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Feminist Press still relevant after 45 years

Photo by Yongmin Cho
Photo by Yongmin Cho

At the CUNY Graduate Center is a small, educational non-profit organization that fought and still fighting for big social changes.

The Feminist Press, located at 365 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5406, publishes feminist classics, offers new international pieces, elevates silenced voices and promotes social justice.

“FP is not just a business. You have a business with values,” Lauren Hook, managing editor, said. “We’re not just saying how much this book is going to make, but what the book means, what does it represent, why is it important and why does it deserve to be in print.”

Florence Howe, an author and professor, founded the organization in 1970 because of the lack of academic texts as women’s studies programs developed across the country and to advance women’s rights.

The organization publishes about 15 books a year including reprints, academic text, fiction, novels, and works in translations.

It recently expanded to children’s books with their newest series called “Ordinary Terrible Things” by author Anastasia Higginbotham.

The first of the series is called “Divorce is the Worst” and the next book will focus on death. The series emphasizes the importance of talking to children about every day issues.

Sarah Schulman, distinguished professor of humanity at the College of Staten Island, will have her upcoming novel, “The Cosmopolitans,” released in March. It is her 17th book and an adaption of “Cousin Bette” by French playwright Honore de Balzac. It tells the story of an unmarried woman scheming to ruin her extended family.

CUNY partnered with Feminist Press in 1985 and offered support to them.

“CUNY houses us. Basically they support us by giving us this beautiful office space. Otherwise, we could never really afford to be in a town,” Hook said.

“They have been really great allies for us. We’ll often have launch events in CUNY spaces,” Kait Heacock, Feminist Press’ publicist, said.

The Feminist Press also offers reprints of female authors to make readers aware of them.

“We’re always doing reprints, like finding authors, because they’re women. They were just lost to the dustbin of history so to speak. Part of our mission statement is to get this silenced history and finally give them a voice that they deserve,” Hook said.

Feminist Press also offers events and programs like their annual conference STEMinism, a mentoring program where girls are linked with professors in different fields.

Moreover, the organization fights against structural gender inequality. Heacock, before a writer at another publishing firm, said there are gender disparities in the publishing industry. There are salary differences between men and women that go up to $25,000. Plus men benefit from published books and awards than women.

“I feel like coming here offered the environment where everyone is conscious of that and wants to affect change in the industry. It’s a kind of thing that you have to change from the inside,” Heacock said.

The word feminism is growing in pop culture as, Hook pointed out, it no longer “conjures an image of someone burning a bra in the seventies.” Rather an artist like Beyonce comes to mind when the term is brought up.

“Big publishers like Random House and others, because it is popular, are publishing books that, maybe before, they wouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way. I think it’s really important for us to be here because we’re always publishing things that are always on the margin. We’re still as relevant as ever,” Hook said.

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