Putting gender on the syllabus
This month, we’re sharing how the Feminist Press fights censorship and promotes free speech and expression with our inclusive publishing mission.
In 2017 over 900 colleges and universities around the world offer programs in women’s studies, giving students the critical tools to analyze gender across all aspects of society. But in 1970, when Florence Howe founded the Feminist Press, the lives, histories, and ideas of women were conspicuously absent from the curriculum.
As an English teacher at a women’s college in the early days of the second-wave feminist movement, Florence observed that what her students were studying was narrowing, rather than widening, their ambitions. The literary canon, dominated by male authors, repeatedly represented women as docile, wifely, or dead—if at all.
Our press was born out of the urgent need to provide women with books that help them expand their possibilities as artists, thinkers, and human beings. As a growing collective of students and educators nationwide began to build the discipline known as women’s studies, FP printed the texts to fuel this intellectual revolution.
Texts like Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills—the devastating social realist account of the ravages of industrial capitalism that was published anonymously to great acclaim in 1861 but drifted into obscurity for nearly a century. And Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper—the horrific 1892 tale detailing the trauma of a woman confined to domestic oblivion. And Zora Neale Hurston’s I Love Myself When I Am Laughing—a collection of rich and lively portraits of working-class black life by the writer and journalist now recognized as one of the most influential figures of the Harlem Renaissance.
Recovering “lost” women’s writing of the past, and championing the feminist classics that helped the movement grow (like the essential collection of black feminist theory But Some of Us Are Brave, and the long-running interdisciplinary journal WSQ), Feminist Press has always worked hand-in-hand with women’s studies—and we’ll keep right on amplifying the voices blazing new trails for social justice in our current moment.
Do you value nuance, critical thinking, and intersectional analysis? Your donation of $50, $25, even $10 helps us continue to serve as a dynamic archive of gender and women’s studies texts.
The Feminist Press Team