making it one of the longest running feminist journals in the world.