Kirsten Grimstad, faculty member and Co-Chair of the Undergraduate Studies Department at AULA, was recently interviewed for “Eye on Design” along with her co-author, Susan Rennie, about their first foray into publishing with The New Woman’s Survival Catalog. The book, released in 1973, grew from the seed of an idea for a women’s studies bibliography to a ready-for-print book in the space of just five months. It was modeled on the popular counterculture Whole Earth Catalog, a publication that ran from 1968-1972 and focused on holism, DIY, and ecology. “The brilliance of the Whole Earth Catalog, for our purposes, was the networking element. That’s what our book strived to do: to create some sort of nationwide network of feminist alternative culture,” said Grimstad.
“We didn’t know what we were doing, but we did it anyway,” said Rennie in the article. A fine motto for trailblazers the world over. But how did they actually make it all happen? A great deal of research went into the content and it wasn’t armchair research. Grimstad and Rennie were on the road for two months following leads and sending research materials back to two Barnard interns in NYC who organized audio recordings, photographic, and written documentation of the groups.
“I had a little card box with names and addresses of women’s centers, bookstores, health centers, and all of these places we had identified [with the survey]. But then we would arrive at a place like Atlanta, for example, to go to the Rubyfruit Jungle Collective, which is where Rita Mae Brown got the name for her book. And we would contact these women and they would take us in and take us out to dinner and say, “While you’re here, you must go and visit these women.” They just couldn’t wait to tell us about what else was going on there.”
Once Grimstad and Rennie returned to New York, production took place over two months out of an apartment on Riverside Drive and 106th St. Six women did the writing and editing, printing of the photographs, typesetting, and paste-up of the book all out of the tiny apartment. You can read about their process at the end of the book, which is available online here.