The Centennial Gala

First; books of 1917; historical fictionOn Saturday, October 28, members of WNBA and their guests celebrated the WNBA Centennial in style! The evening began with a

National President Jane Kinney-Denning
Photo Credit Celine Keating

cocktail reception at Pen + Brush, a nonprofit gallery dedicated to promoting female artists and writers. Men and women mingled and viewed the provocative art work.

Following libations, the WNBA National President, Jane Kinney-Denning, spoke of the power our unified and diverse voices have in promoting literacy and reminded us that WNBA’s championing of literacy has been alongside women marching for other just causes including civil rights and women’s right to vote. She concluded by saying, “One cannot make too much of the importance of books.”

Centennial Birthday Cake
Photo Credit Hannah Bennett

The evening incorporated recognition of the two esteemed WNBA award winners for 2017, Carla Hayden and Louise Erdrich. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, was lauded for making libraries vital to communities and for serving as a beacon of the transformative power books hold. Louise Erdrich, a National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist, was noted for her fifteen novels, for exploring Native American themes, and for being an independent bookseller.


Attendees before the panel
Photo Credit Liberty Shauf

Valerie Tomaselli, WNBA Centennial Chair, took the floor to recognize the many sponsors and to thank President Hannah Bennett and members of the NYC chapter for their hard work on the event.

To launch Women in the Literary Landscape: A Centennial Publication of the Women’s National Book Association, co-editor Rosalind Reisner spoke about the extensive research

Advance Copies
Photo Credit Liberty Schauf

into the organization’s history and recited a few historical anecdotes to accompany the evening.

From C&R Press, the book’s executive publishers spoke about how their mothers, of course, were responsible for their love of reading. They were also thrilled to announce that they will publish an anthology edited by Joan Gelfand with writing from WNBA Writing Contest winners.

The WNBA Little Free Library
Photo Credit Liberty Schauf

Susan Larson presented the Second Century Prize, a grant to a nonprofit that promotes reading and love of literacy, to Little Free Library. Everyone was impressed with Founder and Executive Director Tod H. Bol’s enthusiasm and his feat of having established 60,000 little libraries worldwide.

To conclude the event, Dierdre Bair, noted biographer, moderated a lively discussion entitled “The Transformative Role of Literature in Our Society.”

Straub, Jefferson, Robinson, and Bair discuss the literary world
Photo Credit Hannah Bennett

Margo Jefferson, social and cultural critic and author of Negroland, noted that although it is hard to make a living from just being a writer, she is thrilled with the range of available avenues for writing available today.  Roxana Robinson discussed her experience as past president of the Authors Guild and about writers’ struggles to be justly paid. She also shared the experience of researching the life of United States Marines in Iraq for her novel Sparta. Emma Straub spoke about juggling several jobs—writer, mother, and bookstore owner—and attributed the success of her new bookstore in Cobble Hill, Books are Magic, to the right location.

Participants left feeling the spirit of the celebration and with the hope that WNBA will continue to inspire love of literature for many years to come.

By Harriet Shenkman

About Blog Editor

The Women’s National Book Association was founded in 1917 by female booksellers who weren’t allowed in the men’s organizations. Nearly 100 years later, the WNBA is still supporting women in the book industry through literary events, networking, literacy projects, workshops, open mic nights, book clubs, and many other entertaining programs throughout the season!

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