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British Library houses oral history of Women in Publishing

In the UK, the British Library will host a new oral history project comprising interviews with 30 high-profile former members of Women in Publishing (WiP), an organisation founded in 1979 to advocate for women in the industry, reports the Bookseller.

The interviews can be heard in full at the British Library from 4 April, and excerpts can currently be heard via the WiP oral history project’s website. The project includes interviews with Penguin Random House chair Gail Rebuck, Bloomsbury co-founder Liz Calder, Grub Street’s Anne Dolamore and Australian Julia MacRae, who emigrated to England in 1960, and became managing director of Hamish Hamilton’s children’s division before starting her own imprint, Julia MacRae Books.

The oral history project was established by former bookseller Jane Cholmeley and former journalist Penny Mountain, with the pair raising around £35,000 (A$63,910) from supporters and UK charities to fund the project.

Mountain told the Bookseller they had been working on the project since 2013, ‘from the slightly idealistic point of view that women’s history tends not to get recorded—there are no minutes from meetings, no huge archive’. ‘An oral history is a good way to preserve it. Maybe one day women are going to have to reinvent the wheel again and they may find this useful,’ said Mountain.

WiP held its first meeting in 1979, with the aim of creating a forum for women to discuss ideas, network, support each other and share information. Mountain said it sprung from a lack of widespread female role models in the industry at the time. The organisation developed quickly, with members forming committees, running events and conferences, and publishing a newsletter called WiPlash. It remained active until recently, and organisers say they hope the group will become active again.

The Australian Publishers Association (APA) noted that WiP was also active in Australia from 1988, and some of the early pioneers were originally Australian, such as Virago founder Carmen Calill, founder of The Women’s Press Stephanie Dowrick and author of Man Made Language Dale Spender.

Founder of Australian feminist publisher Spinifex Press Susan Hawthorne told the APA that WiP was ‘very active’ in Sydney and Melbourne from 1988 and throughout the 1990s, adding it was a ‘very useful networking place for so many women in our industry’. ‘We’ve seen big steps made towards recognising women in publishing, and we have this group to thank for it,’ said Hawthorne.


Category: Library news International


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