Virginia Kidd: The Feminist Businesswoman [Project Proposal]

As a student concentrating in accounting with little background knowledge of feminist science fiction, I approached this project from an angle that leveraged my knowledge of business while remaining grounded in the primary sources from the University of Oregon’s Special Collections. The basis of my paper centers on the letter correspondence between Ursula K. Le Guin and her literary agent, Virginia Kidd. My paper seeks to investigate the dynamic woman of Virginia Kidd through the research question: what were the barriers of entry that Kidd faced as a female literary agent and as such what was her role in the feminist literary revolution of the 1960’s?

Circumstance would have it that during the class’s orientation in the university’s archives, I stumbled upon the Le Guin-Kidd correspondence. Le Guin’s tenacious yet caring right-hand woman immediately captivated me. I was inspired and intrigued by the combination of Virginia Kidd’s shrewd business-like qualities and her interpersonal skills that fostered an intimate relationship with Le Guin. Le Guin recognized this force, yet why does Virginia Kidd remain such a mystery to the public?

It is true; a literary agent is only as good as her clients. But, the opposite holds true. I argue that through her battles in business Virginia Kidd advanced the status of women equal to the amount and efforts of her renowned clients such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Joanna Russ. Whereas the authors faced discourse discrimination, Kidd thrived in a hostile work environment, which arguably still retains many of these qualities today. One such hardship that exemplifies Kidd’s business skills is when she arranged Le Guin’s publication of “Nine Lives” in Playboy Magazine. It is due to the finagling of Kidd between a skeptical Le Guin and the sexist Playboy editors that won Le Guin a large contract and much notoriety. It is these episodes of true brilliance on Kidd’s part that will be the focus of my research.

I will employ the vehicle of business memos as a format for my final research product. I wanted to take advantage of the creative nature of the assignment and produce a work that differs from a traditional research paper. This format plays to my strengths as a business student but my objective is to successfully channel the spirit of Virginia Kidd through a letter. Therefore, I will write three to four business memos from the perspective of Virginia Kidd addressed to various editors and authors that center on pivotal events and publications. One such example will be to write a letter from Kidd to the editor of Playboy Magazine to push the Nine Lives deal. In short, I want to recreate the personality of Kidd found in such quotations like, “Outside the s-f field I swing a rather small stick, but I swing,” and portray how it was in large part the efforts of Kidd which kindled the feminist revolution in science fiction.

Bibliography

Box 1, Folders 1-10, Correspondence with Virginia Kidd, The Ursula K. Le Guin Papers Coll. 270, Division of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299

Box 40-41, Legal and Financial Documents, The Ursula K. Le Guin Papers Coll. 270, Division of Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299

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One response to “Virginia Kidd: The Feminist Businesswoman [Project Proposal]

  • cstabile

    As I’ve said before, I think your focus on Kidd and Le Guin’s business relationship is original and intriguing. I do wonder how the memo format will work. Will it be speculative, based on what you find in the archives? Or will you revise what you’ve found to fit the memo format? What’s your central research question?

    You might want to see if you and Julian could collaborate, even if it’s a matter of just sharing resources. The correspondence is so voluminous (indeed, Kate Wilhelm told us that one of the complaints about Kidd as an agent was the length of her letters) that having the two of you break it up would help. I’m happy to talk to you about strategies for doing that.

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