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10 Groundbreaking Women in American Publishing

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Curious to learn more about some of the strong, influential women in American publishing? I was, so I did some research. Here are ten of the most groundbreaking, inspirational women in U.S. publishing history.

Anne Bradstreet (c1612–1672)

Anne Bradstreet

Bradstreet immigrated to the American colonies in 1630, as part of the third “wave” of Puritans emigrating from England. Twenty years later, in 1650, her first volume of poems, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, was published and widely distributed, making her the first female writer to be published in the New World.

Mary Katherine Goddard (1738–1816)

Mary Katherine Goddard

In 1766, in partnership with her widowed mother, Goddard become the publisher of the Providence Gazette newspaper and the West’s Almanack. She was the first female publisher in the United States. Nine years later, in 1775, Goddard became the first female postmaster in the country (in Baltimore, Maryland), and in 1777 she became the first printer to offer copies of the Declaration of Independence that included the official signatures. In 1789 Goddard opened a Baltimore bookstore, which was (you guessed it!) the first woman-owned bookstore in America.

Anne Catherine Hoof Green (c1720–1775)

Anne Catherine Hoof Green

In 1767, following her husband’s death, she became the first woman to run a fully functional print shop. The following year she was given the title of “official printer” for the colony of Maryland.

Margaret Fuller (1810–1850)

Margaret Fuller

Fuller was the first female literary critic in the U.S. She wrote for the New York Tribune, for which she also penned investigative articles on controversial topics including female inmates, prostitution, and mental hospitals. She later became one of America’s first female foreign correspondents, living in Rome, and she covered the Italian revolution of 1848. Her life ended tragically during her return trip to the U.S. in 1850, when the ship that Fuller, her husband, and their young son were on hit a sandbar and sank, killing all three of them.

Jane Cunningham Croly (1829–1901)

Jane Cunningham Croly

Croly, under the pen name “Jennie June,” was one of the first female journalists to have a nationally syndicated column. Through her fashion columns in the New York World, the New York Times, and the New York Daily Graphic, “Jennie June” is credited with starting the “woman’s page” in newspapers—a trend that would continue long after her death. By the late 1800s, her column appeared in newspapers in every state, and she became a household name.

Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer (1861–1951)

Dorothy Dix Talks, 1898

Dorothy Dix Talks, 1898

Elizabeth Meriweather Gilmer

Meriwether, using the pen name “Dorothy Dix,” was the first female American advice columnist, offering advice on home life and marriage. She became America’s highest paid and most widely read female journalist up until the time of her death. It was estimated that her syndicated column reached an audience of more than 60 million readers.

The “Sob” Sisters

An article by Nixola Greeley-Smith in the New York Call, 1915

An article by Nixola Greeley-Smith in the New York Call, 1915

Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils

Winifred Black

Reporters Winifred Black (a.k.a. Winifred Sweet Black Bonfils, 1863–1936), Ada Patterson (1867–1939), and Nixola Greeley-Smith (1880–1919) were known for their investigative reporting and undercover exposés calling for the reform of public institutions. Their articles were deemed “sob stories” by (usually male) critics who attempted to devalue their work.

Genevieve Forbes Herrick (1894–1962)

Genevieve Forbes Herrick

Herrick was one of the most well-known female reporters for The Chicago Tribune in the 1920s and 30s. She was particularly interested in politics, and she often wrote about women in political positions. In 1921, Herrick disguised herself as an immigrant to expose conditions at Ellis Island for the Chicago Tribune that led to public outcry and eventual reform. She corresponded with and openly admired Eleanor Roosevelt, which annoyed the Tribune‘s publisher (who was against the New Deal), who ultimately asked her to resign.

Interesting Tidbit: Women’s Editions

Women's Edition of the Buffalo Courier, 1895. (Cover art by Alice Russell Glenny)

Women’s Edition of the Buffalo Courier, 1895. (Cover art by Alice Russell Glenny)

Women’s editions of popular daily newspapers (where women would take over almost all editorial operations for a day, including writing, editing, typesetting, and printing) began to appear in the 1890s, implemented to raise money for charity and to highlight women’s issues. These special editions were often much longer than the normal newspaper, and featured multiple sections. They were published on holidays, and were sometimes able to raise tens of thousands of dollars for local charities, hospitals, social services, etc.

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Did I miss an influential woman that you’d like to see listed? Tell me in the comments!


Molly McCowan
Molly McCowan is a professional writer and editor from Fort Collins, Colorado. As the Lead Word Nerd at Inkbot Editing, it's her job to make you look good.