The Feminist Press

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The Feminist Press
The Feminist Press logo.png
Founded 1970
Founder Florence Howe
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location City University of New York
Official website feministpress.org

The Feminist Press is an independent nonprofit literary publisher that promotes freedom of expression and social justice. It publishes writing by women and men who share an activist spirit and a belief in choice and equality. Founded in 1970, the Press began by rescuing “lost” works by writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and established its publishing program with books by American writers of diverse racial and class backgrounds. Since then it has also been bringing works from around the world to North American readers. The Feminist Press is the longest surviving women’s publishing house in the world. The Press operates out of the City University of New York.

Founding and history[edit]

By the end of the 1960s, both Florence Howe and her husband Paul Lauter had taught in the Freedom Schools in Mississippi, and Howe was already attempting to compile a mini-women’s studies curriculum for her writing students at Goucher College in Baltimore.[1]

As the 1970s approached, Howe was convinced that, just as she needed texts for teaching about women, so would other educators. Her initial appeal to a number of university and trade publishers to issue a series of critical feminist biographies[2] proved of no avail. Ultimately, the Baltimore Women’s Liberation, an active local group and publishers of a successful new journal, helped to raise money for the Press’s first publications. On November 17, 1970, the first meeting of the newly formed Press occurred in Florence Howe's living-room.[3] The first book to be published was Barbara Danish’s children's book The Dragon and the Doctor in 1971.[4] Florence Howe saw her dreams of producing feminist biographies come true with the publication of Elizabeth Barrett Browning at the end of 1971.[4]

In The Press’s founding years, Tillie Olsen changed its course dramatically by giving Howe a photocopy of the 1861 pages of The Atlantic Monthly containing Rebecca Harding Davis's anonymously published novella Life in the Iron Mills[5] In 1972, the Press issued this work by Rebecca Harding Davis as the first of its series of rediscovered feminist literary classics. Olsen’s second suggestion, Daughter of Earth by Agnes Smedley, and Elaine Hedges’s suggestion, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, were published in 1973, and both of these have become staples of the American literature and women’s studies curriculums since (the 1990 Norton Anthology of American literature included both Life in the Iron Mills and The Yellow Wall-Paper[6]). In the spring of 1971, Florence and her husband moved to New York. Howe brought the burgeoning press with her to her newly accepted professorship at Old Westbury. The President of the school allowed her to operate out of the corridor of a building originally intended as a garage for campus vehicles. The Press was met with excitement and support from students who worked in the small office in exchange for college work-study. Two New York City publishing professionals, Verne Moberg and Susan Lowes contributed to the publication of three volumes of reprinted fiction released in 1972 and 1973, both of which Howe believes to exemplify the Press's enduring commitment to producing course adoptable books to supplement curriculums dominated by male writers.[7] the Press continues its commitment to recovering and compiling the important work of otherwise overlooked and unpublished female artists in collections such as In Her Own Image[8] and the Women Writing Africa series.[9] In 1972, the Feminist Press became a 501(c)3 organization with tax-exempt status.[10]

In the Summer of 1985 the Feminist Press moved to the CUNY campus on East Ninety-Fourth Street following an invitation from the school. Allowed to maintain an independent staff and board of directors, the Press gratefully welcomed the resources and visibility made available by this partnership.[11]

In 2001 Jean Casella became the executive director of the Press. She was followed by Gloria Jacobs, former Ms. Magazine editor. Jennifer Baumgardner is the current Executive Director of The Feminist Press, appointed in 2013.

Today[edit]

Currently, third-wave feminist and activist Jennifer Baumgardner serves as the Executive Director of The Feminist Press. Under her tutelage, the Press continues its commitment to publishing a broad range of voices. However, the Press has also recently endeavored to extend its reaches beyond merely publishing. In doing so, the Press has hosted a variety of events, conferences, and panels centering on key conversations in feminism.

