The Feminist Press
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||City University of New York (CUNY)|
|Distribution||Consortium Book Sales & Distribution|
The Feminist Press is an independent nonprofit literary publisher that promotes freedom of expression and social justice. It publishes writing by people 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 (CUNY).
Founding and history
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.
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 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. The first book to be published was Barbara Danish’s children's book The Dragon and the Doctor in 1971. Florence Howe saw her dreams of producing feminist biographies come true with the publication of Elizabeth Barrett Browning at the end of 1971.
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. 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).
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. 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 and the Women Writing Africa series. In 1972, the Feminist Press became a 501(c)3 organization with tax-exempt status.
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.
In 2001 Jean Casella became the Executive Director of the Press. She was followed by Gloria Jacobs, former Ms. Magazine editor, and Jennifer Baumgardner, Soapbox Inc. cofounder. Jamia Wilson is the current Executive Director of the Feminist Press, appointed in 2017.
Wilson is both the youngest director in the Press's 47-year history and the first woman of color to head the organization. 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.
“I grew up reading Feminist Press books from my mother’s shelf, and they were instrumental in developing my voice as an activist and writer. It’s an honor to join this intergenerational team to enliven the Press’s intersectional vision of publishing unapologetic, accessible texts that inspire action, teach empathy, and build community,” Wilson explained upon her appointment as ED.
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. In 2016, the Press started Amethyst Editions, a queer imprint curated by Michelle Tea that champions emerging queer writers who employ genre-bending narratives and experimental writing styles, and complicates the conversation around American LGBTQ+ experiences beyond a coming out narrative. The Feminist Press also established the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize, a literary prize for debut women and nonbinary authors of color, in partnership with TAYO literary magazine.
WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly
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. 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.
- Harding Davis, Rebecca (1985). Life in the Iron Mills, and other stories. Old Westbury, New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9780935312393.
- Paley, Grace (1991). Long Walks and Intimate Talks. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558610446.
- Aidoo, Ama Ata (1993). Changes: a love story. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558610651.
- Juana, Ines de la Cruz, Sr. (1994). La respuesta [The Answer: including a selection of poems]. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558610774.
- Perkins Gilman, Charlotte (1996). The yellow wall-paper. New York, New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558611580.
- de Rosa, Tina (1996). Paper Fish. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558611467.
- Klüger, Ruth (2001). Still Alive: a Holocaust girlhood remembered. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558614369.
- Riverbend (2005). Baghdad Burning. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558614895.
- Aldrich, Ann (2006). We Walk Alone. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558615250.
- Marshall, Paule (2006). Brown Girl, Brownstones. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558614987.
- Despentes, Virginie (2010). King Kong Theory. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558616578.
- Ehrenreich, Barbara; English, Deirdre (2010). Witches, Midwives, & Nurses: a history of women healers (2nd ed.). New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558616615.
- Bond, Justin Vivian (2011). Tango: my childhood, backwards and in high heels. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558617476.
- Parsipur, Shahrnush (2011). Women without men (2nd ed.). New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558617537.
- Preciado, Beatriz (2013). Testo Junkie. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558618374.
- Pussy, Riot (2013). Pussy Riot!: a punk prayer for freedom: letters from prison, songs, poems, and courtroom statements, plus tributes to the punk band that shook the world. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558618343.
The Feminist Press has launched multiple book series. Women Writing Africa was begun in 1994 with funding from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. 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 
- 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
- Thompson, Kathleen. "Florence Howe". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Howe, Florence. "To the Editors", The New York Review of Books. Retrieved January 2014.
- "VFA Honors the Founder of The Feminist Press Florence Howe". Veteran Feminists of America. Retrieved January 2014.
- Howe, Florence (2011). A Life in Motion. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558616974.
- Bosman, Julie (January 3, 2007). "Tillie Olsen, Feminist Writer, Dies at 94". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Howe, Florence (July 2014). "Lost and found – and what happened next: some reflections on the search for women writers begun by The Feminist Press in 1970". Contemporary Women's Writing, special issue: The Body. Oxford Journals. 8 (2): 136–153. doi:10.1093/cww/vpt022.
- Howe (2011). A Life in Motion. p. 293.
- Howe (2011). A Life in Motion. p. 292.
- Hedges, Elaine; Wendt, Ingrid (1980). In Her Own Image: Women Working in the Wrts. Old Westbury, New York, NY: The Feminist Press McGraw-Hill Book Co. ISBN 9780070204430.
- Daymond, M. J.; et al. (2003). Women writing Africa, Volume I: The Southern Region. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 9781558614079.
- Howe (2011). A Life in Motion. p. 301.
- Howe (2011). A Life in Motion. p. 370.
- "About FP". The Feminist Press. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
- Lauerman, Connie (September 2, 1996). "Lady in Waiting". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- "Bookselling this week: Introducing Femmes Fatales to a new generation". American Booksellers Association. 29 September 2003. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
- Bosman, Julie (January 3, 2007). "Tillie Olsen, Feminist Writer, Dies at 94". The New York Times.
- Howe, Florence (July 1, 1971). "Letter to the Editors: Feminist Press". The New York Review of Books.
- Thompson, Kathleen. "Florence Howe". Jewish Women's Archvie.
- Howe, Florence (2011). A Life in Motion. New York: The Feminist Press. ISBN 978-1-55861-697-4.
- Monaghan, Charles (April 27, 1986). "Book Report". The Washington Post Book World. p. 15.