The history of the project

The Women in Publishing Oral History aims to create a permanent record, in their own voices, of women who worked in publishing in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.  These decades were the heyday of the networking organisation Women in Publishing (WiP) and more generally of women’s activism in the UK.  But surviving records of WiP and women’s experiences during these edgy, energetic and exciting times are scant or non-existent.

Giving a voice

Oral history is the most effective way of capturing and preserving social history and giving a voice to the women themselves.  We wanted to record the friendships that were made, how networking, sharing experience and devising our own training programmes gave women confidence and support.

Remembering the women

We wanted to remember the speakers who inspired and taught us, at monthly meetings, at the annual conferences and at special events; also how WiP reached beyond London into the regions and internationally. We wanted to record women’s experiences in getting a job in publishing, the challenges faced, the problems they overcame, how women striving for equality have changed the industry in which they worked. We wanted to record the humour and the joys of empowerment.

Generous support

This project has been made possible by the magnificent support of WiP members and other women working in the industry, along with generous grants from The Unwin Trust and an anonymous donor.  Thanks, too, to The Book Trade Charity for their charitable support.

BL partner

The British Library, a world leader in oral history, has been our partner in this project.  It sits well between two other oral histories: Book Trade Lives and Sisterhood and After.

Full interviews

The Women in Publishing Oral History has recorded interviews with 30 women, and we are most grateful to all the women who agreed to be interviewed.  The interviews vary in length from 2 to 10 hours.  Some interviews are available now to listeners in full via the Sound Server at the British Library’s sites in London and Yorkshire; more will be available soon.  In the near future, to be advised, they will be uploaded and available online worldwide.  This website offers a taste of the complete Women in Publishing Oral History.

Project interviewer

The BL’s oral historian Sarah O’Reilly has been key to this history.  She has been the project interviewer and contributed to the project’s evolution over several years;  in addition, she has edited the collection of thematic highlights for this website.  We would also like to thank oral historian Sue Bradley for her advice.


While every effort has been made to identify women in the photographs, this has not always been possible.  Nor have photo credits been available. We apologise to anyone whose name has been missed out or incorrectly given.  Happily, omissions and inaccuracies can be put right if we are given the correct information.

We would like to thank Jacky Fleming for permission to use  her cartoons.


A questionnaire for WiP members who have not been interviewed for this project can be found in ‘Contribute’ in the main menu.  We would be very pleased to have your memories of WiP and recollections of your experiences, which we hope to collate and publish on this site in due course.

Jane Cholmeley

Penny Mountain

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