Alice James, 1848–1892
Alice James Books was founded in 1973 by five women and two men: Patricia Cumming, Marjorie Fletcher, Lee Rudolph, Ron Schreiber, Betsy Scholl, Cornelia Veenendaal, and Jean Pedrick. The intent was to provide women with a greater representation in literature and involve the writer in the publishing process. In the 1970s, women writers had a very difficult time being published.
The press is named after the sister of the famous James brothers, Henry and William. Alice James lived a life familiar to women in the Victorian Age. Unmarried and living with her parents, she was confined and isolated for much of her years, throughout which she kept a diary. Diagnosed with “female hysteria,” James was not given the opportunity to express herself fully. Despite having a spotty education and her creativity suppressed, James was extremely self-aware, and her diary is proof of this. The press has adopted her as their inspiration, recognizing her struggle for self-expression.
Now located at the University of Maine–Farmington, the press was originally located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was located at 138 Mt. Auburn St. in Cambridge for some years. Although the founders initially published themselves, they also took on other promising but unknown writers.
Once selected for publication, writers were expected to put in a certain amount of hours at the cooperative. Through this method, writers learned more about the actual publishing process and helped to defray the production costs.
Pedrick’s participation in the press would put her in touch with many up-and-coming writers in the New Hampshire Seacoast region. Through the press, Pedrick met future members of the Skimmilk workshop. Many of the Skimmilk Poets were published by Alice James Books.
As the years went on, Pedrick became devoted to other projects (such as the founding of Rowan Tree Press), but she always kept her ties to Alice James.