At September’s Feminist Power Awards, the Feminist Press will recognize six commanding women for pushing the envelope to be “at the table” to be heard and distinguished. They are ambassadors, activists, writers, feminists, journalists, artists, and LGBT+ advocates.
The Feminist Press — a nonprofit organization — advances women’s rights and amplifies feminist perspectives. Publishing classic and new writing, it elevates “silenced and marginalized voices” supporting “personal transformation and social justice for all people.”
Awarding feminist writers
The awards ceremony is both a fundraiser and an inspirational congregation of people across various fields. It is an opportunity to “share their work and celebrate with our community of feminist leaders,” says Lucia Brown, senior external relations manager at the Feminist Press.
This year’s Feminist Power Award honorees are Soraya Chemaly (writer/media activist), Dr. Brittney Cooper (writer, professor), Ambassador Swanee Hunt (author, advocate, artist), Judith Kasen-Windsor (Edie Windsor Foundation, LGBT+ advocate), Cindi Leive (journalist, media leader), and Rebecca Traister (journalist, author). Leive will moderate a panel discussion on women’s anger with panelists Chemaly, Cooper, and Traister. Two of the honorees will be recognized by the Feminist Press. Ambassador Swanee Hunt, as a diplomat, activist promoting women’s role “at the table to make peace last” and philanthropist supporting women and girls, and Judith Kasen-Windsor for forthcoming book A Wild and Precious Life, focused on the life and work of Edie Windsor.
“The Feminist Power Awards give a voice and platform to leaders doing transformative work across the industry. It’s always powerful to hear how books have influenced the lives and careers of this impressive group,” explains Brown.
The award ceremony will be held at NY City’s Taj II, on Tuesday, September 17. The fundraiser tickets range between $350 to $50,000.
Founding vanguard of feminist issues
The Feminist Press was founded in 1970, by an English professor whose students sought modern women writing. Florence Howe, teaching 18th and 19th-century writers at Maryland’s Goucher College, couldn’t find contemporary children’s books with nuanced portrayals of women to gift to friend’s kids. She pitched publishers for a biography of Doris Lessing. Publishers weren’t interested.
Howe then reached out to the Baltimore Women’s Liberation Project proposing the idea to establish a Feminist Press. She discussed the idea with friends and colleagues, planting the seeds for a new publishing house providing a national and international forum for modern women’s writing.
Checks flood the mailbox
Soon Howe’s mailbox filled up with donation envelopes. Checks in various denominations arrived from supporters and women writers.
The Feminist Press was born. Its first published work, The Dragon and the Doctor by Barbara Danish, tells the story of a sick dragon doctored by a female doctor and a male nurse. Other books followed. Life in the Iron Mills by Rebecca Harding Davis, I Love Myself when I’m Laughing and then Again When I’m Looking Mean and Impressive by Zora Neale Hurston, edited by Alice Walker, and others.
To date, the Press has published over 400 books by women writers in the U.S. and Thailand, Equatorial Guinea, and Spain. On an annual basis, it publishes 15-20 books including children’s, fiction and non-fiction as well as the WSQ academic journal.
The Feminist Press also sponsors literary awards and events to benefit the continuation of the publishing house like the Jazz for Gender Justice “joyful resistance” event. In 2016 it launched the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize Award. It honors author Louise Meriwether, by publishing a debut work by a woman or non-binary author of color, giving voice to stories that “shift culture and inspire new writers.”
50 years of publishing untold stories
The Feminist Press continues with generous support from donors and book sales. The press, based on the CUNY campus, has a staff of six full-timers and three part-timers.
In 2020, the Feminist Press will mark its 50th anniversary with a Gala event on June 10.
It will celebrate the “crucial publishing component of second-wave feminism” reprinting feminist classics of such writers like Zora Neale Hurston and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. As the vanguard for books on contemporary feminist issues of equality and gender identity, the Feminist Press brought the critically needed texts and literature leading to the women’s studies field.
More importantly, it brought to light books by Barbara Ehrenreich, Grace Paley, Anita Hill, Justin Vivian Bond, and Ann Jones. Not to mention global feminist literature by Shahrnush Parsipur, Ruth Kluger, and Ama Ata Aidoo to North American writers of diverse race and class experience as Paule Marshall and Rahna Reiko Rizzuto.