Lately, there has been a whole lot of talk about whose voices are most welcome this world, whose voices are amplified the loudest, who is invited to sit (and speak) at the decision-making table, and, alternately, which people and populations have been stifled and silenced throughout history. While it’s enormously critical to talk about the importance of listening to women’s voices — those of minority women, trans women, gender-queer women, women of diverse educational and economic backgrounds, women of alternative physical and intellectual abilities, and more — it’s equally important to talk about how all those women’s voices actually get out into the world in the first place. Who is publishing women writers? Who is offering women writers space on bookstore shelves? Who is making space for women writers to speak about their work? And who offers women a space to read and talk about these books in the first place?
One answer is women-run literary businesses: small presses, feminist bookstores, literary journals, community centers, book boxes, and more. Although hardly comprehensive, this list features a number of amazing literary businesses run and/or founded entirely by women. As one small press on this lists says (the feminist Kore Press, located in Tucson, Arizona) “publishing women is social justice work.” Let’s all help keep that work alive.
Here are 13 literary businesses run by women, that you just have to check out.
Run by Emily Gould and Ruth Curry, Emily Books publishes, publicizes, and celebrates the work of edgy, transgressive, passionate, often underappreciated, (and typically women) writers. Beginning as a monthly subscriptions service in 2011, Emily Books has since evolved into a small press that publishes original titles via their Coffee House Press imprint. Recent titles you must check out include the novel Problems by Jade Sharma and the essay collection I’ll Tell You In Person by Chloe Caldwell.
Founded by poet Fox Frazier-Foley, and currently led entirely by women, the nonprofit Agape Editions is a (self-described) indie-lit micro-press; an imprint of Sundress Publications that supports literary work interested in diverse spiritual traditions, cultural identities, and mystical experiences. Recent titles include Historians of Redundant Moments by Nandini Dhar and In the Crocodile Gardens by Saba Syed Razvi.
Founded in 1999 by Kathryn Welsh, Bluestockings began as Bluestockings Women’s Bookstore, a community space for women in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Featuring over 6000 titles on all things feminist, queer, radical, and social justice, Bluestockings is currently owned and operated (as a volunteer-powered collective) by Brooke Lehman. Fun fact: the bookstore is named after The Blue Stockings Society, a mid-18th century English political movement founded to promote both writing and reading by women.
Run by a team of siblings based in Dallas, Texas (Jessica and Chelsea) MyBookBox is a subscription service that'll send you a box of bookish goodies each month. Unique to other book boxes, MyBookBox features two books selected from six genres (Women's Fiction, Mystery, Nonfiction, Young Adult, Children 8-12, Children 3-7) and you can switch up your genres at any time. Snag a book for you, and one for your favorite seven-year-old this month, maybe up for a little mystery and nonfiction next month. Sounds perfect.
Another literary sibling-duo, Glimmer Train is one of the most celebrated and respected short-story journals in print today, known for being super writer- (and reader-) friendly, and giving tons of emerging writers an opportunity to see their work in print. The journal is published three times a year, and its writers have gone on to be recognized by the Pushcart Prize, the O. Henry Prize, Best American Short Stories, The Best American Non-required Reading, and more.
Based in my very own hometown of Chicago, Illinois, Allium Press's motto is "Rescuing Chicago from Capone... one book at a time." And I love it. Co-founded in 2009 by librarian, historian, and book designer Emily Clark Victorson, Allium Press publishes literary fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and young adult fiction with a Chicago connection. Titles to check out include City of Grit and Gold by Maud Macrory Powell and The Reason for Time by Mary Burns.
7In Other Words
Located in Portland, Oregon, In Other Words is definitely more than an independent feminist bookstore. Founded by Johanna Brenner, a PSU professor, and women's health activists Catherine Tetrick and Catherine Sameh, In Other Words has also been hosting events and serving as a community center since 1993. In their own words: "We seek to create a safer space where women, people of color, queer, trans, gender variant folks, workers, and those who live at the intersections of these identities can organize for self-determination and build a sustainable movement for liberation." I can definitely get behind that.
8Wild Iris Books
Another badass feminist bookstore (and currently the only feminist bookstore in Florida, if you can believe it) Wild Iris Books is central to both Florida's feminist literary and activist culture and communities, championing books, authors, and literary events that celebrate and advance feminism. Wild Iris Books features sections like Women's Studies, Minority and Civil Rights Studies, Queer and Trans Resources, Alternative Children's Books, Alternative Spiritualities, and plenty more. Although Wild Iris Books opened their doors in 1992, their history of feminist bookselling goes all the way back to the 1970s — so head over to their website, where you'll find the whole story.
Founded by Lisa Bowden and Karen Falkenstrom, the Tucson, Arizona-based Kore Press considers publishing women social justice work, and have been doing so for over 25 years. An innovative print and online literary publishing house, Kore Press aims to provide a platform for diverse literary and cultural work created by women and trans writers. Recent titles include Borrowed Wave by Rachel Moritz, Hostages by Tayler Heuston, and Exposure by Katy Resch George.
10The Literary Platform
The only international mention on this list, (although there are tons more) back in 2015 The Literary Platform made the Fortuna 50 Index as one of the UK’s fastest growing women-led businesses — and they're still going strong. Founded by Sophie Rochester, The Literary Platform thrives where books and technology intersect, working on innovative and ground-breaking projects, as well as publishing an online magazine that covers current thinking about books and technology and projects that blend the two.
11Words Without Borders
Founded by Alane Salierno Mason, Dedi Felman, and Samantha Schnee in 2003, Words Without Borders is an online magazine that translates, publishes, and celebrates some amazing contemporary international literature, designed to promote cultural understanding for English-language readers. And boy, they're busy. Every month Words Without Borders publishes eight to twelve new writings by international writers (currently adding up to over 2,000 works from 126 countries and 105 languages.) Phew. They've also got several anthologies out, including Words without Borders: The Best of the First Ten Years.
12Rose Metal Press
Founded in 2006 by Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney, the independent, nonprofit Rose Metal Press specializes in hybrid genres, (think: micro-fiction, prose poetry, novels-in-verse, book-length narrative poems, and plenty more) with the goal of offering more publishing opportunities for writers working in transgressive, edgy, and offbeat genres. Recent titles include The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová by Kelcey Parker Ervick and Superman on the Roof by Lex Williford.
13The Feminist Press
The Feminist Press at The City University of New York was founded by Florence Howe in 1970 as an educational nonprofit organization designed to advance women's rights and amplify feminist perspectives. They were both central to the publcation of second wave feminist titles, as well as the reprinting of feminist classics (like Zora Neale Hurston, Barbara Ehrenreich and Grace Paley.) Today they publish titles from all over the world, specifically those that focus on feminist issues and gender identity. Recent titles include the translated Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall and the collection of global feminist folk tales, Tatterhood, edited by Ethel Johnston Phelps.