My name is Marcia Talley, and I’m national president of Sisters in Crime, an organization that was founded almost twenty five years ago by Sara Paretsky and other like-minded women to support the advancement of women who write mysteries.
From 1989 to 1991, Dorothy was national treasurer of Sisters in Crime. In1990, this "founding mother" gathered a group of local women together in her Maryland living room, elected officers, and the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime was born. Today, the Chessie Chapter is one of the larger and more active of forty-six chapters in our organization, now world-wide.
I met Dorothy at a Chessie Chapter meeting in the mid-1990s, long before I became, like Dorothy, a published mystery writer. Back then, barriers to women existed everywhere in the mystery publishing field, and Sisters in Crime played a major role in helping to break down those barriers.
In Dorothy’s own words:
“It was harder for women than men to find a publisher, harder to get reviewed, harder still to get good reviews -- perhaps because virtually all the critics were men -- and harder to get bookstores to carry the books, let alone push them. Shoot-‘em-up hardboiled mysteries received critical respect, while the so-called feminine “cozies” were scorned. As soon as Sisters in Crime was formed–benefitting in large part from the new activism of the Women’s Movement–committees of volunteers were organized to research and document these kinds of inequities. They gathered statistical proof which was used by letter writing committees to lobby publishing houses, newspapers, and reviewers. We were impatient for change, and it seemed to us that changes came with agonizing slowness. But they came.
“It’s hard to believe at this point in history how unwelcoming the climate was in the 1980s and before for women mystery writers. As for female sleuths–forget it! Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was long gone, and her successors were few. Nobody would have believed a time would come when male authors were publishing books with female sleuths under female pen-names, in hopes of greater sales! But of course that eventually happened, thanks in large part to the work of Sisters in Crime.”
Inequities still exist, of course, we have a long way to go, but it is due to pioneers like Dorothy that women who write mysteries today are more likely to get the attention they deserve.
So, on behalf of your three thousand sisters (and misters) in crime, we thank you, Dorothy. We couldn’t have done it without you.
In her beautiful book of essays, The Invisible Garden, Dorothy wrote about the challenges of tending a garden, “’Why am I doing this?’ I ask myself. ‘It’ll all be gone as soon as I’m dead.’ Then I remind myself that this is true of most human endeavors, and I go on gardening.”
I don’t want to disagree with you, Dorothy, but both mysteries you published with St Martin’s Press, Dead Men Don’t Give Seminars (which was nominated for an Agatha Award for best first novel) and Dead Men Don’t Marry are still for sale on Amazon.com. And if that isn’t a kind of immortality, I don’t know what is.
Read more about Dorothy's amazing career in The Washington Post.