“We are not superwomen”: Navigating Finances, Identity Politics, and Vision of a Feminist Press

Introduction to Documents 1 and 2: “Unbusinesslike” Conduct   |   Document 1      |     Document 2
Introduction to Documents 3 and 4    |     Document 3: Feminist Publishing Ethics    |     Document 4: Women in Print Publishing Accords
Document 5: Feminist Publishing Proposal From Ruth to Barbara
Introduction to Documents 6, 7, and 8: Seal Books   |    Document 6     |    Document 7     |     Document 8
Document 9: Women Who Dared    |     Document 10: “Cheat to Eat”
Introduction to Documents 11 and 12: Hate Mail      |     Document 11       |    Document 12
Document 13: Outreach to Women of Color        |       Document 14: Letter to Angela Davis      |     Document 15: Letter from Audre Lorde      |    Document 16: “No More ‘Social Problems’ Projects”

Document 10: “Cheat to Eat”

Author: Name Redacted

Recipient: Seal Press

Date: 14 January 1981

Location: Scrapbook I, 1976-1980, Part 2 of 2, Series VIII: Box 1, Folder 2, The Seal Press, Oberlin College Special Collections

Document Type: Typed Letter, Signed by Author


This document is a pitch from a potential author who suggests a book about how to survive on welfare after leaving an abusive relationship–something which the author has experienced herself. Seal Press had published many titles about intimate partner violence, including Ginny NiCarthy’s well-known Getting Free (see more in Document 1 and 2). This letter highlights concerns of both Second Wave organizing and Seal Press publications: here, the author’s personal history as an abused woman and working-class woman who had to navigate domestic violence shelters and the welfare system would provide authenticity in an account of the difficulties faced by women who struggled against patriarchy.  Identity politics and the importance of lived experience in the Second Wave were key elements of the feminism articulated by The Combahee River Collective (see Document 13).

The author’s casual tone shows how women from all over the country sought out Seal Press as a feminist hub for both publishing and community. Many women wrote to Seal Press responded personally to  particular books about abuse or domestic violence. The author of this letter felt comfortable including intimate details of her emotional life in her initial correspondence with the Press. She was not unique; many authors included updates about their personal lives in letters about contracts or deadlines.

There is no record of Seal Press ever publishing this anthology or novel.

The author’s name is redacted for privacy.


Original                       Both                    Transcription


letter pt1
letter pt2


[Handwritten: 1-14-81]

I cannot determine from your ad if you are interested in my qualifications as a battered woman or as a printer. I have both. I have fiddled around with the idea of writing a book for battered women who have left the situation….called “Cheat to Eat”…how to deal with welfare, etc.

I lived with a man for 7 years in an abusive situation..verval [verbal] at first and physical for the last year. I helped him get thru law school, worked my butt off helping him get his oriental rug gallery together, learned to expertly repair oriental rugs, had one hell of a nervous breakdown, got myself thru it, took care of children, and learned how to survive on welfare. I fled to the Yakima Battered Women’s Shelter[1] and lived in Yakima for a year, rebuilding myself and crying. I worked as a night counselor for the shelter. I am still very angry but can channel it constructively now….I call the anger “motivation”. [sic] I would really like to use that energy to help put the book together.

I worked at Professional Engravers[2] for several years (1964-67) doing paste-up, darkroom work, stripping, engraving, silkscreening and printing…on a Mark’Andy[3] [sic] flexographic press. I am working there now but it is a non-official, under-the-counter job to make ends meet. I have never run a litho-press[4] but my father has MicroCosmic Press[5] (letterpress) and my brother is a professional printer and I am familiar with the process. Frankly, if I can operate that Mark’Andy, [sic] I can operate any kind of press, with a little instruction and clear explanations. I can also operate a shear and bookbinding press……. [sic] i [sic] fooled around with bookbinding once but not long enuf [sic] to get very knowledgeable. I am good at proofreading..errors leap out at me. My typing is exactly the way it appears here. I have operated a varityper and headliner. I am rusty.

I stayed in the battering relationship longer than was healthy. I got caught in the dynamics….I got fascinated by the dynamics, I should say. I say glimpses and fragments of patterns..deja vu..and the form kept changing and I stayed until I had a thorough understanding of how these things evolve and where they stem from. Rooted in childhood.

I want to work on this book. PLEASE. I can work prettty well with out [sic] direction from others….I am good at teamwork….I am still somewhat reactive to negative reinforcement and uptigh uptight pressure…if somebody gets on my back for unfair reasons, I tend to get snappish. I am basically good-humored. I am 37 years old and don*t [sic] believe it. I have 2 daughters. My job here at Professional Engravers is only temporary. I have had a series of cortisone shots in my shoulder to help heal some damage (war wounds) that John did. I am well enough to support myself doing rug repair for which I get between $10 and $20 per hour. I can adjust my work time to suit myself.

If you want references (personal) you can write to [name and address redacted]….she was shelter director and is my friend.

I am fairly stable…I still have some “battle fatigue”/cultural shock and still have a tendency to be meek and passive until I am’ [sic] comfortable in new situations. Just a tendency…I watch myself. I feel like a dog on ice sometimes.

Please write back. I have no phone…..my work phone is [redacted].


[Handwritten: name redacted]

[Handwritten: address redacted]

Transcribed by Natalia Shevin

[1] Likely part of Yakima YMCA in Yakima, Washington (Women’s Resource Center, YMCA of Yakima: Eliminating Racism Empowering Women, web access, accessed 28 June 2016).

[2] Likely an engraving company in Seattle that is no longer active (Professional Engravers, Lost in Seattle, web access, accessed 28 June 2016).

[3] A printing process that can print on any surface.

[4] A printing process that is used to mass produce materials with graphics.

[5] Likely a Mark Andy model.