- The Women in German Yearbook Then and Now: Reflections on History and Hopes for the Future
It was an honor to receive the editors’ invitation to contribute a piece to the twenty-fifth Women in German Yearbook. I spontaneously said yes, but when the time came to put fingers to keyboard, it wasn’t clear what was left for me to say. I’ve written about the Yearbook before. In the late 1990s, Helen Cafferty and I co-authored a reflective piece about our efforts to achieve feminist collaboration and provide supportive criticism during our term as co-editors of the Yearbook (Cafferty and Clausen). In 2004, Jeannine Blackwell and I wrote about the Yearbook’s origins and speculated about its future, specifically recommending that WiG move toward an online journal that would take full advantage of the digital environment (Blackwell and Clausen). Following Jeannine’s and my advice to explore this idea, I conducted a survey of WiG members during my term as WiG President (2004–06) and tried to initiate discussion of an online journal with the WiG Steering Committee and other officers. The discussion went nowhere. Briefly, it boiled down to this: just about everyone preferred to consult online publications when conducting research but no one wanted to publish in an online journal. It occurred to me that there was an echo here of earlier reservations about publication in the Women in German Yearbook. The parallels and differences then and now helped me put into focus my thoughts about WiG and the Yearbook on its twenty-fifth anniversary.
We’ve Come a Long Way
The cliché is true: the Women in German Yearbook definitely has come a long way from its modest beginnings. My first involvement with the Yearbook in the early 1980s was on the business side of the project. With no funding and little experience to guide us, we had few options for [End Page 5] starting a journal. We chose to work with the University Press of America (UPA) after the model of the GDR Symposium, which published with that press for many years. The arrangement was simplicity itself: the editors prepared a camera-ready copy for UPA, copyright forms were signed, and UPA printed the number of volumes we ordered. At first, we sold the Yearbook volumes separately, which turned out to be a cumbersome, confusing, and money-losing approach to distributing the journal. In 1986 the membership voted to make the Yearbook a benefit of joining WiG, starting with volume 4. The next big step, thanks primarily to the vision, determination, and perseverance of then-co-editor Sara Friedrichsmeyer, was securing a contract to publish the Yearbook with the University of Nebraska Press, starting with volume 7. Publication by a respected university press conferred greater credibility and other advantages—not least the possibility to recruit highly qualified, well-published scholars as editors and editorial board members.
Then and Now
When the Yearbook first began, those of us organizing it had a sense of urgency: where were we going to publish our scholarship without a journal of our own? Urgency made us intrepid, willing to forge ahead, learning by trial and error while maintaining a focus on the quality of the work published. I don’t recall any serious opposition to creating a journal for WiG, no doubt because the need was acute. We had no journal, so we had nothing to lose by trying to start one. At the same time, however, quite a few Wiggies had an initial reluctance to submit their work to the newly founded Yearbook. Feminist scholarship in German Studies at the time was less developed and less likely to be recognized as legitimate than it is today, so it was logical to fear that publishing one’s work in the Yearbook might hurt rather than help at tenure time. In our 2004 article, Jeannine Blackwell and I called this “the double-bind factor”—no one wants to publish in a journal without an established reputation, yet you can’t establish a reputation without contributions by credible scholars (Blackwell and Clausen 5). Today, the Yearbook is a success in terms of feminist content and supportive...