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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Institutions


Victoria Press


It was founded by Emily Faithfull on 25 March 1860 as a press employing only women as its compositors and proof-readers (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

It was closely associated with the Society for the Promotion of Employment by Women, who provided some of its apprentices

By 1861 it had doubled the amount of printing it was able to produce, and was already self-supporting; its clients included Chancery and the House of Lords, and the Law Magazine (Emily Faithfull, ‘Women Compositors’, The English Woman’s Journal, September 1861)

Despite its success, the National Union of Printing and Paper Workers did not admit women as members until 1904 (Gerry Holloway, Women and Work in Britain since 1840, 2005)

One of her workers, taken on as an avowed experiment, was deaf and dumb (Emily Faithfull, ‘Victoria Press’, The English Woman’s Journal, October 1860)

Its original location was described by Faithfull thus: “A house was taken in Great Coram Street, Russell square, which, by judicious expenditure, was rendered fit for printing purposes; I name the locality because we were anxious it should be in a light and airy situation, and in a quiet respectable neighbourhood” (Emily Faithfull, ‘Victoria Press’, The English Woman’s Journal, October 1860)

Faithfull was bought out by William Wilfred Head in 1869 (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography); he continued to run the press as a women-only institution until April 1881, when ownership was transferred to the Queen Printing and Publishing Co

It no longer exists

What was reforming about it?

Its employment of women as printers was extremely controversial

Faithfull summarised the criticisms made of the project in a paper read to the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science in August 1861: “the female mind is not mechanical”; women would “sink under this fatigue and labour”, and it would drive down wages (Emily Faithfull, ‘Women Compositors’, The English Woman’s Journal, September 1861)

It was also progressive in its attitude towards the health of its workers: Faithfull had discovered that printers died at an average age of 48, often due to breathing disorders, and she accordingly provided excellent ventilation in the premises, as well as high stools to allow the women to sit rather than standing (Emily Faithfull, ‘Victoria Press’, The English Woman’s Journal, October 1860)

Where in Bloomsbury

It was based at 6 Great Coram Street from 1860 to 1862, when it moved to Farringdon Street; it later moved to Praed Street

Website of current institution

It no longer exists; neither, apparently, does the successor institution, the Queen Printing and Publishing Co

Books about it

W. Wilfred Head, The Victoria Press: Its History and Vindication: With an Account of the Movement for the Employment of Females in Printing (1869)


None found

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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