The History of Women In The Print Industry
As we prepare to wrap up Women’s History month, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on how far the printing industry has come, thanks to countless brave, intelligent and trailblazing women — like the ones we have at Harmonic. Let’s take a step back in time…
One Print Can Make All The Difference
In the 1600’s, society was very much male-dominated. This makes it all the more impressive that a woman, Elizabeth Glover, was the first person in the US colonies to own a printing press. Her husband, Joseph Glover, bought the press from England.
In 1638, Elizabeth established the press in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over the course of her self-made career, Elizabeth printed several documents including Freeman's oath written by John Winthrop and 1700 copies of Bay Psalm Book. Elizabeth died in June of 1643 and without her there to take the reins, the press came to an end shortly after.
Elizabeth’s printing press was donated to Harvard University where it served as the catalyst for the Harvard University Press, a publishing house that is one of the largest presses for academic works in the world today.
Continuing To Build A Legacy
Another woman who followed in Elizabeth’s colonial printing footsteps was Ann Franklin, the sister-in-law of Benjamin Franklin. Ann initially helped run the Rhode Island Gazette before becoming the official printer of the General Assembly. And are you ready for some irony? While she could not yet vote, Ann was responsible for printing ballots along with critical legal documents and currency.
In 1741, Ann printed the famous Franklin's almanac, which was read by thousands and has stood the test of time. Not long after, Ann established the Newport Mercury with her son James. She was editor until she died in 1763. The paper is currently still being published and represents one of the greatest milestones in Ann’s printing career. Rightfully so, Ann was the first woman to be inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame at the University of Rhode Island.
Putting The Power of Print Into Practice
The third woman in this trio of triumphant printing press females is Mary Ann Shadd. She was the first female printer in Canadian history and the first African American woman printer. In 1853, Mary Ann founded the Provincial Freeman of which the masthead read, "'Self-reliance is the True Road to Independence."
She was a fiercely strong woman, an undeniably great political debater and an abolitionist in her own right. Mary Ann’s paper was often given to slaves hidden in the underground railroad in the northern states, acting as a source for news and inspiration.
Towards the end of her life, Mary Ann represented women's suffrage, testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was the first African American woman to vote in an election. Celebrated for her work and her courage, Mary Ann was inducted to the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998.
We owe a great amount of thanks to Elizabeth Glover, Ann Franklin, Mary Ann Shaad, and countless other women who paved the way for printing artists and writers today. Because of their pursuit of equality through the prowess of print, we are able to create art that tells the female narrative while encouraging women to continue rising above the challenges with which they continue to be faced.
Where We Are Today
Without a doubt, we are better off because we have women like Barb Lindvall, Alexis Sorenson, Melissa Morse, Jen Ward, and Stephanie Blitz on our Harmonic team. Seeing how far we’ve come over the centuries provides a glimmer of hope as we continue to forge our way forward using print to positively impact the future.