Tag Archives: Minnesota Women’s Press

BookWomen at 20: Celebrating the elegance of thriving

Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant ~ Maya Angelou

Though survival may have been on their minds when they launched Minnesota Women’s Press in 1985, Glenda Martin and Mollie Hoben have thrived – elegantly! In fact, they have just launched a celebration of their more recent twenty years as founders and leaders of The BookWomen Center for Feminist Reading, which is both a part and an outgrowth of Minnesota Women’s Press. The best known project of the Center is publication and global distribution of BookWomen, a bi-monthly journal designed to create “a readers’ community for those who love women’s words”.

Glenda and Mollie continue to thrive through their unstinting and endlessly creative work to give voice to women – women who write great books, women who reshape the political landscape, women who merit a platform to share their pain, women who are redefining the world of art, women who simply have much to say about literature and living.

Their tradition of amplifying the voices of others lives on as Mollie and Glenda celebrate another milestone.   The next issue of BookWomen will mark the completion of twenty years’ publication to inviting readers to share their thoughts. Questions to readers affirm their sincere commitment to learn and share – and thus thrive:

  • How did you get connected to BookWomen, and why have you stuck with us?
  • How has your own reading; life changed in the past 20 years”
  • What memorable book or other have you learned about from BookWomen?

For  two decades BookWomen readers have learned about great reads, personal experiences of readers and writers, literary news and views, updates on Reading on the Road retreats that have attracted vagabonds and locals at significant literary sites from Taos to the Coast of Maine to Iceland to Oaxaca, Mexico and England’s Lake District.

As one fortunate enough to have known the trajectory of Mollie’s and Glenda’s thriving since MWP was still a dream it has occurred to me how important it is for younger and newer followers of these women to know more about the narrative. We need to learn or remember the times and the impact of their commitment to share a critical light on the words of women – through Minnesota Women’s Press, later BookWomen and The Bookwomen Center.

The good news is that the narrative is preserved in print and in oral and video interviews they have generously shared. My hope is that readers of this blog will learn for the first time – or recall – more about Mollie and Glenda as they have shared their story.

  • My favorite interview with Mollie and Glenda was conducted in 1997 by beloved Minnesota poet Joanne Hart as part of the Northern Lights and Insights video series.  The interview  incorporates stories of the day when the MWP entrepreneurs not only published the newspaper but also hosted several reading groups and operated a bookstore (on Raymond off University) and a unique library of feminist literature contributed by readers and supporters of the enterprise. It is a forever treasure!(http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16022coll38/id/80)

Helpful histories of Minnesota Women’s Press were published when founders celebrated significant anniversaries of the Press. Here are some good backgrounder or refresher reads:

Back in the day, decades before the birth of The BookWomen Center for Feminist Reading, Virginia Wolfe lamented that “women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics.” (A Room of One’s Own, 1929)

In recent decades the “creative force” of women has indeed harnessed itself to pens and brushes and business and politics.” Through it all Glenda and Mollie have thrived by shedding light on the power of women’s words to “overcharge the capacity of bricks and mortar.”

 

 

 

 

Ideas + Influence Inspire Change – The Challenge of International Women’s Day 2014

[Fighting] to give women and girls a fighting chance isn’t just a nice thing to do….It isn’t some luxury that we only get to when we have time on our hands. This is a core imperative for every human being in every society. If we do not continue the campaign for women’s rights and opportunities, the world we want to live in — and the country we all love and cherish — will not be what it should be.  Hillary Clinton

The quote is from the The Shriver Report – and it may be because I have been following the reaction to that report that I review with mixed feelings the stories I’ve been gathering for a Minnesota Women’s Press calendar of activities planned to commemorate International Women’s Day 2014.  ( Pre-pub tip –there are some great events in the works – check the next issue of MWP)

On the one hand it may seem quaint to be celebrating the century old IWD custom, a day designated in a time when women had no right to vote much less to have a say about how the home, the church, the town or the world was being run.  We’ve come a long way since those feisty women of the Socialist Party of America observed the first National Woman’s Day in February 1909.

Maybe it’s time to count our triumphs, bank the benefits, and exhale.

