1st April, 2014

Women’s History Month is over

It’s April! While I’m excited to see spring finally beginning to arrive, I’m sad to see the end of Women’s History Month.

Women of Library History won’t be totally disappearing, but we will be scaling back for the rest of the year. I’ve posted almost all the submissions we received for 2014, so I’m only planning to post once or twice a month for the rest of the year.

I’ll keep an eye on the Tumblr tag women of library history; tag us if you’re posting something that fits with our mission! I’ll be keeping an eye out for things to reblog. You can also send messages through our Tumblr ask box or, as always, e-mail womenoflibraryhistory@gmail.com

(A belated welcome to everyone who found us through Tumblr Tuesdays or American Libraries! I hope you’ll take some time to look through our archives. Here’s the index of 2013’s posts; I’ll update it with 2014 posts soon.)

31st March, 2014

Lily Lawrence Bow

Katherine Fleming submitted today’s post.

Lily Lawrence Bow was the first librarian in Homestead.  Since the city had no position for a librarian, Bow was appointed as a policeman.

Bow was recognized by the Great Floridians 2000 program:

Lily Lawrence Bow was born in 1870, came to Florida with her husband Richard in 1900 and later to Homestead with her two children where she settled in a log cabin on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Avocado Drive. She sold citrus and raised chickens. In 1920 the Women’s Club of Homestead appointed her chair of their library committee, which soon became a public library. Book donations came from Dade County and Lily Bow gave books to local schools. The library outgrew its home in the Women’s Club and moved to a city-owned site. With the help of land donations and the W.P.A., a permanent library was built in 1939. It was named the Lily Lawrence Bow Library. Lily Lawrence Bow died in 1943.

Built of coral rock and hand-hewn Dade County pine, the library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 5, 1996.

30th March, 2014

Olivia Raney

Today’s post was submitted by Leigh Sanders, “a writer, teacher and social justice activist currently working on a novella about the Olivia Raney Library love story.”

The Olivia Raney Library opened to citywide fanfare in Raleigh, NC in 1901, but for the library’s benefactor, Richard Beverly Raney, it was a communal memorial to a beloved wife departed.

Olivia and Beverly were unconventional for the times: they married in their early thirties after spending years as friends and pen pals while he traveled the world. Olivia was an accomplished organist and choir singer at the Episcopal Christ Church with a stellar reputation, and Beverly was a self-made businessman and philanthropist. Their marital union only lasted for seventeen months, and it was reported that when Olivia became sick Beverly hired three doctors to save her precious life from a rapidly progressive illness.

The morning after she died the headline in the newspaper announced “One of Raleigh’s Most Cultured and Beloved Women Passes Away.” Soon after, Beverly donated a sizable amount of his fortune, $45,000 for the building of an Italian Renaissance palazzo that stunned the South with its beauty. In addition, he set up a 99 year endowment to support the library upon his death. Olivia’s personal life is largely absent from public domain but undoubtable her legacy helped our Carolina capital achieve the status of one of the best places to live in the Nation and it could reasonable be assumed, one of the best places to be loved as well.

Leigh’s not kidding about the lack of public information about Olivia’s personal life (at least on the Internet), but I did find a history of the library as part of a “Capital CIty Adventure” project from NC State:

The circulation regulations were fairly strict: no one under 12 could obtain a borrower’s card; those under 18 had to have the written permission of a parent, guardian, or responsible adult; and no one under 12 could use the reading room. Only citizens could borrow books, and temporary visitors and students at colleges and schools in Raleigh had to pay a temporary deposit of $2 in order to borrow a book. A person could only check out 1 or 2 books at a time.

29th March, 2014

Ismoon Hunter-Morton

Today’s post is from Lisa Petriello.

Ismoon Hunter-Morton works as a public librarian in Oregon, and was recently appointed to the Oregon State Library Board of Trustees. Since 2008 she has been volunteering at the Q Center in Portland, which “builds public awareness and support, and celebrates LGBTQ diversity through art, culture, and collaborative community programming.” There she curates the Kendall Clawson Library of LBGTQ-relevant literature.

