Emily Faithfull and the Victoria Press

In honor of International Women’s Day, today’s blog post features the work of a Victorian woman printer, Emily Faithfull, and her imprint, the Victoria Press.

Faithfull was a member of the Society for the Promotion of the Employment of Women, a mid-Victorian social organization which hoped to improve working conditions and employment opportunities for women. By increasing women’s economic participation, they hoped that later generations of women would be better able to fight for political participation.

Typesetting was seen by the Society as an ideal trade for for women — it was skilled work which provided high wages and was culturally valued.  Women had been involved in printing and bookselling in previous centuries, but by the 1850s and 1860s, women in the book trades were more likely to be involved in paper folding and bookbinding, as these trades were seen as less physically taxing and closer to traditional women’s work, like sewing.

Faithfull set up the Victoria Press in 1860. The print shop employed women as compositors, proofreaders, and correctors, but employed men to do the work of running the machines. The Victoria Press received opposition from the compositor’s union, the London Typographical Society, who objected to women’s incursion on their trade.

Special Collections owns several examples of work issued by the Victoria Press, from pamphlets to deluxe gift books. The can be found in the library catalog by searching the keywords “Emily Faithfull” and “publisher.”

A few images from the collection:

John Shirley, The Golden Gleanings (1863). A collection of Bible stories about women.

golden gleanings

 

A Welcome (1863). Issued in honor of Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who married Albert, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in March 1863.

a welcome

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