Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California
Cover page of "I Respond": Alissa Goldring's Photographs of Mexico in the 1950s: An Oral History

"I Respond": Alissa Goldring's Photographs of Mexico in the 1950s: An Oral History


This oral history, conducted by Lizzy Gray of the Regional History Project, centers on the photographs Goldring took in Mexico between 1955 and 1971. It is intended as a guide and supplement to Goldring's Mexican photos, slides and negatives, now preserved in the Special Collections Department of the UCSC Library. A finding aid to that collection is available at

Alissa Goldring was born Alice Berman in lower Manhattan in 1921 and knew from an early age that she wanted to be an artist. She majored in art at Brooklyn College and also studied photography and other forms of art at the American Artists' School in Manhattan. Through these years Goldring was rarely without her sketchbook, and developed a beautiful abbreviated ink style capturing the character of people, boats and buildings in Manhattan. Two of these pieces appeared in The New Yorker magazine under the name Alice Reiner. She eventually earned a Masters in Art from Teachers College of Columbia University.

In 1954, newly divorced and with two children, Goldring flew to Mexico, despite not speaking Spanish, and knowing no one there. Her photography enabled her to support herself and gave her an avenue into the local culture. Initially, she did photographic portraits of children. She then worked on assignment for Mexican magazines, such as Gente and Claudia, as well as for local newspapers and non-profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood. She was sent to schools and monasteries, psychiatric hospitals and rural villages. On her own, she roamed through open markets and mountain towns with her camera, unobtrusively capturing rituals, such as children floating candles on water on the night of el Dia de los Muertes (the Day of the Dead), and services at a tiny Jewish temple in Venta Prieta. Goldring was especially intrigued by Lacondonian and Chomula cultures. She also met well-known figures such as Erich Fromm and Daiset Suzuki, and the archive contains photographs of Rufino Tamayo, Dolores del Rio, Alma Reed, architect Juan O'Gorman, and the clowns Firulais and Cantinflas.

  • 1 supplemental audio file
Cover page of The Cowell Press and Its Legacy: 1973-2004

The Cowell Press and Its Legacy: 1973-2004


his oral history, conducted and edited by book arts scholar and UCSC alumnus Gregory Graalfs, focuses on the history and impact of the Cowell Press at UCSC's Cowell College. It features interviews with fine printers Jack Stauffacher and George Kane, who taught at the Press, as well as with former students Aaron Johnson, Peggy Gotthold, Felicia Rice, and Tom Killion, who have gone on to have illustrious careers in the book arts. The Cowell Press shaped the careers and creative lives of many UCSC students in its thirty-year history.

Far more than a letterpress print shop where students could make pretty books, the Press was a laboratory to explore the history of tangible words — whether printed, cut in stone, or calligraphed — and to address the interrelationship of word and image. In addition, the influence of twentieth-century literature and visual art on typography was considered, as well as how typography was concerned with design principles that can be applied to film, architecture, and information design. The study of bookmaking — of how thoughts and knowledge are communicated through the vital medium of a book — fit well within the parameters of the unique and experimental quality of the UC Santa Cruz campus envisioned by founders Clark Kerr and Dean McHenry.

  • 4 supplemental audio files
Cover page of Esther Abbott: Photographer and Social Reformer, 1911-2003

Esther Abbott: Photographer and Social Reformer, 1911-2003


In her mid-nineties at the time of this interview, Esther Abbott achieved a long and impressive career as a photographer whose work was published in Arizona Highways and other publications in the 1940s and 1950s. With her husband Charles (Chuck) Abbott, she also shaped the urban landscape of downtown Santa Cruz through her historic preservation activities, and her advocacy on behalf of the pedestrian-centered Pacific Garden Mall, which was constructed in the late 1960s. This oral history, conducted by Evelyn Richards of the University Library's Regional History Project, illuminates the life and career of this remarkable and vibrant woman.

The University Library's Visual Resource Collection also has a collection of 4,700 slides of the Abbotts' photographs of architectural reconstructions of national urban and suburban landscapes in the 1960s. Their photographs of the buildings of Santa Cruz are of special importance to local patrons. In addition, Special Collections has a collection of Chuck Abbott's photographs documenting his time in World War I Europe, as well as his career from 1920 to 1935.

