California Rare Book School at North Baker Research Library
CHS library staff welcomed Prof. Kathleen Walkup and students of the California Rare Book School’s week-long class on Printing at the Margins: A History of Women Printers. Kathleen Walkup is Professor Emerita at Mills College, where she held the inaugural Lovelace Family Endowed Chair in Book Art and taught classes in typography, letterpress printing, artists’ bookmaking and graduate seminars in book history and theory.
The California Rare Book School (CalRBS) is a UCLA continuing education program dedicated to providing the requisite knowledge and skills for professionals working in all aspects of the rare book community, and for students interested in entering the field. CalRBS offers week-long courses covering a broad range of topics.
Printing at the Margins: A History of Women Printers focuses on the European and American women who have been active in printing since Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type. Beginning with nuns from the convent of Ripoli, near Florence, Italy, in 1476, the class traces the critical role of women in the arts and trades of printing and typesetting up to the present time. The course explores the reasons why a semi-literate locksmith with no printing background is named the first printer on North American soil when a woman, Elizabeth Glover, established the first press in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1639, and looks at the central work of women during the American Colonial period. The course examines the place of women in the private press movement and questions why Black women printers are even harder to identify than their white counterparts. The course ends with the contemporary artists’ book movement and the importance of second-wave feminism to the development of this genre.
Students of the California Rare Book School’s Printing at the Margins: A History of Women Printers class, July 28, 2023. California Historical Society, North Baker Research Library
“I was inspired to have my class visit the California Historical Society because I valued CHS’s work in the 1990s with the role of women in California printing. CHS even borrowed a platen press from the book art studios at Mills College, where I taught letterpress printing, for the exhibition. CHS has holdings in an important commercial enterprise in late nineteenth-century San Francisco, the Women’s Cooperative Printing Society; I knew my students would highly value examining that work. I was also intrigued by the work of an early CHS librarian, James de T. Abajian, in seeking out Black printers in the historical record.”
—Prof. Kathleen Walkup, California Rare Book School
Left: San Francisco: Women’s Co-operative Printing Union, El Dorado, 1869. California Historical Society (F-PAM 21958) Right: San Francisco: L. Schlesinger and J. Schlesinger, The Carrier Dove, September 3, 1887. California Historical Society (PER CARD)
From the CHS collections, library staff selected imprints of the Women’s Co-operative Printing Union (WCPU), which was established in 1868 to provide employment for women typesetters who faced job discrimination in San Francisco. The WCPU printed and published women’s journals (including its own newspaper, the El Dorado), annual reports for women’s organizations, abolitionist tracts, and other works, serving as a major vehicle for women’s activist culture in nineteenth-century California. Especially significant among the WCPU’s imprints is the Carrier Dove (1886–1892), a nationally influential spiritualist journal that recognized equality of women and was committed to women’s suffrage and social reform.
The intersection of spiritualism, suffrage, and printing can be witnessed in the work and life of Amanda Slocum. Along with her husband, William Slocum, she published Common Sense, a journal of spiritualism, suffrage, temperance, and other women’s issues, and acquired the Woman’s Publishing Company. After the Slocums divorced, Amanda became a successful master printer with her own imprint, as seen below in the 1877 edition in CHS’s holdings of Cuttings: selected from the writings of Mrs. P. Annetta Peckhamgs.
San Francisco: Amanda M. Slocum, book and job printer, Cuttings: selected from the writings of Mrs. P. Annetta Peckhamgs, 1877. California Historical Society (Kemble Spec Col 14 S563 1877)
San Francisco: Flyer from the Women’s Press Project, circa 1970. California Historical Society (Kemble Ephemera Collection, Kemble Z3)
Prof. Walkup said of the visit, “The material that stood out varied, of course, for different students, but the documents, which caused a good deal of excitement all around, were feminist periodicals from the 1970s issued by women’s presses, including by Black and lesbian presses. We also loved the directories of Black residents of San Francisco and environs, complete with their ads for Black businesses, the equivalent of the Green Books issued later to make Black travel easier during a time of rigid segregation.”
Left: Sacramento: Life and Adventures of James Williams, A Fugitive Slave: With a Full Description of the Underground Railroad, 1873. Preface signed John Thomas Evans (formerly), now James Williams. California Historical Society (Vault 199) Right: San Francisco: Valleau & Peterson, Souvenir & Directory of Prominent Afro-Americans. Pacific Coast, circa 1890. California Historical Society (Vault 297)
To learn more, check out these resources:
- Women in Printing & Publishing in California, 1850–1940 // https://www.jstor.org/stable/25462474?seq=1
- The California Historical Society Kemble Z3 Ephemera Collection, 1802–2013 (bulk 1900–1970) // https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c818377r/
- James de T. Abajian Collection of Black (African American) Ephemera, 1876–1981 // https://oac.cdlib.org/search?style=oac4;Institution=UC%20Berkeley::Bancroft%20Library;titlesAZ=J;idT=UCb112325713
- Directory of Black Businesses in San Francisco // https://digitallibrary.californiahistoricalsociety.org/object/23249?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=734729848ca1b197d85d&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=5#page/1/mode/2up
- Souvenir & Directory of Prominent Afro-Americans. Pacific Coast // https://digitallibrary.californiahistoricalsociety.org/object/23250?solr_nav%5Bid%5D=734729848ca1b197d85d&solr_nav%5Bpage%5D=0&solr_nav%5Boffset%5D=6#page/1/mode/2up