Birth of publisher Blanche Wolf Knopf
Although her name and work have been overshadowed by those of her husband, Blanche Wolf Knopf carved out her own place in the publishing industry as vice-president and president of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Born on July 30, 1894 (some sources say 1893), Blanche Knopf was raised in New York, where she met Alfred Knopf in 1911. They were married in 1916, the year after Alfred Knopf launched his eponymous publishing firm. Blanche Knopf was involved in the firm from the start, and in 1921, she became a director and vice-president.
In addition to running the office, Blanche Knopf's duties included frequent travel to meet with and recruit new authors for the press. By all accounts, she excelled in establishing relationships with writers on three continents. Under her leadership, Knopf published translations of French writers Albert Camus, André Gide, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre; South American writers Jorge Amado, Gilberto Freyre, and Eduardo Mallea; and the first American edition of Sigmund Freud's Moses and Monotheism. Knopf published American classics, but under Blanche Knopf's urging the firm also published such new American writers as H.L. Mencken, Willa Cather, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler. For her work in support of French literature in America, she was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government in 1949 and made an officer in 1960. Similarly, she was honored by the Brazilian government in 1950 with the Order of the Southern Cross.
In 1957, Alfred Knopf became chairman of the board, and Blanche Knopf took over as president. However, in 1960, the firm was sold to Random House, which maintains the Knopf imprint as an independent entity. Blanche Knopf remained involved at the helm of the Knopf imprint until her death in 1966. Her New York Times obituary said that her "alertness and perspicacity in recruiting writers ... and her driving energy as an executive contributed immensely to the success of the house of Knopf." In a field dominated entirely by men, in which she was virtually the only woman in her time to take a leading role, Blanche Knopf had a lasting impact on Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., on the world of publishing, and on American letters.
To learn more about Blanche Wolf Knopf, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
Sources:Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 743-745; New York Times, June 5, 1966; www.hrc.utexas.edu/collections/books/holdings/knopf/.