This Book is an Action: A Case for the Study of Feminist Publishing

By Jennifer Gilley.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

“This Book is an Action” is the first sentence of the preface of Robin Morgan’s 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful and it is meant to catch the reader off guard, causing a collision between the generally passive, elitist and genteel world of the literary establishment and the world of underground radical feminist political activity. In one deceptively simple sentence, Morgan is actually asserting three things: 1)That the act of publication in itself can be a feminist act, 2)That books specifically can be a vehicle for radical feminism, and 3)That a book published by Random House could be a vehicle for radical feminism. The history of feminist book publishing has yet to be critically analyzed by historians of feminism, a curious oversight given the gatekeeping function of publishing houses. The future of feminist ideology literally depends upon what gets published, and how widely it is distributed. In this paper I will examine what is unique about the book as a medium and how the book publishing process affects the direction of political movements by regulating access to the publication and distribution of ideas. Using case studies of particular feminist “bestsellers” published by both small feminist presses with small distribution networks, and mainstream presses with enormous marketing budgets, I will lay out the different paths by which feminist text can be published (or not published) and the material and ideological consequences of each.

Keywords: Feminist Publishing, Feminist Presses

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 773.325KB).

Jennifer Gilley

Associate Librarian, Pennsylvania State University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Jennifer Gilley is the Head Librarian at Penn State New Kensington. She has Master’s degrees in both women’s studies and library and information science, which have combined to form her research interests in gender and technology, third wave feminism, information seeking in women’s studies, and the history of feminist publishing. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


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