While it is often assumed that the world of traditional Jewish learning and scholarship was the exclusive province of men, the historical record suggests something else. Beginning with a halakhic responsum (t’shuvah) addressed by Moses Maimonides to a man who tutored young Jewish women, Michelle Margolis provides a whirlwind survey of female authors, scribes, typesetters, publishers, and illustrators, accompanied by numerous images of the books and manuscripts themselves. She writes:
We have evidence of women making books in the amazing and heartbreaking elegy for Dulce of Worms (violently murdered, along with two daughters, in 1096), [composed] by her husband Eliezer (a/k/a the Rokeaḥ), [one of the great rabbis of his day. He wrote that:] “before she was killed, she would buy parchment to write books; her hands sewed the clothing of students and torn books; and she wove thread for the book (bindings).” The entire dirge, written in the form of Eyshet Ḥayil, [i.e., Proverbs 31:10-31], is more than worth a read.
Women and children often worked in the press as “zetseren” (typesetters). A woman or child’s smaller hands had much more dexterity with the tiny pieces of type. One of the most famous girls who worked in the press was Ella bat Moshe ben Avraham Avinu and her sister Gella. Ella started at a very young age (nine), but continued working in presses in Dessau, Halle, and Frankfurt. Thus, her name is found at the end of a the talmudic tractate of Niddah printed in Frankfurt am Main, 1697-99.
This and more can be found on the social-media website Twitter, at the link below. Margolis has also written a follow-up post here.