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Not many companies are founded with an exclusive focus on social justice, and even fewer have found long-term commercial success. But Toronto's Second Story Press has defied the odds and become a global publishing powerhouse in the areas of women, human rights, equality and ability issues.

Margie Wolfe and three other women launched Second Story in 1988 with a concrete vision: to publish feminist-inspired books for adults and young readers. All four had worked in women’s publishing and wanted an outlet to produce quality non-sexist, non-racist literature – something they saw was lacking, particularly in the children’s book market. But they didn’t simply want to educate; they wanted to empower. And they also wanted to entertain.

Building up from a small office to a publishing brand with global recognition required taking risks. Second Story as able to succeed in large part because it was never afraid to innovate. .

With help from OMDC, They were able to market both domestically and internationally the first Canadian picture book on same sex marriage with another title for older readers focused on euthanasia. They developed the first holocaust remembrance series in the world for young readers, a women’s Hall of Fame series, one on Kid’s power and another focusing on First Nations. Awards and loyal audiences of readers grew steadily. Its books have now been published in over forty langauges and adapted for film and stage.

Second Story's books have caught the attention of organizations like the United Nations and Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem), who have recognized them with prestigious awards. Despite its small size, Second Story continues to punch above its weight when it comes to recognition and awards. Recently one of their books, Hana’s Suitcase, both a critical and commercial success worldwide and now its 34th printing, was recipient of the Ultimate Silver Birch Award, voted by Canadians as the best of all the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch winners of the last 20 years.

Second Story has worked for many years to create a spectrum of audiences, not just for its books but for the ideas they contain. A social justice website launched with help from OMDC's Book Fund, that has made it easier for readers, educators and librarians to discover and purchase from the list.

In recent years, Wolfe and her team have worked with organizations like Plan Canada, BOOST (formerly the Toronto Child Abuse Centre), the Canadian Breast Cancer Society, Feminist History Society, The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Planned Parenthood and the Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf. Again with support from the OMDC they are currently working on an innovative project to bring human rights education into classrooms across Canada and the United States. Creative approaches like this have been key to Second Story's long-term success – and to proving their kind of publishing can be the basis of a successful business model.

“Second Story Press was founded on the premise that to create the kind of more equitable society we want, we need to create literature for adults and perhaps more importantly, young people, which reflects those values. Too few of those books existed at the time, and it’s why we started publishing.”

—Margie Wolfe, Publisher/Owner/President, Second Story Press

Learn more about Second Story Press:

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Twitter: @_secondstory