In an interview with the Huffington Post in September 2013, Baumgardner discusses the Press’s move towards a larger involvement within the feminist community. In a conversation with Leora Tanenbaum, she explains: “We want to be a hub for feminism as opposed to just a small independent literary publisher. Books are powerful because they are little packages of ideas… we want to have an effect on culture, and books are significant cultural objects of course, but it's the ideas that are most important. There are different ways to represent and to package those ideas. Books are read one at a time by individuals, while events are communal. So these events broaden the ideas. They will be opportunities leading to books that we will publish, or they will be opportunities to promote the books that already exist.” [12]

The Feminist Press remains rooted in the symbiotic relationship between a publication and its readership. In this exchange, a book not only promotes ideas to its reader, but it also inspires new formulations that could ultimately shape future publications.

The Feminist Press has remained current and relevant within the fast-changing world of modern politics and the rapid evolution of Feminism. Quickly following the 2012 demonstration of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot, the press published Pussy Riot! A punk Prayer for Freedom that contained significant material from the band and their trial.[13] While increased involvement within the feminist movement has led to many shifts within the Press’s original mission, its commitment to social justice and freedom of expression has remained fundamentally unaltered throughout its forty-year history.

WSQ[edit]

The Feminist Press also publishes WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly, an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed academic journal. The journal began as Women's Studies Newsletter in 1972, and in 1981 it was renamed Women's Studies Quarterly.[14] Today it is a biannual release simply called WSQ. Covering a wide array of thematic subjects within emerging women's studies, the journal has published issues such as "Technologies," "Citizenship," and "Motherhood." The subject of each issue is considered through various lenses that may include psychoanalytic, legal, queer, and historical interpretations in addition to many others.

Selected titles[edit]

Series[edit]

The Feminist Press has launched multiple book series. Women Writing Africa was begun in 1994 with funding from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations.[17] The four-volume series was completed in 2009. Like the two-volume Women Writing India, the series is composed of regionally unique women's literature. The Femmes Fatales series, featuring pulp, mystery, and noir novels by women writing in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s was launched in 2003, and includes recent releases such as the 2013 Return to Lesbos.

  • 2X2 Series
  • Classic Feminist Writers
  • Contemporary Classics by Women
  • The Defiant Muse
  • Femmes Fatales: Women Write Pulp [18]
  • The Helen Rose Scheuer Jewish Women's Series
  • Jewish Women Writers
  • Women Changing the World
  • Women's Lives, Women's Work
  • Women Writing Africa Project
  • Women Writing in India
  • Women Writing the Middle East
  • Women Writing Science

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Thompson, Kathleen. "Florence Howe". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Howe, Florence. "To the Editors", The New York Review of Books. Retrieved January 2014.
  3. ^ Howe, Florence. VFA Honors the Founder of The Feminist Press Florence Howe. Veteran Feminists of America. Retrieved January 2014.
  4. ^ a b Howe, Florence (2011). A Life in Motion. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 978-1-55861-697-4. 
  5. ^ Bosman, Julie (January 3, 2007). "Tillie Olsen, Feminist Writer, Dies at 94". New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Howe (2011). A Life in Motion. p. 293. 
  7. ^ Howe (2011). A Life in Motion. New York. p. 292. 
  8. ^ "In Her Own Image: Women Working in the Arts". The Feminist Press. 
  9. ^ "Women Writing Africa, Volume I: The Southern Region". The Feminist Press. 
  10. ^ Howe (2011). A Life in Motion. p. 301. 
  11. ^ Howe (2011). A Life in Motion. p. 370. 
  12. ^ Tanebaum, Leora (September 13, 2013) "Do We Really Need a Feminist Press?" Huffington Post. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  13. ^ Deahl, Rachel (September 11, 2012). "Feminist Press Lands Pussy Riot E-book". Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  14. ^ "About FP". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  15. ^ Witches, Midwives and Nurses; 2nd ed.
  16. ^ Lauerman, Connie. "Lady In Waiting." Chicago Tribune. September 2, 1996. p. 1. Retrieved on March 14, 2014.
  17. ^ "About FP". Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  18. ^ http://www.bookweb.org/news/introducing-femmes-fatales-new-generation

References[edit]

External links[edit]