Some history: In October of 1983—Reagan in the White House, Operation Rescue activists bicycle chained to clinic entrances, Fatal Attraction in development at Paramount—Wellesley professor Linda Gardiner published the first issue of the Women’s Review of Books. Her vision: a monthly review to counter male-dominated, influential venues such as the New York Times Book Review and New York Review of Books and a space where books by women and feminist scholars would get their due. It was a hit and a haven.
In 2003, after twenty years of producing the review, Linda Gardiner passed the red pencil to Amy Hoffman. The business side of the review—dealing with subscriptions, printers, bills—had become onerous, so WRB shut down for a year to reorient. Ian Mellanby and Guy Griffiths, the owners of Philadelphia’s Old City Publishing, stepped in, and Hoffman edited the review (now bi-monthly) until fall of 2017, when Wellesley exited its support of the editorial side. Hoffman stepped down, and Old City was scrambling to figure out their next move. Should WRB be totally digital? A different format? Shut down? This is where I come in.
In December of 2017, I received a serendipitous email from Ian Mellanby. A mutual friend, Linda Stein, told him I had recently left the Feminist Press and might be a good short-term fix for their sudden vacuum in leadership. My publishing house, Dottir Press, was in the works, but the first book wouldn’t be in stores for nearly a year, so the notion of income was attractive. More than that, though, I was excited to assign books and edit the writers I admire. I met with Ian and Guy in Philadelphia a few days later, and we agreed I would step in as editor for the five issues that remained of 2018.
One year became four. Editing the Women’s Review of Books was really gratifying, it turns out, even fun. Publishers Ian and Guy never interfered or second-guessed me, so our relationship was friction-free. The reviewers (hundreds of them, over the years) were professional and so generous with their talent, especially given the compensation. Deep thanks to my colleagues on the editorial side—assistants Kayla Bert, Alice Stewart, and Jackie Zeisloft and photo-essay editor Ellen Feldman. I’ve worked most closely with copy editor Peggy Barlow, poetry editor Katha Pollitt, and my trusted collaborators Charis Caputo and Noelle McManus. Guy, wearing his production hat, was patient and responsive to our many design tweaks. Wellesley Centers for Women has had a reduced role since I worked out of New York, but Donna Tambascio and Megan Cassidy (among others) are enthusiastic, organized boosters of each issue, as is WCW’s director, Dr. Layli Maparyan.
In this, my last editor’s letter, the main thing I want convey is my thanks—to all of the people who subscribe, to the people who write for us, and to everyone who made the Women’s Review of Books the institution it is. In my first editor’s letter, I noted how crucial the role of feminist writing was and is in building this movement. This is still true. The feminist revolution might not be televised, but it has long been published. Let’s all keep reading.
New York City
October 15, 2021
P.S. This is the last issue edited by the team of Jennifer, Charis, Noelle, and Katha—but the Women’s Review of Books is continuing. I wish we could tell you more, but at press time, details were still being finalized. Stay tuned!