Pamela Johnson Fenner, founder of Michaelmas Press, has always been involved with education of varying kinds—for children and adults. First educated as a high school biology teacher, her first position was a grade 5-8 school science teacher. It was at that elementary school level she first experienced the freedom from the pressures of the College Board exams, SAT’s, etc. common to the secondary schools. She really loved teaching at that level and still remembers thinking that these younger students were “born scientists” displaying an inborn curiosity and enthusiasm for learning.
While raising three daughters, Pam worked only part-time, took adult education classes, and followed what was happening in the local public school system. Professional interests moved to the arts, early childhood education, and prenatal classes. Working as an Early Childhood Assistant for a reading specialist and later in grades 1-3, Pam became more aware of the pressure on teachers to push children to learn subjects faster and earlier than perhaps their development warranted. It seemed children were being rushed through their childhood. After participating in a faculty/parent group exploring the district’s curriculum and testing, she and her husband began to explore education alternatives.
Discovering Waldorf Education (or Steiner Education as it is called in Europe and elsewhere), they enrolled their youngest daughter in Grade 2 of the Marin Waldorf School in 1986.
THE FOUNDING OF MICHAELMAS PRESS
How often is it said that an enterprise begins by filling some need? As a trustee of her daughter’s school and President of its parent association, she found herself answering many questions at school Open Houses and education events. Noting the school did not have a parent handbook, Pam offered to compile and produce one for the school community. The Parent Handbook was enthusiastically welcomed by the school community. With more than 100 Waldorf schools in the U.S. in the late 1980s, she realized the potential for revising and expanding the book for others interested in Waldorf education.
With passion and energy, she turned her volunteer project into a career change and launched her publishing company, Michaelmas Press. The company name, “Michaelmas”, is taken from an autumn celebration common to Waldorf Schools. Shortly thereafter, she entered a 3-year Waldorf teacher training program.
Her first publication was Waldorf Student Reading List, a small lower school reading list compiled with faculty-member Karen Rivers for their community. She began to market the book to other schools. However, Pam still had not forgotten her original goal to publish her “big book”, as she called it. Even after graduating from Rudolf Steiner College and working as Director of Community Development at the Princeton Waldorf school, she received inquiries from other schools about The Parent Handbook. It was time to transform it into Waldorf Education: A Family Guide.
Moving into the early childhood parenting market, she published Beyond the Rainbow Bridge: Nurturing our children from birth to seven, based on a successful parent enrichment class. This book has become a popular text in many Parent/Child classes. Knowing there was a need for a high school reading list, Pam created a team with editors Anne Greer and John Wulsin, Jr. to develop a comprehensive reading list which would reflect a multi-disciplined, arts-integrated curriculum and, at the same time, meet the developmental needs of adolescents. This became Books for the Journey: A Guide to the World of Reading, her fourth publication.
After 21 years in the west coast, Pam and her family moved back to her home town in New England. She joined a group of families in the southern N.H. and Maine area interested in Waldorf education. Three years later, they founded Tidewater School (now called Seacoast Waldorf School) in Eliot, ME.
A NEW GENRE—HISTORY
John Greenleaf Whittier
Growing up in New England and exploring old cemeteries with her parents doing family genealogy, Pam’s interest in history now expanded through her involvement in local historical and civic organizations. Her primary volunteer work was with the Whittier Home Association, stewards of the Amesbury, MA home of John Greenleaf Whittier—Quaker, poet, and notable abolitionist. As a member of the Exhibit Committee preparing for the Bicentennial of his birth (1807), she chose to research the events surrounding the Centennial, or 100th anniversary, in 1907.
Using scrapbooks made by the Whittier Home women and other primary sources at the Whittier Library in Haverhill, Pam learned that there were hundreds of celebrations across the country. At that time, Whittier was one of the most respected and revered Americans of the 19th century. Booker T. Washington, the leading African-American at that time, gave the keynote address in Amesbury; Julia Ward Howe penned a commemorative poem; Boston’s famous Faneuill Hall was the site of a rally; and Frank B. Sanborn and Thomas Wentworth Higginson of the “Secret Six” offered speeches for the celebrations.
Encouraged to “write something” in time for the 2007 Bicentennial, Pam compiled and published Celebrating Whittier, New England’s Quaker Poet and Abolitionist: America’s 1907 Centennial. The book’s gala collection of newspaper clippings, photographs and tributes provides a wealth of material for teaching blocks on 19th century U.S. literature, history, and the Abolitionist Movement. Subsequently, Michaelmas Press has produced booklets centered on the life and legacy of Whittier by John (Ben) Pickard, Whittier scholar and great-grand-nephew of the poet.
OUT INTO THE WORLD
Pam is a founding member and Past-President of the Board of Directors of Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE), an affiliate of Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and has been a speaker on niche publishing, book marketing, Waldorf education and Whittier. She regularly attends conferences on Waldorf education, New England museums, and book publishing. For details and photos, click on News and Announcements.
Our customers—individuals, teachers, bookstores, schools—come from many countries. We are delighted that Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, originally published for parents and caregivers in North America, is now available in Japanese, Korean, Simplified and Complex Chinese. In 2012 it was published in Turkish. We welcome other foreign rights inquiries. For details and photos, click on News and Announcements.