At the beginning of 2014, British writer and illustrator Joanna Walsh sent out some New Year’s cards fashioned like bookmarks. Although the intent of this postal greeting—festooned with illustrations of women writers such as Gertrude Stein and Maguerite Duras—was merely a riff on the VIDA Count, an annual pie chart (created by the organization VIDA: Women in Literary Arts) with aims to visually demonstrate the disparity between men and women writers in major literary publications and book reviews, something a little more interactive, specific, and perhaps even activist, took hold. People started responding to—and even better, adding to—the list of 250-ish women writers that graced the back of the bookmark, which Walsh posted on Twitter, soon using the hashtag #ReadWomen2014 and creating its own account and garnering about 6,500 followers. And although the movement has generated a the tiniest bit of criticism in the midst of the celebrations—either due to arguments that “women writers” is a tenuous link between a bunch of disparate authors or because of the suggestion that it’s impossible to have one’s reading mirror an entire population’s demographic makeup—there is talk of continuing the effort into 2015. As Walsh described in an article in The Guardian, the project is focused more on lasting change than flash-in-the-pan publicity:
“Picking up a book may be prompted by a Twitter meme, but it can never be a token effort. As soon as you’re halfway down the first page, you’re engaged (or not – I wouldn’t read any and all books by women, just as I love some but don’t enjoy all books by men).”
The genesis of the project is described here.