Autumn 1917: Women across the U.S. awaited the Senate’s vote on the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which, when ratified in 1920 by two-thirds of the state legislatures, would give women suffrage. A group of 15 women booksellers-excluded from membership in the all-male Bookseller’s League-met in Sherwood’s Book Store, 19 John Street, in downtown New York to form the Women’s National Book Association. Its unique characteristic was that membership was open to women in all facets of the book world-publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors, illustrators, agents, production people-the only criterion being that part of their income must come from books.
Today, the organization is nation-wide, with eleven chapters around the U.S. Its membership is open to all women and men who support the mission of the organization to promote and connect the book community in all its aspects, from those in book-related industries to those who love and support reading and literacy.
During these years, WNBA has run seminars on bookselling techniques, published four books, led in-service courses for teachers on children’s books, sponsored book and authors luncheons and dinners, cooperated on local book fairs, been active as a non-governmental organization member at the United Nations, entertained visiting book women from abroad, and surveyed the status of women in publishing.
The first issue of The Bookwoman, the organization’s official publication, appeared in November 1936 through the generosity of Constance Lindsay Skinner, author, lecturer, and active member of WNBA. Since 1940, the WNBA Award (formerly the Constance Lindsay Skinner Award) has been given to a book woman for “meritorious work” in her special field. During the 1960s, the Amy Loveman National Award for the best personal library collected by an undergraduate in an American college was a major project. The Pannell Award (formerly The Lucille Micheels Pannell Award), which promotes the creative use of books with children, was established in 1982 with funds bequeathed by the late Pannell, who was a founder of the Chicago chapter of WNBA. This award is given annually to bookstores who promote children’s reading.
Believing that books have power, WNBA has made it possible for people engaged in various book activities to help broaden their part in the book world, and to know one another as individuals with common problems, aspirations, and goals. We welcome you to join us as part of the book community.
The full records of the WNBA organization are housed in an offsite facility of the Columbia University library.
The Women’s National Book Association Papers document the history and work of the Women’s National Book Association from their founding in 1917 until today. The organization is active in promoting women in the book industry through awards and programs to increase women’s participation in the profession and the role of women in publishing and other book-related fields.
The collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, photographs, meeting minutes, membership materials, publications, financial information, reports and other materials important to the day-to-day operation of the organization. The bulk of the materials document the major awards given by the WNBA, the Lucile M. Pannell Award, the Constance Lindsay Skinner Award (now the WNBA Award), and the Amy Loveman Award. Each chapter has numerous materials from their founding until today, and the collection includes the important information about membership, how the chapter was run, events and important guests and speakers. Some important correspondents from the early documents include Catherine Drinker Bowen, Howard Fast, Marchette Chute, Mary Ellen Chase, Marguerite Henry, Abraham Ribicoff, Irita Van Doren, Beatrice Warde, Pearl S. Buck, Edward Weeks, and Alice B. Toklas.
The size of the collection is 56 linear feet (122 boxes). There are no restrictions to access, but a request will take 24 hours to process in order to bring the collection to the library facility.
The Finding Aid for the collection is located online: http://findingaids.cul.columbia.edu/ead/nnc-rb/ldpd_4079627/summary
100th Annivesary book: Women in the Literary Landscape: A centennial publication of the Women’s National Book Association (available from C&R Press)
80th Anniversary book: 80 Books for 21st Century Girls
75th Anniversary book: 75 Books by Women Whose Words Have Changed the World
70th Anniversary book: 70 Women Who Have Made A Difference
50th Anniversary book: Women in the World of Books
Constance Lindsay Skinner Biography (WNBA Award was established in her honor)
WNBA National Presidents
|2018-2020||Rachelle Yousuf||Los Angeles Chapter|
|2016-2018||Jane Kinney-Denning||New York Chapter|
|2014-2016||Carin Siegfried||Nashville Chapter|
|2012-2014||Valerie Tomaselli||New York Chapter|
|2010-2012||Mary Grey James||Nashville Chapter|
|2008-2010||Joan Gelfand||San Francisco Chapter|
|2006-2008||Laurie Beckelman||Boston Chapter|
|2004-2006||Jill A. Tardiff||New York Chapter|
|2002-2004||Margaret E. Auer||Detroit Chapter|
|2000-2002||Nancy Stewart||Nashville Chapter|
|1998-2000||Diane Ullius||Washington DC Chapter|
|1996-1998||Donna Paz||Nashville Chapter|
|1994-1996||Sue MacLaurin||Los Angeles Chapter|
|1992-1994||Carolyn T. Wilson||Nashville Chapter|
|1990-1992||Patti Breitman||San Francisco Chapter|
|1988-1990||Marie Cantlon||Boston Chapter|
|1986-1988||Cathy Rentschler||New York Chapter|
|1984-1986||Sandra K. Paul||New York Chapter|
|1982-1984||Sylvia H. Cross||Los Angeles Chapter|
|1980-1982||Mary Glenn Hearne||Nashville Chapter|
|1978-1980||Ann Heidbreder Eastman||New York Chapter|
|1976-1978||Ann Heibdreder Eastman||New York Chapter|
|1974-1976||Mary V. Gaver||New York Chapter|
|1972-1974||Lillian L. Schaprio||New York Chapter|
|1970-1972||Virginia H. Masters||New York Chapter|
|1968-1970||Anne J. Richter||New York Chapter|
|1965-1967||Victoria S. Johnson||New York Chapter|
|1962-1964||Betty Russell||New York Chapter|
|1960-1962||Lilian Gurney||New York Chapter|
|1958-1960||Anne J. Richter||New York Chapter|
|Prior to 1958, national presidents were filled by the New York City Chapter president position|
|Dorothy M. McKittrick|
|Kathryn M. Nick|
|Helen Jo Jasper Turner|
|Mary J. Shipley|
|Anne J. Richter|
|Helen S. Lowitt|
|Muriel Simpson Fitzsimmons|
|Effie C. Hubley|
|Pauline Sherwood, 1917-1918|