Beginning this month, Sisters in Crime is celebrating more than a year of milestones marking the organization’s 25 years of promoting the professional development and advancement of women writing crime fiction.
The seeds were sown in March 1986 at the first conference on Women in the Mystery organized by B.J. Rahn at Hunter College. During the session, Sara Paretsky spoke on the growing use of graphic violence against women in mysteries.
“Remarks I made at the conference set off a firestorm around the mystery world,” she said. “Women began calling me from all over the country with their personal histories of treatment/mistreatment.”
Later that year, Phyllis Whitney turned up the volume for the voices of women writing mystery and crime fiction when she wrote a letter to Mystery Writers of America pointing out that women authors weren’t being nominated for awards.
The group that would become Sisters in Crime made its debut in 1986 at the Baltimore Bouchercon when Paretsky convened the initial meeting of women interested in the project. During the session, she pointed out that books by women crime fiction writers weren’t being reviewed at a rate matching their participation in the publishing industry.
Nearly six months later, during Edgars Week in the spring of 1987, a breakfast meeting at Sandra Scoppettone’s New York loft brought women in the mystery and crime fiction industry together for additional discussion and the formation of the organization.
The first mission statement of the organization was “Sisters in Crime is committed to helping women who write, review, buy or sell crime fiction. Our ultimate goal is to become a service organization to address issues of concern to everyone involved in the mystery field.”
The initial steering committee members were Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Susan Dunlap, Betty Francis, Charlotte MacLeod, Kate Mattes, Sara Paretsky and Nancy Pickard.
The organization’s first elected President was Nancy Pickard. Margaret Maron served as Vice President.
Founding member Carolyn Hart created the backbone of the organization’s communications program by creating and compiling the Sisters in Crime mailing list.
“Some of my best memories are of the true support that grew from nothing to a nationwide network,” Maron said.
Plans for the 25th anniversary celebration will be discussed at the Sisters in Crime Presidents’ meeting next month at Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Maryland. If you’d like to attend that meeting, contact Chapter Liaison Sandra Parshall.
Historical information originally compiled by Lora Roberts.