Remembering Chapel Hill's 1970s And 80s Feminist Children's Book Press

Feb 14, 2013

Members of Lollipop Power Inc, with their publications.
Credit Photo Given by Marjorie Fowler

  When you opened up a children’s book in the 1960s, chances are you saw girls in pink playing with dolls and boys in blue going on adventures. And most of the characters were probably white.

A group of women in Chapel Hill, many of them mothers and academics, decided they wanted to see more diverse and empowering images in children’s literature and took matters into their own hands. This collective became the printing press known as Lollipop Power Inc.

Julie Enszer, professor of women’s studies at the University of Maryland and co-editor of the journal "Sinister Wisdom", has studied the large wave of feminist printing presses popping up across the U.S. in the 1970s, including Lollipop Power.

Its books were popular in different feminist networks and were distributed nationally for over a decade, but Enszer notes that there was not only power in the product -- the books themselves -- but power in the process.

“A lot of women in the print movement wanted to learn skills of printing and publishing, but also business skills," she said. "And the collective model was a way they could...and avoid the power struggles that many of them critiqued.”

Women-owned businesses like Lollipop Power were hard to find before the late '60s. Elizabeth Brownrigg, Marjorie Fowler and Kathleen Gallagher were three of many women who worked at Lollipop Power during the 15 years the press was open.  All three later became involved in writing and publishing, and they remark on their experience in Lollipop Power as having a significant impact on that decision.

Brownrigg maintains that although the group disbanded decades ago, the work of Lollipop Power and other presses influences the feminist work at present.

“Maybe the web that was woven among women in the '70s still has its impact today,” she said.