Feminist Voices & Visions

CALYX Exhibit Text
by Cheris Kramarae

* Introduction
* Books
* International Anthology
* Jean Hegland
* Bearing Witness/Sobreviviendo
* Women and Aging
* The Forbidden Stitch
* Art and Assets
* Why Do We Need a Women's Publication?
* Florilegia: A Retrospective
* Florilegia?
* Visions Dreams and Realities
     * Barbara Kingsolver
     * Betty LaDuke
* "The Year From HECK"
* Who Does the Work?


CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women was begun in Corvallis in 1976, more than 100 years after feminist Abigail Scott Duniway began her Portland "human rights" weekly, the New Northwest. CALYX was the first West Coast literary journal with women editors publishing women's works. The word "calyx" refers to the outer covering of the flower, which falls away as it blooms.

The journal is recognized by its impressive art, and praised for its outstanding literary quality. In its 22 years of existence, assisted by many knowledgeable and committed volunteers, it has provided an opportunity for almost 2,000 women's voices to bloom in its poetry, prose, art, and book reviews. The CALYX Books are also works of art in every sense. The journals and books have won many awards.

Yet through the years the staff has had to struggle to continue, as government funding for the arts has been cut drastically, and as independent booksellers have been forced out of business by corporate chain bookstores.

CALYX was founded by four energetic and visionary women dedicated to feminist publishing: Barbara Garden Baldwin, a poet and secretary at Oregon State University; Margarita Donnelly, a free lance reporter, then working at Special Services Consortium at Oregon State University; Elizabeth McLagan, a poet and bookkeeper; and Meredith Jenkins, a painter and graphic designer for the City of Corvallis. The first issue was produced during late nights on borrowed equipment in the Corvallis City Hall's graphics department. Since then, a collective editorial board, a large group of volunteers, and a small staff have nourished CALYX into a nationally recognized literary journal.

From the more than 140,000 manuscripts received since 1976, the journal collective has recognized many writers and artists who now are well known nationally and internationally. These include Sharon Olds, Ellen Bass, Colleen McElroy, Paula Gunn Allen, and Diane Glancy.

A few of the other many contributors include:

  • Julia Alvárez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
  • Barbara Kingsolver, author of Animal Dreams and High Tide in Tucson)
  • Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones
  • Molly Gloss, author of Jump-Off Creek and The Dazzle of Day
  • Linda Hogan, author of Solar Storms and Seeing through the Sun
  • Betty LaDuke, author of Compañeras
  • Cherríe Moraga, editor of This Bridge Called My Back
  • Sandra Scofield, author of Beyond Deserving and Plain Seeing
  • Charlotte Watson Sherman, editor of Sisterfire: A Black Womanist Anthology, and author of One Dark Body and Killing Color
  • Chitra Divakaruni, author of Arranged Marriage
  • Ann Nietzke, author of Natalie on the Street
  • Barbara Scot, author of The Violet Shyness of Their Eyes: Notes from Nepal, and
  • Kathleen Alcalá, author of Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist.

CALYX now produces five books and journals annually. Since 1976 this Oregon press has published more than 1,400 writers and artists. CALYX publications have reached an audience of more than one million readers internationally.

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International Anthology

This 1980 issue published the work of contributors from 28 countries, including Wislawa Szmborska, Nobel Laureate and author of View With a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems. The editors of the issue now wish that the cover had been a color plate of one of Frida Kahlo's work (which do appear in color inside). Because of those color plates, this was a very expensive issue. Publication costs were partially funded by matching grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, and the Oregon Arts Commission.

Jean Hegland

Jean Hegland is the author of Into the Forest, published by CALYX, and then sold in 1996 to Bantam publisher for $350,000, a sum which saved the CALYX press from closure. Hegland's first novel tells the story of two young sisters who have learned to survive the collapse of society, on their own in the Northern California forest. The book was named a finalist in the Small Press Book Awards, and a Book for the Teen Age by the New York Public Library.

