Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I just found out that Janet Schulman passed away last week. I'd seen her in the Random House office here and there but never really spoke more than briefly. I wished that I'd had the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation over tea and crackers... or something... but it just never happened. I think she meant a lot to publishing and despite the fact that I never got to know her personally I remember pushing her anthology books-- The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury: Celebrated Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud (Knopf, 1998) and You Read to Me & I'll Read to You: Stories to Share from the 20th Century (Knopf, 2001) a lot while working in the children's dept. at the bookstore. Anytime anyone wanted a present I told them either would make for a fine one.

I recall reading a long time ago, with fascination, about she forged the way early on for women in publishing. Before being editor at large at Random House she was marketing director at Macmillan. This is part of what she wrote in Publishers Weekly:

"With the New York Times #1 bestseller Watership Down and the many other commercially and critically successful authors and illustrators that Hirschman brought to the list, plus the Narnia books as the anchor of the paperback line that we started in 1970, the children’s division was growing rapidly and contributing significant profit. In the fall of 1974, though the country was in a deep recession with inflation cutting into profits, we believed that Macmillan, Inc. was in good shape....

But on October 14 and 15 of that year Macmillan suddenly fired 185 people from its offices at 866 Third Avenue. Why? Wall Street viewed it as a business blunder. Others viewed it as a Machiavellian scheme. It was both....

(there's a lot more to this and you can read the whole article here - I'm cutting a lot of it out)

At four o’clock that afternoon, after 13 years service, I was given one hour to get out, as was my staff of five....

In 1973 women employees had begun gathering facts about how Macmillan discriminated against them. I had always suspected (correctly) that I was being paid far less than male vice-presidents or male marketing managers. The final straw was my discovery, after I had a baby, that maternity medical benefits that were denied me were given to the wives of male Macmillan employees. I joined the Macmillan women’s group and was subsequently elected co-chairperson.

We filed a class action complaint with the federal EEOC on May 15, 1974 and on September 5 New York State Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz charged Macmillan with sex discrimination in a complaint filed with the State Division of Human Rights. On October 9 some 200 Macmillan women met at the YWCA on Lexington Avenue to hear an attorney from the State Division of Human Rights inform us of our rights. Less than a week later nine of us who had signed our names to the attorney general’s complaint were among those fired, as were a number of other active members of the Macmillan Women’s group.

The New York publishing world was shocked. The firings were front page news in the New York Times and were covered in most New York media. The Washington Post headlined its story “Mac the Knife...

Three years after the EEOC consent decree was signed I received a check from Macmillan for $2,841.61. A modest sum based on my not continuing employment with Macmillan after October 15, 1974… as if I had a choice! The money meant little to me. I felt vindicated that the small part I played was going to make things better for all women in publishing. And I think it did."

Janet was 77.

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