In 1936, at a WNBA board meeting, Constance Lindsay Skinner remarked that “no one was as responsible for the development of new ideas, stimulating thought and general culture in a community as the local bookseller and librarian, and yet they were too often cut off from people of similar experience who could share their problems and bring them encouragement.” At this time, nineteen years after the WNBA was founded, there were no chapters outside of New York. The president, Rosamund Beebe, wrote to members that “Miss Skinner’s remark came to us as a sort of challenge, for the Women’s National Book Association, made up of representative women in every field of the book trade, is established in the heart of the book publishing world. At our monthly meetings distinguished authors familiarize us with their books, and outstanding booksellers tell us how they solve their problems. This suggestion set us to thinking how we could share the advantages of our Association with other women actively engaged in the book trade outside of New York City.”
The plan that emerged from Skinner’s comments was twofold: to establish “Corresponding Memberships” for women who lived outside New York, and to publish a quarterly newsletter “giving news of the book world, reports of the talks which we all enjoy so much at our regular meetings, and containing an open forum in which you will be able to discuss your own problems and report your activities. In this way we believe a real service can be given both you and the Association and a new and vital force brought into the book trade, a force which would be a stimulus to the community as a whole. The dues for the Corresponding Members will be only $1.00 a year which will cover the cost of the Bulletin.” It was hoped that these out-of-town members would schedule trips to New York to attend WNBA programs.
With funding by Constance Lindsay Skinner, our newsletter The Bookwoman was born in 1937 and women all over the U.S. could become part of the WNBA. It was from this modest start, spreading the news, that WNBA chapters arose. The Bookwoman continues as our newsletter, received by every member, now in digital form.
From the beginning, chapters have had distinct personalities; their ambitious and diverse programming has contributed sustained and energized the organization. Capsule histories of all the currently active chapters follows, with brief mention of chapters now, sadly, disbanded.