Bearing Witness/Sobreviviendo

The first anthology of Native American/Chicana/Latina women's work. Guest Editors: Native American Literature: Jo Cochran, Diane Glancy, Mary Tall-mountain; Latina/Chicana Literature: Bettina Escudero, Naomi Littlebear Morena, Kathleen Reyes; Art Editor: Ada Medina.

Women and Aging

The first anthology to address ageism from a feminist perspective. Includes work by Ursula K. Le Guin, Meridel Le Sueur, Marge Piercy, and more than 50 other women writers. The cover art by Elizabeth Layton is also printed as the poster "Her Strength is in Her Conventions."

The Forbidden Stitch

The first anthology of Asian American women's work to be published in the United States. Winner of The American Book Award 1990. The cover is a Chinese embroidered purse c. 1930. The stitch is in a butterfly design; a butterfly is the symbol for "written word" in Chinese. Guest editors: Shirley Geok-lin Lim and Mayumi Tsutakawa.

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Art and Assets

Government funding for the arts has been cut drastically, at the same time CALYX journals and books are winning awards. Meanwhile, CALYX's total income dropped 18 percent between 1994 and 1995, and CALYX's grant support dropped 88 percent.

In 1998, feminist publishers and booksellers are feeling under siege. The rise of superstores has forced many independents out of business. The costs of production increase even as sales decrease. As a result, the CALYX women, and the workers at other surviving feminist presses, are working harder to survive.

The CALYX collective remains committed to their mission, which is to discover and publish emerging writers and artists, and to keep books in print so they are available to others for a long period of time. Margarita Donnelly, Director/Editor of CALYX, states that few publishers keep books in print these days, because this is an expensive commitment. CALYX editors have always been flexible, cutting costs, foregoing wages, putting on creative fundraising campaigns. Their plan is to more actively market their books and journal to the academic market, while continuing to market books to the bookstore industry.

Some costs in 1996 illustrate why the CALYX commitment is so expensive: printing and publication costs for one book of poetry averages $5,000. One book of prose or one journal issue costs $10,000. To develop and print academic mailers, to purchase mailing lists, and send two mailings costs $3,500. $4,500 pays for the printing and mailing of CALYX catalogs and flyers to 10,000 individuals. $900 will send a CALYX representative to the National Women's Studies Association conference. $1,200 will send a CALYX representative to the Associated Writing Program's conference.

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Why Do We Need a Women's Publication?

From the editors: CALYX started in 1976 because four local artists and writers saw a lack of forums for women's writing and art. Although things have changed, they have not changed that much. The creative work of women continues to be underrepresented. We receive testimony every week about the importance of what we do, of the necessity of the forum that is CALYX. Issues we cover include incest and sexual abuse, homelessness, aging and racism, as well as triumph over obstacles, love and relationships, and family.

A survey of catalogs from book publishers for 1996 showed that, as defined by these publishers, "literature" is only 25 percent female. Without forums such as CALYX helping to balance those numbers, the world gets a skewed vision of women's position in the world and misses out on the vital, creative energy of women.

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Florilegia: A Retrospective

Florilegia: A Retrospective was published in the spring of 1987 as Vol. 10, nos. 2 & 3, and was the fourth CALYX book.

The editors tried to choose representative works of material previously published. They divided the art, prose and poetry into the following sections: horrors of patriarchy; memories of our heritages and our herstory; the intimate, personal matters that are the basis of human struggle — birth and family, sex and death; and women's connections to the cycles of nature.


The reviews were good but the sales were disappointing. The CALYX women thought the name "Florilegia" might be the primary problem. They found the name in the dictionary: it means "a culling of flowers; anthologies of writings." It seemed to them to be descriptive of their project and nicely linked to the CALYX floral metaphor. But others found it hard to pronounce and difficult to understand.

