with assistance from CATHARINE STIMPSON, SHANE SNOWDON, BARBARA SMITH, and ANDI ZEISLER
In 1790, Mary Wollstonecraft anonymously pens A Vindication of the Rights of Men. It’s all rave reviews and hot sales until her name is added to the second edition and, overnight, the text is derided as overly emotional. The following year, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is published under her name, and a feminist philosopher is born.
Margaret Fuller, editor of the transcendentalist magazine The Dial, calls for women to cultivate themselves as individuals in a treatise later expanded in the book Woman in the Nineteenth Century.
Alongside her sister, Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman to start a weekly newspaper: Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly, a radical forum for political, social, and economic progressivism, especially regarding women’s suffrage and labor reform.
Anna Julia Cooper’s A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South is published, an early seed of intersectional feminist theory.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett becomes part-owner of the Memphis Free Speech, where she publishes antilynching statements and goes on to become one of the most famous journalists of the twentieth century.
Labor organizer and socialist Lucy Gonzalez Parsons speaks at the first convention of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and becomes editor of the anarchist newspaper The Liberator.
Margaret Anderson starts The Little Review, a scrappy journal of literary criticism that, in its fifteen-year run, publishes the work of writers including Gertrude Stein, Emma Goldman, and Djuna Barnes—not to mention it serializes James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Simone de Beauvoir drills down on how women are socialized into existence in The Second Sex.
Daughters of Bilitis, the country’s first national lesbian organization, publishes The Ladder, the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the US. In 1973, longtime Ladder contributor Barbara Grier cofounds Naiad Press, which is, for a time, the largest lesbian press in the world.
Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique burn up the bestseller lists, advocating careers and sexual agency for women.
Newly formed radical groups in Boston, New York, and Chicago, etc. self-publish women’s liberation theory in publications like No More Fun and Games, Notes from the First Year, and Voices of the WLM.
The first US feminist presses emerge, often founded by noted feminist writers. They publish books now considered classics but rejected by mainstream publishing back then. Prominent among these presses are Shameless Hussy (1969), the Women’s Press Collective (1969), Feminist Press (1970), Daughters (initiated by June Arnold in 1971), Diana (1972), Persephone (1976), Seal (1976), Spinsters Ink (1978), and Firebrand (1984).
The journal produced by Redstockings, a WLM group founded by Ellen Willis and Shulamith Firestone, popularizes “consciousness-raising” and publishes “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” a challenge to New Left men to become cliterate.
Amazon, the first avowedly feminist bookstore, opens in Minneapolis, soon followed by Oakland’s ICI: A Woman’s Place. They are eventually joined by 100+ other feminist bookstores nationwide that prove crucial to feminist culture, although only a handful survive today.
Sexual Politics (Kate Millett), The Dialectic of Sex (Shulamith Firestone), Sisterhood Is Powerful (edited by Robin Morgan), and The Black Woman (edited by Toni Cade Bambara) are some of the first best-selling books to bring radical writing to a wider audience.
Forty-six female Newsweek employees sue the magazine for sex discrimination the same week that scores of “militant feminists” stage a sit-in at the Ladies’ Home Journal, demanding that women’s mags publish content relevant to women’s liberation.
One of the first and longest-lasting national feminist newspapers, off our backs, is founded in Washington, DC. Sojourner, another long-enduring national paper, is founded in the Boston area in 1975.
Twelve Boston area feminists undertake their own women’s health research and publish a 136-page booklet called Women and Their Bodies. It quickly sells 250,000 copies and by 1973 is expanded to become the classic Our Bodies, Ourselves.
Quest: A Feminist Quarterly and The Furies, a national monthly, start publishing.
Ms. magazine becomes the first feminist magazine distributed through mainstream channels.
Diana Press seizes the means of producing books by doing their own printing and binding.
Radical feminism meets the Institution as academics tangle with feminist theory in journals such as Feminist Studies and Women’s Studies Quarterly. Barnard professor Catharine R. Stimpson becomes the first editor of Signs (then, as now, published by the University of Chicago Press).
Initiated by June Arnold, the first Women in Print Conference is held in Nebraska and two conferences follow in 1981 and 1985, connecting writers, stores, publications, and publishers nationwide. Participant Carol Seajay is inspired to create Feminist Bookstore News (published until 2000) to connect feminist booksellers, printers, and publishers.
The Combahee River Collective Statement declares the collective’s mission to fight “interlocking” systems of “racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression.”
Conditions, a literary magazine run by a collective lesbian and bisexual women, is founded in Brooklyn.
Spinsters Ink, a lesbian feminist press, begins its remarkable run which will include Minnie Bruce Pratt, Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Elana Dykewoman.
Conditions: Five, the Black Women’s Issue, edited by Lorraine Bethel and Barbara Smith, is the first widely distributed collection of Black feminist writing.
Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Mariana Romo-Carmona, Cherríe Moraga, and many others create Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, an activist literary press soon to publish classics including This Bridge Called My Back, Home Girls, and I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities.
South End Press publishes Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, bell hooks’s debut. Her accessible, wide-ranging works form the backbone of gender studies programs for decades to come.
In response to the dearth of feminist writing in The New York Review of Books and The New York Times Book Review, Linda Gardiner establishes The Women’s Review of Books at Wellesley, providing a venue for serious writing by and about women authors.
Alice Walker uses her essay collection In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens to introduce the concept of womanism.
The first International Feminist Book Fair is held in London and continues biannually for the rest of the decade.
Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Patricia Bell-Scott establish SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, the first peer- reviewed academic journal exclusively about the experience of Black women.
Riot grrrl zines (Jigsaw, I’m so fucking beautiful, Chainsaw, Girl Germs, et al.) emerge from the punk scene as women artists subvert the genre’s prevailing sexism by combining DIY aesthetics and feminist politics.
differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies is founded at Brown University, edited by Naomi Schor and Elizabeth Weed; the journal creates a bridge between US and European feminism.
The third wave inaugurates the rise of independent print feminist magazines like Bust and Bitch (RIP HUES, Bamboo Girl . . .) in which feminist theory meshes with pop culture.
Heather Corinna creates the feminist sexual health site Scarleteen a year into abstinence-only mandates.
Recognizing the importance of bookstores as organizing spaces, third-wave feminists open Bluestockings Bookstore on New York’s Lower East Side.
Feministing.com initiates the feminist blogosphere. The Hairpin, The Toast, The Frisky, and more later follow suit.
The first well-funded feminist blog, Jezebel, launches with Anna Holmes at the helm.
The blog Crunk Feminist Collective creates space for “hip hop generation feminists of color, queer and straight,” and provides an outlet for women scholars to write more openly about their identities and struggles inside and outside of academia.
FOR A DEEPER DIVE, CHECK OUT:
Early American Women Printers and Publishers 1639–1820, by Leona M. Hudak (Scarecrow Press, 1978)
A Gathering of Spirit: A Collection of Writing and Art by North American Indian Women, edited by Beth Brant (originally published as a special issue of Sinister Wisdom, 1983)
The Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women’s Anthology, edited by Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Mayumi Tsutakawa, and Margarita Donnelly (Calyx, 1989)
The Riot Grrrl Collection, edited by Lisa Darms (Feminist Press, 2013)
Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, with Barbara Smith (SUNY Albany Press, 2014)
The Feminist Bookstore Movement, by Kristen Hogan (Duke University Press, 2016)