- Recollections from the Middle Years
I have never seen statistics on the longevity of yearbooks, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the Women in German Yearbook’s twenty-five consecutive years is quite simply an astonishing feat. And as all of us who have served as co-editors know, this has been accomplished only through the willingness of WiG members to devote their time, their energies, and their talents initially to the creation and then to the ongoing development of a publication that can now be counted as one of the major venues for scholarship in our field. My own co-editorship continued for eight years, from 1990–98, and encompassed volumes 7–14, what I think of as the middle years of the Yearbook. During that time I worked with two wonderful editors, Jeanette Clausen and Patricia Herminghouse, both of whom helped make the experience truly one of the most satisfying of my professional career.
Feminism in the 1980s had been driven by a certain activism that engaged both the professional and the personal in our lives, and WiG as an organization fostered that activism and a sense of solidarity among its members. When I became co-editor in 1990, Jeanette expertly guided me to an understanding of how the Yearbook reflected that ethos; as coeditors we were to provide the author of each submission with the best constructive criticism of which we were capable, even if we decided ultimately not to accept the manuscript, and to regard the Yearbook as an important tool for the development of feminist German scholars and scholarship in German. The system for manuscript selection, external reviewing, editing, and proofreading had already been established and emphasized collaborative efforts. And as I think back to those not so distant days before laptops and Macs and Windows, I seem to remember that Jeanette and I even learned to use the computer together, so that, although we began communicating about most of the requisite evaluating and proofing by mail and telephone—and, in the early years, doing final [End Page 10] manuscript proofing on my porch in Cincinnati—on later volumes we were able to use the computer skills we had acquired together.
The first six volumes of the Women in German Yearbook had been published by the University Press of America, and when I submitted my Statement of Objectives during the selection process for a new co-editor, I outlined my plan to find a new publisher. This then was one of the first tasks to which we turned. As Jeanette and I planned our strategy, we realized that a good starting point would be discussions with various WiG members to build on their experiences; that done, I began to make phone calls and write letters, many of them. At the next MLA I met with Bill Regier, the then-head of the University of Nebraska Press, who was striving to create a niche market for publications of interest to German scholars. The contract he offered matched our hopes, and soon the Women in German Yearbook had a new publisher who was willing not only to advertise the volume but even to display it at the MLA. The beautifully published Yearbook 7 and the first advertisement in The Women’s Review of Books were more than confirmation of our decision. We celebrated our new affiliation with a new subtitle, so that instead of identifying ourselves as a publication devoted to “Feminist Studies and German Culture” we now laid claim for the volume as one dedicated to “Feminist Studies in German Literature and Culture,” a change which we hoped would link us more closely with Germanistik, still an elusive goal in the early 1990s.
Because the Yearbook was still not well-known in the profession, we spent considerable energy on outreach, trying both to attract an increasing number of submissions and to develop a wider audience for the publication. We solicited conference papers we thought would appeal to WiG readers, we distributed Tables of Contents at session meetings of national conferences, and we continued our efforts to make connections with German and other European scholars. We also knew that the time had come to make...