Visions, Dreams, and Realities

This anthology Florilegia represents many women's visions, dreams and realities. Showing some of the work which goes into CALYX publications, this display focuses on the work of just two of the 96 artists and writers included in the collection:

Barbara Kingsolver, one of the many visionary authors and artists published in Florilegia: A Retrospective, is the recipient of many awards and recognitions. Her well-known novels include The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Pigs in Heaven, and High Tide in Tucson. She is an articulate supporter in the movements for the environment, and for equal treatment for all. As bibliographer Susan Chamberlin Quick writes: "She appreciates human nature in all its incarnations."

Betty LaDuke, award-winning artist, works in Ashland, Oregon. Her art is influenced by her travels in many countries including Mexico, India, Haiti, Brazil, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Her paintings, prints and drawings have been displayed in exhibitions in galleries throughout the United States. She has published several times in CALYX. Included here are some of the materials used for her art and article in the anthology Florilegia.

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"The Year From HECK"

Margarita Donnelly, Director, has called 1996 "The year from HECK". It began with the news that CALYX would receive the Oregon Governors Art Award. But CALYX, along with other feminist presses, was experiencing declining revenues and declining grant support. In February the so-called hundred-year flood hit Corvallis — and Margarita's home — with force. Editorial work on the 20th Anniversary Anthology was often set back due to landslides, floods, and highway closures that prevented the editorial staff from getting to meetings.

In spring the staff met and collectively decided to cut all positions in half to conserve funds; everyone agreed to stay on, even if they had to take second jobs elsewhere.

In the next months the staff continued to write grants, to release two new books and journal issues, to organize fundraising events, and to participate in book shows. The new novel Into the Forest began receiving rave reviews.

In November, a large grant request which had taken much effort was sent back to be rewritten and resubmitted in 1997. More heavy rain crashed into Corvallis. Then, Bantam Books in New York bought the publishing rights to Jean Hegland's Into the Forest, with CALYX keeping movie and foreign rights.

The sale allowed the staff to go back on regular hours and provided some room for modest raises. The CALYX women could begin the new year with a new commitment to discovering and publishing excellent art and literature by women.

The founding mothers started CALYX with a great deal of talent and volunteer hours, but not a lot of money. From the beginning the CALYX women have had to combine their journal editing with fund raising. The issues and contributors to the CALYX journal and the authors of the CALYX books have won many awards and accolades from readers. But through the past 22 years the editors and volunteers have had to struggle for funding for the press at the same time they have provided the special care and commitment needed to produce the quality publications. The editors have at times invested their savings, signed personal notes, and risked their credit ratings as they continue their insistence on producing beautiful, diverse, serious issues of women's literature and art.

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[additional text, not part of the exhibit]

Who Does the Work?

The 1998 staff includes Director Margarita Donnelly, Managing Editor Micki Reaman, Senior Editor Beverly McFarland, Promotion Coordinator Teri Mae Rutledge, Accounting Coordinator Ronley Duncan, and Shipper Michele Schuman. Sixteen interns provided more than 2,000 volunteer hours in 1997. Interns came from: Antioch College, Evergreen College, Lewis & Clark State College (Idaho), Linn-Benton Community College, Miami University of Ohio, Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Kutztown University and Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, Western Oregon University, and Corvallis Community Consortium.

In 1997, 42 volunteers (not including interns) contributed more than 1800 hours to support CALYX's work. The volunteers include experienced, regular Journal Collective Editors who read and choose prose and poetry manuscripts and choose art for the Journal. Many final decisions are made in group meetings. Other regular volunteers serve as copy editors and proof readers. Still other volunteers help with data input, the processing of manuscripts, filing, mailings, filling orders, and moving boxes of books and archives. Some volunteers helped with fund raising, an ongoing, critical activity. In 1997 intern and volunteer hours totaled more than 4,000, equivalent to two years of full time work.

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Last revision: 6/10/06 by N. Helmer