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Obituary: Janet Schulman ’56

Janet Schulman, an author and editor who fought for equality for women in publishing, died February 11, 2011, in New York City of complications from lung cancer. She was 77.

Schulman's death comes just three days after the release of her latest book, 10 Easter Egg Hunters: A Holiday Counting Book (Knopf, 2011), which is illustrated by Linda Davick. Schulman spent her more than 40-year career in publishing working with several legendary names. She was Dr. Seuss's editor at Random House for the last 11 years of his life and wrote the introduction to Your Favorite Dr. Seuss (Random House, 2004). In the 1970s, she collaborated with illustrator James Stevenson on the "Jack the Bum" (Greenwillow) series and in recent years had written such well-received books as Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City (Knopf, 2008) and The Nutcracker (Harper, 2005). Schulman also introduced "young readers to Virginia Hamilton at a time when American publishers were just waking up to the importance of bringing African-American authors into the mix" children's literature historian Leonard Marcus told School Library Journal. In recent years, Schulman was instrumental in keeping alive the work of some the great picture book artists such as Leo Lionni, says Marcus.

In 2009, she helped with the 50th anniversary edition of Lionni's Little Blue, Little Yellow (Knopf, 2009). Her books The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury: Celebrated Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud (Knopf, 1998) and You Read to Me & I'll Read to You: Stories to Share from the 20th Century (Knopf, 2001) are anthologies that capture the classics of children's literature.

Early in her career, Schulman was director of children's book marketing at Macmillan while the publisher was going through a tumultuous time. In 2008, she told Publishers Weekly that she was one the 185 people the publisher fired on October 15, 1973. The layoffs received national media attention, and in 1974 she then became one of the nine women to file a class action complaint charging Macmillan with sexual discrimination. The suit charged that female employees were being paid less than male employees and that they were denied certain maternity benefits. The layoffs and lawsuits led to a mass exodus of authors from Macmillan, including the 81-year-old Elizabeth Coatsworth, who had been with the publisher since the 1920s. The suit was settled in December 1985, and in 1988 Schulman received $2,841.61 as a part of the settlement. "The money meant little to me," Schulman told Publishers Weekly. "I felt vindicated that the small part I played was going to make things better for all women in publishing."

Schulman was born on September 16, 1933 in Pittsburgh and graduated from Antioch College in 1956. She is survived by her daughter Nicole Morgan, grandson Max, and husband of 54 years, Antioch alumnus Lester Schulman ‘55. She and Lester have participated in anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and protests against the invasion of Iraq.