“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 12

Author: Name Redacted

Recipient: Seal Press

Date: 11 June 1979

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

Document Type: Typed Document, Signed by Author


Original                       Both                    Transcription




June 11, 1979

Seal Press

  1. O. Box 13

Seattle, WA 98111

Backbone Two is a Crime Against Literature

Dear Ladies,

You don’t know how pleased I was to get a reply from you. It wasn’t much, but at least it was something…

I really got a kick out of your fire engine red sticker: THIS IS A CRIME AGAINST WOMEN! Very eye-catching, very effective, but so was the swastika.[1] Was my story really a crime against women? Did anyone even read it? I hope you’re never on the supreme court and are asked to define the word “crime.” You would undoubtedly jump up and yell, “A short story by [name redacted] called ‘Mister Roger’s Cul-de-sac’.’” [sic]

As far as you not accepting any stories by men, this is the most disgustingly sexist maxim since a man named Hugh Hefner had “Entertainment for Men” as the caption for his magazine.”

Literature is not a man. Literature is not a woman. Literature is letters on a page, that add up and make words, that also add up, and (hopefully) tell a story, and it is either good or bad.

Please invite me to your book burning ceremony so we can all watch the immolation of the likes of Joyce, Faulkner, Mailer, Salinger, Updike…[2]

Yours truly,

[Handwritten: name redacted]

[name and address redacted]

Transcribed by Natalia Shevin

[1] Here the author makes a clear connection between his inability to handle rejection and the slur directed towards feminists, “feminazi.”

[2] James Joyce, William Faulkner, Norman Mailer, J. D. Salinger, and John Updike. Note that these are all canonical male authors, justifying the need for feminist presses in his own rant against them.