Or not.  Though the focus of IWD is global, clarity begins at home where it seems the urgency to categorize the rights, contributions or welfare of women has waned. Many institutions, even those that once made an effort to schedule events and raise issues, seem disinclined to budget the money or time to pause on March 8 to commemorate International Women’s Day 2014.

Maria Shriver and the raft of women and organizations that have joined her initiative suggest we think again about today’s domestic realities.  To wit:

  • 1 in 3 American women, 42 million women, plus 28 million children, either live in poverty or are right on the brink of it.
  • The Violence Against Women Act continues to languish in the U.S. Congress.  The fact is that violence against women is major health problem and an horrific violation of women’s human rights.  35% of women worldwide have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • SNAP benefits, upon which countless women and their children and “invisible” elderly women depend, remain a political punching bag in Congress.
  • Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women who often get zero paid sick days.
  • Two-thirds of American women are either the primary or co-breadwinners of their families.
  • The average woman is paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and that figure is much lower for black and Latina women; African American women earn only 64 cents and Hispanic women only 55 cents for every dollar made by a white man.
  • Even though women outnumber men in higher education, men still make more money than women who have the same level of educational achievement, from high school diplomas to advanced graduate degrees. In 2011, men with bachelors’ degrees earned more than women with graduate degrees.
  • There were 135,000 more elderly women living on less than $5,500 per year in 2012 than in 2011, pushing the total size of that group to 733,000.
  • In 2012 6.2 million children lived in families with unemployed parents. Many of these children live with parents who have been out of work six month or longer. Unemployment insurance covers only 36 percent of children with unemployed parents; unemployed parents are more likely to receive SNAP benefits than unemployment benefits.

Though the human mind can absorb just so many stats this small sampling makes the point that there are millions of women in this nation who are not swept along by the tide of women’s progress.

The good news is that there are women in positions to make change.

The theme of International Women’s Day 2014 is “Inspiring Change”.  Decision-makers are “inspired to change” by those who elect, appoint, support, contact, or otherwise express their concerns and their ideas for change.  That’s where most of us come in.  IWD falls on Saturday this year – good time to think about how to inspire changes that will cast in legal concrete the rights and opportunities of women and girls, now and for generations who will someday walk in the path we forge for them.

Minnesota Women’s Press Shares the Joy of Reading

Give us books – Give us wings!

Some years ago the theme for a national reading promotion was “Give us books, Give us wings.”  I still treasure the posters and T-shirts – and the visual image.  It’s that image that came to mind this week as I’ve had a small role in finding good homes for the unique collection of books in the library of the Minnesota Women’s Press

Any break-up is painful – the breaking up of a library collection is truly poignant. [Many books in the MWP collection were] donated by women who participated in the scores of book groups and salons sponsored by MWP.  Having purchased and read the books, these avid bibliophiles chose to share the words of women writers by contributing their books to the library.

For many years the collection was tended by volunteers, including Barb Clark and Rhoda Holden, who spent hundreds of hours at MWP arranging the dynamic collection, meticulously handwriting cards, welcoming visitors and contributors.  The collection is eclectic, charming and overflowing with books you won’t find in the chains or even public libraries with tight budgets and limited space.  A few of the volumes are autographed by the author herself.

Ever at the ready to face head-on both changing times and fiscal realities, MWP is on the move, from their long-time home near University and Raymond to a site just down the street, at 970 Raymond.  Though staff will enjoy [slightly] expanded office and meeting space – not to mention windows – they have had to phase out the library.

Mollie Hoben, MWP co-founder, quotes a volunteer who reminded her that each book arrived at MWP with a story.  Now, having gleaned more women’s stories and women’s words during the MWP years, each will take flight to carry wings to other readers who will add their own stories.

In recent days and weeks book lovers from prospective adoptive homes – colleges, schools, women’s centers and used bookstores – have been pouring over the MWP books, recalling their own reading experiences, pondering what is just right for their students, hoping to find that autograph. clipping or other memento of a past reader.

MWP will open soon in their new quarters.  The recently expanded magazine] will appear monthly in your mailbox or the corner magazine rack.  The book groups and salons will continue in comfortable meeting spaces.  Meanwhile, the books once housed in the MWP collection will be sharing their stories. the joy of reading books by and about women, and the thrill of new wings with readers of every age throughout the region.