  • 1 supplemental audio file
Cover page of Irene Reti and HerBooks Feminist Press

Irene Reti and HerBooks Feminist Press


This volume, Irene Reti and HerBooks Feminist Press, is one of a trio of oral histories published by the Regional History Project documenting the history and archives of second-wave feminist presses on deposit in the University Library's Special Collections. They include Alta's history of Shameless Hussy Press and Sandra Kay Martz's, of Papier-Mache Press. The archives are part of the University of California/Stanford University History and Women's Studies Consortium California Feminist Presses Project whose mission is the preservation and documentation of feminist presses.

Prior to her appointment at the Regional History Project, interviewee Irene Reti founded HerBooks in 1984. So she wears two hats in this project: she conducted the interviews with Alta and Martz; and was then interviewed herself as the founder of HerBooks, whose archive she donated to the University Library. HerBooks is a small, all-volunteer press, running on low overhead and publishing pioneering radical feminist titles. HerBooks blossomed within the milieu of feminism and lesbian literary culture and has survived with the support network of feminist presses, independent bookstores, and alternative book distribution. This volume consists of two interviews: one, by former UCSC student Martha Vickers, conducted in 1991, and the second, by Jacquelyn Marie, UCSC Reference/Women's Studies Librarian Emerita, who interviewed Reti in April 2001. As director of the Project, I edited the volume. Marie wrote me the following, describing her involvement in this project:

As the Women's Studies librarian at UCSC, I initiated the California Feminist Presses Project with a colleague from UC Berkeley, as a special project within our UC/Stanford Consortium of History/Women's Studies librarians. Each campus collected the archives, including two copies of publications from all the California feminist presses. UCSC was committed to Shameless Hussy Press of Oakland, California, Papier-Mache Press from Watsonville, and HerBooks from Santa Cruz. All three publishers were interviewed. I have worked and consulted with Irene Reti through the years on writing and publishing, speaking on panels, producing bibliographies, designing posters and organizing exhibits. As a member of the feminist publishing/writing community since the 1970s, I have been particularly interested in a long-running, small press such as HerBooks. This press is especially important because of its lesbian/feminist stance. Irene has not hesitated to publish unknown lesbian writers who have highlighted a panoply of neglected and controversial issues. I was very excited to be able to interview her about her evolution as a publisher and writer.

Reti graduated from UCSC in 1982 and founded HerBooks in 1984. Her path to publishing evolved quite organically as she knitted together her deep commitment to literature, her coming out as a lesbian, and her identity as a Jewish feminist. After she graduated from UCSC she held a series of nondescript jobs, one of which led her to learning typography and the mechanics of book publishing. This gave her a strong technical base as she launched HerBooks. She then became involved in the Santa Cruz literary scene and participated in several local writing groups. As she says in her oral history: "[At the time] there were a couple of literary magazines . . . I watched this process and thought . . . wait a second, I can do this! . . . the process [of publishing a book] didn't seem entirely mysterious to me anymore." She then published her first lesbian anthology and began her venture in what she describes as 'break-even publishing."

In her narrative, Reti discusses the network of feminist publishers and writers with whom she has been involved, the genesis of the titles she has published over the years, her intuitive philosophy of why she publishes what she does, and her overview of the economics of small press publishing during the last two decades. She also gives an intimate overview of the singular literary community which has been thriving in Santa Cruz since the 1960s.

HerBooks publications have included an eclectic variety of subjects ranging from serious feminist, lesbian political and cultural volumes (Childless by Choice: A Feminist Anthology (1992), Remember the Fire: Lesbian Sadomasochism in a Post-Nazi Holocaust World (1986), Unleashing Feminism: Critiquing Lesbian Sadomasochism in the Gay Nineties (1993), Carolyn Gage's The Second Coming of Joan of Arc and Other Plays (1994), A Transported Life: Memories of Kindertransport, the Oral History of Thea Feliks Eden (1995)) to more whimsical books such as Garden Variety Dykes: Lesbian Traditions in Gardening (1993) and Cats (and their Dykes) (1991).

