Virago Press

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Parent companyHachette Livre
FounderCarmen Callil
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Key peopleLennie Goodings (editor)
Nonfiction topicsFeminism
Official website

Virago is London based British publishing company committed to publishing women's writing and books on feminist topics.[1] Started and run by women in the 1970s and bolstered by the success of the Women's Liberation Movement (WLM), Virago has been credited as one of several British feminist presses that helped address inequitable gender dynamics in publishing.[2] Unlike alternative, anti-capitalist publishing projects and zines coming out of feminist collectives and socialist circles, Virago branded itself as a commercial alternative to the male dominated publishing industry and sought to compete with mainstream international presses.[3][4]


Virago (originally known as Spare Rib Books)[5] was founded in 1973 by Carmen Callil, primarily to publish books by women writers. Both new works and out of print books reissued under a "modern classics" insignia by neglected female authors that have featured on the imprint's list, as well as works with feminist themes by male authors such as H. G. Wells.

In 1982, Virago became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chatto, Virago, Bodley Head, and Cape Group (CVBC), but in 1987 Callil, Lennie Goodings, Ursula Owen, Alexandra Pringle, and Harriet Spicer put together a management buy-out from CVBC, then owned by Random House, USA. The buy-out was financed by Rothschild Ventures and Robert Gavron. Random House UK kept a ten per cent stake in the company, and continued to handle sales and distribution.

In 1993 Rothschild Ventures sold their shares to the directors and Gavron, who thus became the largest single shareholder. After a downturn in the market forced a reduction in activity, the board decided to sell the company to Little, Brown, of which Virago became an imprint in 1996 (with Lennie Goodings as Publisher and Sally Abbey as Senior Editor). The sale to Little Brown, a large company owned by the telecommunications giant Time Warner, was met with negative publicity and raised questions about the future of feminist publishing houses.[3]

In 2006, Virago's parent company became part of publishing group Hachette Livre. Lennie Goodings remains as editor and publisher.

Valentine Cunningham has praised Virago for trawling "most impressively and fruitfully in the novel catalogues" of the 1930s for women's fiction to reprint.[6]

Notable Authors[edit]


  1. ^ Cadman, Eileen, Gail Chester, and Agnes Pivot (1981). Rolling Our Own: Women as Printers, Publishers, and Distributors. London: Minority Press Group Series No. 4. p. 30. ISBN 0906890063.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "How Virago Press Changed Feminist Publishing Forever | Amuse". Amuse. 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
  3. ^ a b Murray, Simone. Mixed Media : Feminist Presses and Publishing Politics, Pluto Press, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central.
  4. ^ Cochrane, Kira (2013-03-14). "Has Virago changed the publishing world's attitudes towards women?". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-18.
  5. ^ Rowe, Marsha (16 April 2016). "Spare Rib and the underground press". British Library. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  6. ^ Cunningham, Valentine (1993), "Vin Rouge Audenaire?", in Cunningham, Valentine, British Writers Of The Thirties, Clarendon Press, p. 26, ISBN 9780192826558.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]