Forthcoming from Lever Press: A Study of Revolutionary Feminist Postcard Art by Helaine Victoria Press
Coming this winter 2022 from Lever Press, a richly-illustrated narrative of two young women who learned to print, established a letterpress print shop in the Indiana countryside, and published the first women’s history postcards, while drawing others to their project of building feminist consciousness across the U.S.
Women Making History: Revolutionary Feminist Postcard Art From Helaine Victoria Press
Julia M. Allen and Jocelyn H. Cohen
In 1973, Nancy Poore and Jocelyn Cohen established Helaine Victoria Press to publish women’s history postcards. Spurred by the energy of the second wave feminist movement, they learned how to research histories buried in old books and archives and how to print on a vintage letterpress. The press attracted more participants, closing only in 1991 in response to changing communication technologies.
Drawing on feminist and material rhetorics, Julia M. Allen and press co-founder Jocelyn H. Cohen demonstrate that, by creating postcards, Helaine Victoria Press aimed to do more than provide a convenient writing surface or even affect collective memory; instead, they argue, the press generated feminist memory. The cards, each with the picture of a woman or group of women from history, were multimodal. Pictures were framed in colors and borders appropriate to the era and subject. Lengthy captions offered details about the lives of the women pictured. Unlike other memorials, the cards were mobile; they traveled through the postal system, viewed along the way by the purchasers, mail sorters, mail carriers, and recipients. Upon arriving at their destinations, cards were often posted on office bulletin boards or refrigerators at home, where surroundings shaped their meanings.
Women Making History shows that Helaine Victoria Press’s cards, like the movement from which they emanated, were dynamic and participatory. They were, in short, a multi-directional, open-ended, rhetorically-evolving process of transforming feminist consciousness. The print edition includes many images from the press’s records and the digital edition offers additional images plus audio and video clips from press participants.
Julia M. Allen is professor emerita of English at Sonoma State University. Her previous book, Passionate Commitments: The Lives of Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins, State University of New York Press, 2013, won the Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction from the Publishing Triangle in 2014.
Jocelyn H. Cohen is an artist and arborist. In 1973, she co-founded Helaine Victoria Press, Inc. Her previous book, The Spirit & Craft of Chinese Ritual Papers, written, designed, assembled, and self-published, 1992, is a handmade art book held in several collections including the British Museum and the Harvard-Yenching Library. Many of her paintings are displayed at Indiana University, Kokomo.