The HerBooks listing reflects the zeitgeist of radical feminist cultural and political concerns when these issues came to the forefront. The latest HerBooks publication as of this writing is Reti's The Keeper of Memory: A Memoir, a contemporary American bildungsroman which weaves together personal recollection, family history, the assimilationist impulses of her Holocaust refugee parents, and the author's discovery and reclamation of her Jewish identity.

The HerBooks archive is at Special Collections, UC Santa Cruz library. A finding aid to the collection is available through the Online Archive of California.

  • 13 supplemental PDFs
  • 1 supplemental audio file
Cover page of Alta and the History of Shameless Hussy Press, 1969-1989

Alta and the History of Shameless Hussy Press, 1969-1989


Founded in 1969 during the counterculture of the late 1960s in Berkeley and the early second wave of feminism, Shameless Hussy Press was the first feminist press in the United States. One of the most important historical contributions of Shameless Hussy Press was the first publication of books by four women who later became prominent feminist writers: Pat Parker, Mitsuye Yamada, Ntozake Shange, and Susan Griffin. Alta's recollections discuss these writers, and other Shameless Hussy titles, as well as the cultural and political milieu in which she was working. In this oral history Alta also discusses her growth as a writer.

Shameless Hussy Press is one of three presses archived in the Special Collections department of UC Santa Cruz's University Library, as part of the UC/Stanford US History and Women's Studies Consortium California Feminist Presses Project. The other two are Papier-Mache Press and HerBooks Feminist Press. The project is designed to preserve the output as well as the history of feminist presses in California.

  • 1 supplemental audio file
Cover page of Sandra Kay Martz : Papier-Mache Press & the gentle art of consciousness raising 1984-1999

Sandra Kay Martz : Papier-Mache Press & the gentle art of consciousness raising 1984-1999


Following in the footsteps of the second wave feminist publishers of the 1970s, Sandra Kay Martz founded Papier-Mache Press in 1984. Papier-Mache Press was known for publishing accessible books which, "presented important social issues through enduring works of beauty, grace, and strength," and "created a bridge of understanding between the mainstream audience and those who might not otherwise be heard." This accessibility, combined with hard work, and savvy marketing and business sense, catapulted Papier-Mache to remarkable financial success and visibility. Of the 60,000 book titles published in the United States each year, less than one percent sell over 100,000 copies. Over 1.6 million copies of the anthology When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple were sold in bookstores and gift stores across the United States. This groundbreaking collection was one of the first non-clinical and positive books on women and aging, and was written by older women themselves. It challenged stereotypes and confronted the invisibility of older women in America. Several years later, another book in Martz's anthology series entitled I Am Becoming the Woman I've Wanted won the 1995 American Book Award. By 1998, Papier-Mache Press had published over sixty titles.

In this oral history Martz discussed the successes of Papier-Mache Press, as well as the enormous changes in the book industry which took place in the late 1990s. She credited feminist culture and politics with her success, and discussed her collegial relationships with other feminist publishers in the United States and Canada, many of whom were her inspiration. She provided an astute assessment of the future of feminist and independent publishing, and discussed the implications of the changes in book publishing in the 1990s for literacy and the exchange of ideas in a free society.

Papier-Mache Press is one of three presses archived at UC Santa Cruz's University Library, as part of the UC/Stanford US History and Women's Studies Consortium California Feminist Presses Project. The project is designed to preserve the output as well as the history of feminist presses in California. The other two presses collected are Shameless Hussy Press and HerBooks.

  • 1 supplemental audio file
Cover page of Julie Fawcus: Recollections of Trianon Press

Julie Fawcus: Recollections of Trianon Press


This volume documents the history of the press, founded in Paris in 1947; the genesis of its extraordinary facsimile productions of William Blake's illuminated works, and its wide range of fine press volumes. Julie Fawcus, the widow of Trianon's founder, Arnold Fawcus, discusses the details of the collotype and pochoir techniques which were used by French artisans to produce the facsimiles.

Fawcus's commentary includes chapters on Arnold Fawcus as "buccaneer publisher," and recollections of collaborations with Robert Graves, Marcel Duchamp, Aldous Huxley, and Ben Shahn. For students and researchers feasting their eyes on a Blake volume produced by Trianon, and who might wonder who these exquisite books came to be, Fawcus gives an insider's view of the struggles and enormous technical difficulties involved in their creation.