She has also worked on Cascade AIDS Project’s oral history project, known as CAP Archives. In 2012 she became the president of the Gay and Lesbian Archives of the Pacific Northwest (GLAPN), where among other things she has helped produce the “Queer Heroes NW” multimedia project and helped arrange for Gay Walking Tours of the City led by GLAPN’s Dave Kohl. She is openly bisexual.


1. http://www.pdxqcenter.org/about/staff-board/ (Q Center, Board and Staff, Lead Volunteers)

2. “Local Hero: Ismoon Hunter-Morton — Rebel librarian-at-large”, by Sunny Clark, PQ Monthly

28th March, 2014

Mary Utopia Rothrock


This post was written by Donald B. Reynolds, Jr., retired director of the Nolichucky (TN) Regional Library and founding director/past president of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries. In my Googling, I discovered that the East Tennessee Library Association has an excellent “What Would Topie Do?” button associated with their annual Rothrock lecture.

Mary Utopia Rothrock (“Topie”) was a librarian, community activist, historian, author, editor (and some would say feminist) who, as one of her colleagues wrote, “knows all the answers and is one of the smartest persons in the library profession.”   She was active in her local community of Knoxville, Tennessee, throughout the state, the Southeastern states, and the nation with her substantial work with the American Library Association.  Her career spanned the years from 1914 through 1955, always able to think ahead of her times.

After being invited in 1916 to become the Director of the Lawson McGhee Library of Knoxville, Tennessee, she oversaw the building of a Carnegie-funded branch library for the Negro community who were not allowed by southern custom to use the main library in Knoxville (1918).

In 1933 she created the idea of regional library services to help local communities establish public libraries. This idea evolved into the present-day Tennessee Regional Library System.

During this time, she accepted a position as Supervisor of Library Services with the Tennessee Valley Authority where she was responsible for building library book boxes and using bookmobiles to distribute reading materials to the workers building the TVA dams, fulfilling her slogan of Taking the Library to the Worker.”

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27th March, 2014

Leaonead Pack Drain-Bailey


Today’s submission comes from Lorna Peterson, PhD, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, Graduate School of Education, Department of Library and Information Studies. Last year, Lorna wrote our post on Clara Stanton Jones.

The image is courtesy of West Virginia State University Archives, Institute West Virginia.

Leaonead Pack Drain-Bailey was born January 28, 1906 in Summers County, West Virginia.  Leaonead Pack married Robert Drain in 1924, changing her name to Leaonead Pack Drain. She was a graduate of the historically black West Virginia State College in 1927 and shortly thereafter became its librarian. In 1929 she earned her library degree from the University of Illinois. She is listed as Acting Librarian in Workers in Subjects Pertaining to Agriculture in Land-grant Colleges and Experiment Stations by Betty Thomas Richardson (1994).

Credited as instrumental in building the collection and laying the foundation for future librarians, the West Virginia State University (formerly West Virginia State College) Library was renamed the Drain-Jordan Library in her honor and that of Lawrence Victor Jordan.  

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26th March, 2014

Ina Coolbrith

Paula Lichtenberg, a retired law librarian, told us about Ina Coolbrith, saying

Ina Coolbrith, California’s first public librarian, mentored many children at the Oakland Public Library, including the young Jack London and Isadora Duncan.  She was also librarian at the Bohemian Club, the exclusive men’s club and the first poet laureate of California (or any state).

(She also was a niece of Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter Day Saints, but although she left the church in her youth, she kept that fact hidden during her lifetime.)

