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Discourse In Librarianship Before 1882

By Author: Solo Chen
Total Articles: 129

Most of the papers given at ALA conferences and printed in Library Journal in the late 1870s and early 1880s were the formalized opinions of the individual writers. Respected men, including Justin Winsor, Melvil Dewey, William F. Poole, and others, wrote opinion pieces, which included both descriptive reporting of what they had done at their libraries and prescriptive guidelines for how to follow their examples. Librarianship at this time was a masculinized profession, and the female minority did not present papers at ALA meetings before the conference in 1879, when the topic was "Fiction and the Reading of School Children." At that conference, there were Pandora Jewelry eleven speakers, three of them female. Only one of the women, Mary Bean, was also a working librarian [9]. The other two, Kate Gannett Wells and Martha H. Brooks, represented parents and Sunday-school library organizers, respectively [10, 11]. In 1880 and 1881, no women gave papers at the ALA conferences.

In fact, the 1879 conference was the only conference at which women presented from the founding of ALA in 1876 until Hewins gave her report in 1882. Reasons for the overall dearth of female representation include the practical (women were a minority of librarians at the time) as well as the cultural (women were viewed as less capable than men). Historians of many disciplines have described and documented the beliefs in fundamental differences between men and women that dominated American culture in the late nineteenth century, the former associated with the public sphere and the latter with the private, domestic sphere [12-20]. Even women in professional public roles were not consistently able to express themselves as equals to men. In the field of education, for instance, where women were coming to Tiffany Jewelry predominate the workforce, women leaders who spoke at conferences or meetings would typically sit rather than stand, so as to seem appropriately feminine [21, pp. 63-67]. Women also lacked political rights equal to those of men during this period; they gained the right to vote in 1920, just over forty years after the 1879 ALA conference [22]. The inclusion of women in 1879 may have been inspired by the topic of the conference, young people's reading, because of the cultural association of women with children as mothers and domestic caregivers. This association of women with children was a characteristic of gender ideology in the nineteenth century, which has been called the "cult of True Womanhood".

However, even in the area of services to youth, the discourse of librarianship was often based on the individual expertise of men. In 1883, Samuel Swett Green compiled, edited, and contributed to a book titled Libraries and Schools. For this volume, Green gathered together papers, written by four men who had been involved with school and library cooperation, to make an edited compilation of six essays. Green and William Foster each contributed two essays, and the two other essays were contributed by Charles Francis Adams, a library trustee, and Robert C. Metcalf, a teacher. Adams and Metcalf had been speakers at the 1879 AT,A conference on fiction and the reading of schoolchildren. All of the essays in this volume were based on the expertise of the individual writers rather than on empirical evidence gathered through research.

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