In 1954, a group of women publishers, booksellers, writers, reviewers, and librarians founded the Boston Chapter of WNBA. Within five years the chapter successfully campaigned for children’s literature courses at a local college and, under the aegis of grande dame Alice Dixon Bond, book editor for the Boston Herald, launched the Book and Author Luncheon series. For a quarter of a century, book lovers looked forward to this spring encounter with prominent authors. In its heyday, the luncheon series drew some 1000 attendees, enabling WNBA/Boston to support Boston museums, public broadcasting, and the Boston Public Library for its retrospective children’s book collection.
In 1968, the Boston chapter drew national attention when key children’s literature specialists joined with the National Board and members from other chapters to honor Horn Book Magazine editor Ruth Hill Viguers at the Constance Lindsay Skinner Award Banquet. In the 1990s, the chapter’s interest in children’s literature found a novel outlet. Annual Holiday Teas held throughout the decade offered approximately 1000 donated review copies of just-published children’s books for sale each year, as well as giving attendees an opportunity to listen to prominent speakers in the field of children’s literature. Over the decade, the teas raised more than $30,000. These funds enabled WNBA/Boston to support the Boston Public Library’s summer reading readiness programs for disadvantaged preschool children. The chapter gave six books to each child in the program to take home and keep.
The Boston chapter today maintains its commitment to promoting books, literacy, and women’s careers in publishing and allied fields. Its membership reflects the chapter’s original diversity, representing all facets of the book world. The chapter sponsors monthly programs from September through June. Tapping the rich resources of the Boston Literary scene, these programs range from brunches with best-selling authors to roundtables with publishing professionals and writers who generously share their insights and knowledge. The Sunday Salon Series of three literary brunches, launched in 2001, became an instant hit with members.
Visits to specialty bookstores, libraries, and literary landmarks add dimension to Boston’s activities. Chapter members have explored Kerouac’s Lowell and Emerson’s Concord. They’ve enjoyed a private tour of the Massachusetts Historical Society and paid homage to the literary dead buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery.
The chapter also remains committed to its public service mission. In 1999 it initiated the Teen Literacy Outreach Project to supply books and writing materials to an often-overlooked population: incarcerated adolescents. Thanks to members’ generosity, the chapter has provided books, journals, and a mobile library cart to its primary partner, the Metro Detention Center.
As it has from the start, the Boston chapter maintains strong ties to the National WNBA and its sister chapters. Boston members have served on the National Board, and the chapter hosted the National meeting in 1997. Members have served on WNBA award committees and today volunteer on both the Eastman Award and United Nations committees.
When WNBA/Boston published a pamphlet celebrating New England Book Women Who Have Made a Difference, Robert Taylor, book columnist for the Boston Globe, described its members as “movers and shakers” in the world of books. WNBA/Boston continues to work to merit that distinction.