women at library


(c.360-415) Astronomer and mathematician

Hypatia was one of the first women to study mathematics and astronomy. She rose to become the head of the Neo-Platonic school in Alexandria. She was murdered by Christian zealots who essentially objected to her voicing opinions on a conflict between church and state. Nothing from her extensive body of written work is known to survive. She is the inventor of the hydrometer, still used today as a device to measure specific gravity in liquids.

This is number 30 in an ongoing series celebrating remarkable women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Your daily reminder that librarianship has always been political.

Since there’s another “librarians! they’re usually so quiet! but suddenly politics!” article making the rounds, this seems necessary. And because I’m a librarian, I’ve got evidence.

Our archives are full of stories that attest to our active, often-radical past. I’ve previously highlighted several individuals who could have been your grandmother’s radical librarian; here are some additional efforts:

A statewide effort to create libraries in Wyoming counted among its aims universal education for children, and extended education for adults; moral reform through temperance; and the basic belief that every resident of a democratic society deserves access to books.

Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley “authored many works and compiled many bibliographies that document and anthologize a legacy of African American literature and writing. She was known for finding and discovering previously unknown materials, often by collecting bags of items from community members.” She developed one of the country’s strongest research collections about people of African descent.

At the 1974 ALA Preconference on Women, librarians including Diane Gordon Kadanoff “crafted [resolutions that] established an activist climate for female librarians and set the stage for subsequent changes to the face of the Association and the profession. Eight resolutions to combat sexism and discrimination against women within ALA and in libraries were written at the preconference and submitted at Council and Membership meetings during the ALA Annual Conference in New York City a few days later.”

Pura Belpré’s “commitment and advocacy to bridge her Puerto Rican community to the library, and vice versa, showcases the roots of critical children’s librarianship and inclusion, and not assimilation, of marginalized voices into the field.”

”When the Nazis began isolating Jews into ghettos, [Dina] Abramowicz served as a librarian in the ghetto library. Abramowicz escaped from a work camp and was active in the Jewish resistance before she made her way to New York.”

When Clara Stanton Jones was appointed director of Detroit Public Library, “[t]wo library board members quit in protest but she was supported by the United Auto Workers and a coalition of progressive businessmen. Her legacy with DPL was the delivering of services to nontraditional library users.”


Happy Birthday Jane Austen! (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817)

From our stacks; Cover and end pages from Love & Freindship and Other Early Works. Now first published from the original Ms. by Jane Austen with a preface by G. K. Chesterton.  New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1922.

I think there is a certain age, for women, when you become fearless. It may be a different age for every woman, I don’t know. It’s not that you stop fearing things: I’m still afraid of heights, for example. Or rather, of falling — heights aren’t the problem. But you stop fearing life itself. It’s when you become fearless in that way that you decide to live. Perhaps it’s when you come to the realization that the point of life isn’t to be rich, or secure, or even to be loved — to be any of the things that people usually think is the point. The point of life is to live as deeply as possible, to experience fully. And that can be done in so many ways.