7 Liz Calder on office politics and the invisibility of women writers at Jonathan Cape


When I joined Cape I was the first woman – ever – to be a director.  The hierarchy was unbelievable.  The men – Tom Maschler, Graham C Greene – had grand offices at the front of the Bedford Square building.  The women all had tiny offices at the back.  And when I came they gave me a room in the front, and I didn’t want to be there because it was isolated, and so I said, ‘No, I don’t want this office’.  And I moved to an office in the middle of all the editors, which is where I wanted to be.  I was told by them that that was absolutely unthinkable for somebody in my position to do – because it was so hierarchical.

When I got there the only two women that Cape had published in recent years were Nadine Gordimer and Doris Lessing.

Why was that?

Well because Tom and Co. weren’t aware that they were male chauvinist pigs [laughs].  They weren’t aware that they were discriminating.  I don’t blame them; they just didn’t think about it.  And you have to think about things.  And I made a big point of publishing a lot of women’s books while I was there.

Did that meet any resistance?

Not at all, no, not at all.  You know, they, I don’t think they’d been discriminating deliberately, just thoughtlessly, unthinking, unaware.

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