Bridget Williams graduated from the University of Otago in 1969. Leaving for England, she worked as a research assistant for Dame Helen Gardner on the New Oxford Book of English Verse, and then as an editor at Oxford University Press in Oxford.
Returning to New Zealand in 1976, Bridget was instrumental in developing the New Zealand list of Oxford University Press, with the first Oxford History of New Zealand (edited by W. H. Oliver with B. R. Williams) appearing in 1981. More titles followed, including Geoffrey Palmer’s Unbridled Power and Maurice Gee’s Under the Mountain.
In 1981, Bridget left OUP to form the Port Nicholson Press with designer Lindsay Missen and bookseller Roy Parsons, and thus her first independent publishing company was born. Four years later, she sold this to Allen & Unwin and became the managing director of Allen & Unwin New Zealand. The following years saw the development of a vigorous New Zealand list, in the heady days of the 1980s.
In 1990, the parent company Unwin Hyman was sold in the UK to HarperCollins; Bridget purchased the Allen & Unwin NZ list and set up Bridget Williams Books. After six years as a strong independent publisher, Bridget worked with AUP for a short period, publishing key titles such as Judith Binney’s Redemption Songs under the joint AUP/BWB imprint. BWB emerged again as a fully independent imprint in 1984, and has continued to publish groundbreaking titles in New Zealand scholarship.
A particular focus on Māori history foreshadows the magnificent Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, due out in 2013.
Bridget has served on many industry organisations, and was a founder of the long-running Listener Women’s Book Festival. She was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 1982, and honoured with an MBE in 1996, and ONZM in 2012.