Authored By: Karina Jakubowicz
Edited By: Anna Mukamal, Helen Southworth
Mrs Cartwright worked at the Hogarth Press as a manager for five years between July 1925 and March 1930. Despite staying at the Press longer than most workers, she is hardly mentioned in either J.H. Willis’ Leonard and Virginia Woolf as Publishers (1992) or Helen Southworth’s Leonard and Virginia Woolf, The Hogarth Press and the Networks of Modernism (2010). This is partly due to the lack of information about her, a problem indicated by the fact that her first name is unknown. Leonard and Virginia Woolf called her Mrs Cartwright, Richard Kennedy called her Ma Cartwright, and she simply signed all her correspondence from the Press using the title ‘Manager.’
Cartwright succeeded Bernadette Murphy as Manager in July 1925, and worked alongside Richard Kennedy and Peggy Belsher (sometimes spelled Belcher). She was a widow in her fifties who lived in Hampstead with her two daughters. Virginia Woolf calls her an ‘elderly widow’ in a letter to Vita Sackville-West, and simply ‘the widow’ in a letter to Angus Davidson. In his account of the time he spent working at the Hogarth Press, Richard Kennedy describes Cartwright as ‘very stout. She has a shock of white hair, pink cheeks, and pebble-type glasses through which she blinks nervously.’ He goes on to add that ‘she runs around everywhere on very high heels and appears to be very efficient, typing at terrific speed.’ Virginia was similarly conscious of Cartwright’s size and vigour, describing her as ‘a powerful, heavy, light blue eyed woman of 50.’ Kennedy remembers an occasion when Virginia ‘described Mrs Cartwright as having the step of an elephant and the ferocity of a tiger,’ which he felt gave ‘a very false impression as Ma Cartwright has no ferocity at all, although she does charge about everywhere.’ The subjectivity of these anecdotes (most of which are focused on appearance) indicate Cartwright’s vulnerable position, both as a worker at the Press and as a biographical subject. She was not one of the Hogarth Press employees who was famous in their own right, and she didn’t think (as Kennedy did) to leave a personal record of her time there. Instead, she is presented through the eyes of figures such as Woolf and Kennedy, two writers that liked to exaggerate for the sake of humour, and who belonged to a class and social circle of which she was not a part.
Cartwright was undoubtedly a woman who took her work seriously, and she ran the office well enough to keep her position for five years. In his history of the Hogarth Press, J.H. Willis suggests that Leonard’s more ‘professional approach to press-affairs’ in the mid-1920s (as indicated by a shift to large, carefully kept ledgers) was due to Cartwright. That she had a positive influence on the press is indicated by Virginia in a letter from 1928, where she writes that the press had ‘revived astonishingly with Cartwright only.’ Virginia felt grateful enough to Mrs Cartwright to include her in the long playful dedication to Orlando. As Helen Southworth explains, ‘Cartwright’s inclusion confirms Woolf’s acknowledgment of the professional contribution of the press to her work as a writer.’ This gratitude was reinforced in monetary terms in April 1929 when the staff were awarded bonuses: Cartwright received twenty-five pounds, while Belsher and Kennedy received twenty.
However, Cartwright was not always happy working at the Press, and her relationship with Leonard was often strained. For one thing, they were two very different people with opposing political views. Leonard was an active member of the Labour party, while Cartwright was of a more conservative disposition. Virginia recorded an occasion when Cartwright and Leonard ‘got heated arguing, she being anti-labour; because she does not see why [those on strike] should be supported, & observes men in the street loafing instead of working.’ More pressing than politics were Leonard’s high standards of proficiency and thoroughness. Kennedy notes that ‘Leonard Woolf obviously does not think [Cartwright] at all efficient,’ and describes an incident when he ‘was bloody awful to her in front of Miss Belsher and myself because she tried to cover up some trivial mistake.’ Virginia was more forgiving, and after a particularly hectic day she noted that Cartwright ‘and Leonard argue. But she is a monument of virtue and motherliness and at intervals I sob on her shoulder.’ Less than a year after she had begun working for the Press, Leonard told Virginia that ‘he had the impression [Cartwright] was dissatisfied.’ She seemed on the brink of leaving in 1928 when the Woolfs tried to employ a ‘brilliant American lady’ as manager, a situation that caused some confusion and distress. Cartwright ultimately kept her position, and eventually left the Press on the 31st of March, 1930, having served the longest term of any Hogarth Press manager.
 It is possible that Mrs Cartwright’s full name will be revealed when the 1921 census is released. This census should include Mrs Cartwright’s occupation, which would undoubtedly link her information to the correct records. There are several 1911 census records relating to Cartwrights living in and around Hampstead, and while there are some obvious candidates (women of the right age with two daughters) it is impossible to ascertain which is the correct one. In 1911 Mrs Cartwright may not have been living in Hampstead, and she certainly was not working at the press. Without a known occupation or address, the process of research becomes merely guesswork.
 Southworth, Helen, “Virginia Woolf’s Orlando Preface, the Modernist Writer and Networks of Social, Cultural and Financial Capital," Woolf Studies Annual, 2012 (NY: Pace University Press, 2012), p. 93.