Stamp and cover collecting is, by nature, a hobby of immensely broad appeal. It beckons to scholars and it beckons to children. It is a powerful attraction to those who appreciate art in miniature, and at the same time, an open invitation to those who love a particular topic or theme and want to explore it in a systematic fashion. In short, stamp collecting and the related field of postal history offer something for everyone.
Given the considerable appeal, it is very hard to understand why women are so underrepresented in our hobby. The last time I checked, men outnumber women as members of the American Philatelic Society by a ratio of more than 9 to 1. In fact, one of my primary goals in my tenure as APS president is to diversify our membership. So what explains this large disparity and what can we all do to reverse it?
The leadership of the American Philatelic Society and other foremost collecting organizations is composed of many women who excel at collecting, exhibiting, instructing, and writing. For example, two of the current vice presidents of the American Philatelic Society are women who have excelled in every phase of the hobby: Cheryl Ganz and Trish Kaufmann. Cheryl is one of the foremost authorities in the world on Zeppelins; Trish is equally well known for her knowledge of Civil War philately. Both have contributed excellent articles for this issue.
Additionally, 71% of the dedicated staff members at the American Philatelic Society are women, who apply their creative energy towards serving the needs of APS members and stamp collectors across the country. Dr. Cathy Brachbill and Kathleen Edwards in the Education department develop new educational content for collectors, young and old, advanced or beginner. The American Philatelic Research Library would be poorer without the expertise of Betsy Gamble and Marian Mills. Under Wendy Masorti’s leadership, the Sales Division has identified new solutions to keep buyers and sellers safe. The talented women on staff in the Membership department are tasked with making the hobby grow and ensuring that we can take advantage of all of the benefits of membership. And finally, when we receive The American Philatelist, we have in hand the behind-the-scenes efforts of Doris Wilson, Heidi Rhoades, Helen Bruno, and Susanna Mills.
2019 Luff Award winner Kathy Johnson poses with recent winners. These women have all been recognized for their exceptional contributions to philately.
There are a great many other names who could be mentioned within APS staff and leadership, but the point is that dedicated women are the equal to any man in the successful pursuit of the hobby.
What can we, whether male or female, do to encourage philately to be more of an equally attractive hobby for both genders? I truly believe that the magic spark that leads to
a collecting interest starts with kids — teens or younger. If you have a child or grandchild in your life, do not neglect to share the wonders of philately, whether they are boys or girls.
You never know where the interest will take them. They may forget philately, as so many of us did in our high school and college years, when so many other distractions loomed. But, in the end, if their love for reading and armchair adventure is a lasting and enduring one, they may come back to philately, and we can hope that in the future, we will have as many women philatelists as men.
We at The American Philatelist have noted the disparity in gender, race, age, and more in the APS membership, and now acknowledge our editorial responsibility to address this within the pages of the magazine you hold in your hands. We commit to broadening the pool of authors who are published, representing a wide variety of interests, and thoughtfully reviewing the philatelic contents of the magazine every month. We commit to forward progress and careful representation of all collectors. I hope you will join us.
Editor's Note: The column was published in the March 2020 issue of The American Philatelist. We are bringing the archives of The American Philatelist to the Newsroom - stay tuned for more columns and articles from 2020, and read the full March issue here.