Women in command of their printing press

I spent the evening Sunday with the team of talented young women who print the Mustang Daily, Cal Poly’s full-color newspaper.

Cal Poly Graphic Communication students Sarah Eckberg, Julia Cross and Emma Goulden stand in front of the newspaper press in the DowJones Publications Lab at Cal Poly. Ms. Cross is the Head Presswoman – in charge of all the nightly crews who run the press.

Most of us say that Cal Poly has the only student-edited, and student-printed full-color daily paper in the U.S. I argue that it may be the only such paper in the universe. I have heard rumor of a student-printed paper on a small planet near Alpha Centauri, but it’s only a rumor.

The student news team has been led for the past few years by a female “HP.” HP stands for Head Presswoman (in this case).

Student press operator Sarah Eckberg mounts a plate for the Mustang Daily. The paper, which has a circulation of about 6,500, is printed nightly by the student teams.

It wasn’t always so. When I was an undergraduate at Cal Poly (1969-1975) we had almost all male students, with just a couple of women who had the nerve to join us. We cast lines of type on hot-metal machines, and we printed the daily paper (then three days a week) on a Goss Cox-O-Type reciprocating letterpress machine (it was horrible!).

Over the years, the ratio of female students in our program, called Graphic Communication, has changed dramatically. Now the program is dominated by young women. Of the 311 students currently enrolled, we have only 83 young men — 26 percent.

And, on the Mustang Daily production crews, there is only one young man. One.

Julia Cross runs the web press to full-speed in the press run on Sunday night. Because of a web break, the run was delayed by 35 minutes. But, the complete edition was completed before 1:00 a.m. Behind her is press trainee, Emma Goulden.

This is a snapshot of the future of the graphic arts industry professionals: 74 percent female.

These young women are up to the challenge. They are in command of the ship, and it’s obvious that their gender makes no difference in their ability to perform the important task of running big, sometimes dirty machines. (At one point in Sunday evening’s press run, the HP handed out instructions to a small group of students – all young women – who had arrived late to see the press run for class credit. She said, “Grab a rag, put some solvent on it, and clean any surface you see that has ink on it.)

I was in the company of real, youthful leadership, and I was impressed.


I’m writing a new book about printing processes and file preparation. To put your name on my mailing list, please click on the link below. I will let you know when the book is available (my target is Spring, 2012).



About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is a Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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8 Responses to Women in command of their printing press

  1. Karen Cross says:

    I really enjoyed reading this…but I need to add a disclaimer. I am the proud mother of the Head Presswoman!

  2. This is so awesome to read! As a woman who owns a printing business and runs a press, not a web press, but an offset press, I am excited to know that more girls are learning this disappearing art! I have come across so many people that seemed surprised that I printed their project or that I run a press. I am a young 35-year old woman that is proud to say I am not afraid of getting inky hands or pulling out a screwdriver and getting to work. I taught my husband how to use the press so he could work along side me and I plan to teach my son and daughters if they want to learn. Digital just doesn’t hold a candle to real printing! We really should not let the computer overtake the printing process because nothing is as good as printing off of a beautiful metal plate!!

  3. Thank you so much for printing this terrific article!! I work at a printing shop in London, Ontario, Canada, and all our pressmen tell me they’ve never met a female press operator. So this made my night!! 🙂 I just love the printing industry so much, and love to see other women getting stuck into it as well.

    Thanks again,

    • Brian Lawler says:

      Hi Sarah,

      At Cal Poly, where I teach, almost 85 percent of our graphic communication students are young women! We can’t explain it, but we enjoy the interest that these young women have in our industry.


  4. ashley says:

    I enjoyed this article.. As I am the first woman to start training on our printing press. Thanks for the good read!

  5. Kathryn Gyurina says:

    My name is Kathryn Gyurina.
    I learned and operated an offset Printing Press in 1982-1994 (13 years). Foto-Grafix, Inc. Branford, CT.
    I learned on an AB Dick 360 with T head (known as a duplicator).
    I then moved on to Ryobi 3302 true 2 color offset Press. I then learned and operated a Heidelberg 19x 25 GTO.
    Then operated a Heidelberg 19×25 GTO 2 color. I learned how to change rollers and adjust roller pressure and other various maintenance procedures.
    Then worked on Heidelberg Speedmaster 6 color w/ infrared dryer. Beauvais Printing, Guilford, CT
    I am more curious about the recorded history of women in the Printing Press industry
    regarding operating the Presses.
    Please recommend a reliable source where I may find this information.
    Kind regards,
    Kathryn Gyurina

    • Brian Lawler says:

      Hi Kathryn,

      I don’t know if there is an authoritative reference for women in the printing industry, but there is a site for women in print called “Girls Who Print” (http://girlswhoprint.blogspot.com).

      This group holds events annually at the GraphExpo trade show (this year in Florida).

      You can find out more on their blog.


  6. Charlie says:

    Good job ladies. I am trying to get them,to bring a lady on my crew and,train her for goss urbanite. Anyway hang in there. Good Job once again.

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