Here’s a longer biographical sketch of Ina Coolbrith by Janice Albert:

The third act of Ina’s life began in September 1873 when she was named librarian of the Oakland Free Library with a salary of $80 a month. During the next nearly twenty years, she exercised her influence on Oakland’s young people, and this is the period during which she befriended a young, impoverished, impressionable Jack London. Her own writing suffered, and was dealt an irretrievable blow in 1906 when her apartment at 1604 Taylor, together with all her notes, burned in the great fire. Coolbrith abandoned hopes of writing her autobiography, which would have been a singular record of a precious time. She was afraid of telling the truth, for fear of shocking, and afraid of holding back for fear of boring the reader. Instead, she devoted herself to organizing and conducting salons. Like that of many women, her legacy was to be felt in her influence on others.

The image above is from the Wikimedia Commons.

25th March, 2014

Suzine Har Nicolescu


This post was submitted by Jeremiah Paschke-Wood (University of Louisiana at Lafayette). It was previously published as part of a retrospective for APALA.

Suzine Har Nicolescu was born March 21, 1931 in Seoul, Korea. A lover of language and the arts, she received a Bachelor’s in English Language/Literature and Fine Arts at Ewha Womans University in Seoul before moving to the United States. There she received her Master’s in Modern Languages/Literature and Comparative Linguistics from the University of Denver, where she also obtained her Master’s in Library Science. She would eventually add a Ph.D. in Library Information Systems from Simmons College.

After beginning her career in the library field as a foreign languages cataloger/bibliographer at the University of Denver, Nicolescu made stops at Illinois State UniversityStony Brook University and The City College of New York before assuming the role of instructor/chief of instructional services at CUNY Medgar Evers College, where she would also serve as registrar, director of information systems, chief librarian and director of library services before retiring in 1999.

At the time of her retirement, Dr. Nicolescu was one of only 30 Asian American directors in the United States. Nicolescu was also active in ALA, ACRL, LLAMA, American Library Trustees Association, International Relations Round Table, and various other round tables and regional and state associations. She was president of APALA in 1985-1986.

Dr. Nicolescu was a proponent of dealing with discrimination with patience, objectivity and effort (Yamashita, 2000, pg. 99). She wrote articles and made presentations internationally on the topic of multicultural librarianship, including an article on the formation and goals of APALA for the journal Ethnic Forum and co-authored “Needs Assessment Study of Library Information Service for Asian American Community Members in the United States” with Henry Chang.

In his history of APALA and its founders, Dr. Kenneth Yamashita said, “Her Asian ancestry espoused the advantages of hard work and perseverance, influencing her artistic ability, and sustained the ethical and moral values in her relationship with others.” (2000, pg. 99)

Dr. Suzine Har Nicolescu passed away Feb. 22, 2013 at the age of 81 in Chevy Chase, Maryland.


Yamashita, K. (2000). Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association—A history of APALA and its founders. Library Trends49(1), 88-109. Last retrieved April 7, 2013, from: http://www.apalaweb.org/wpsandbox/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/apalahistory.pdf

24th March, 2014

Cornelia Marvin Pierce

People wanted books.” —Cornelia Marvin Pierce


Today’s post comes from Lindsey Stafford, a reference librarian at Clackamas Community College. The image is, fittingly, from the Oregon State Library. Last year, we featured a post about Mary Frances Isom, who was credited with convincing Cornelia Marvin Pierce to come to Oregon!

Cornelia Marvin Pearce was Oregon’s first State Librarian, an advocate for libraries and public education who made important and lasting contributions to libraries throughout the state of Oregon.  

Pearce completed school in 1895 and, after working in libraries throughout the Midwest, relocated to Salem, Oregon in 1905, when she was 31, to head up what would become the Oregon State Library.

When she arrived in Salem, the state only had three free public libraries. Pierce believed in the value of public library service for everyone, and traveled by wagon to meet with any group of people that would listen about the need for the expansion of public libraries in Oregon.

During the course of her position as State Library director, “a hundred or more” public libraries opened throughout Oregon. She also developed traveling libraries to serve rural areas, a free legislative reference service, and recommended reading lists related to legislative issues.

Sources and further reading:

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