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June 8, 2024 42 mins

Almost as soon as public libraries began flourishing, librarian quickly became one of the most female-dominated jobs in the country. In this classic, Cristen and Caroline break down was being a librarian was really like back in the day and the badass women who've shaped these community centers of learning and culture.

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Speaker 1 (00:05):
Hey, this is Annie and Samantha.

Speaker 2 (00:06):
I'm welcome to stuff I've Never told you, a production
of iHeartRadio, and we're back with part two of our classic.

Speaker 1 (00:20):
On a librarians Now.

Speaker 2 (00:23):
If you're wondering, if you haven't heard the previous classic,
most librarians are women. There is a history of why
that is, and that's what was broken down in these
I will say, looking back for me, almost all the
librarianes I've interacted with were women. Me too, Yeah, and

they were great. They were always so like knowledgeable and
welcoming and excited. They had recommendations, which I love. I'm
just a really big fan. But part of why we're
bringing this back is because book banning has really gotten
much worse since we last talked about it, which was
a year ago twenty twenty three, and librarians are in

many ways bearing the brunt of it. They're having to
speak it like council meetings, government council meetings and having
their funding slashed and having people say these really horrible
things about them that are unfounded and just based in
a lot of like hate groups saying attack the librarians,

which I think should say something. That's always a bad
sign when like your public information and knowledge and people
who are helping Stewart that are being attacked, so we
should pay attention to that in that vein. Please enjoy
this classic episode.

Speaker 3 (01:53):
Welcome to Stuff Mom Never Told You from houstuff works
dot com.

Speaker 1 (02:02):
Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Kristen and I'm Caroline.

Speaker 4 (02:05):
And welcome back to our conversation about librarians.

Speaker 5 (02:09):
Yes, pour yourself a library beverage, which you won't get
that joke if you missed our first.

Speaker 4 (02:15):
Episode, but in case you're wondering, it is lime, BlackBerry.

Speaker 1 (02:19):
And gin and maybe a little bit of fizzy water.

Speaker 6 (02:22):
Totally fizzywater ever ice.

Speaker 1 (02:25):
It's our new summer cocktail. That's right.

Speaker 4 (02:27):
So in our last episode, we talked about the original
librarians in the original librarian stereotype, which was a white, fusty,
curmudgeonly fellow.

Speaker 6 (02:38):
Right picture Giles from Buffy, but not as cool.

Speaker 1 (02:43):
Yeah, totally not as cool.

Speaker 4 (02:45):
If Melville Dewey had been Buffy's watcher, ooh, it would
have gotten real creepy or real fat.

Speaker 6 (02:51):
It would have been the worst. I'm putting that image
out of my brain immediately.

Speaker 1 (02:55):
He would have been like literally like watching her all
the time outside her windows.

Speaker 6 (02:59):
Just like hugging, like no, I'm friendly, I'm friendly. This
isn't creepy.

Speaker 1 (03:02):
Maybe that was such a rough fight.

Speaker 6 (03:04):
Let me just don't tell anyone I did this.

Speaker 1 (03:07):
So in case you're completely lost right now, don't worry.

Speaker 4 (03:10):
It's all explained in the previous episode because Melville Dewey
of the Dewey decimal system is a big reason why
librarianship became so quickly feminized and remains feminized.

Speaker 1 (03:27):
Like we said in our last.

Speaker 4 (03:28):
Episode, today, more than eighty percent of all librarians are women.

Speaker 1 (03:33):
It's mostly white women.

Speaker 4 (03:36):
Women of color comprise less than sixteen percent of all librarians.
And we're going to get into diversity later on in
the podcast, but in this episode, we want to focus
on what was happening with the women as Dewey and
his cohorts were standardizing this profession and quotes, and I

say in quotes because there was this whole debate and
kind of remains a debate as to whether or not
librarianship is a profession.

Speaker 6 (04:09):
Yeah, like a profession like a lawyer versus a service
oriented job exactly. Yeah, And a lot of this information
is coming from this fabulous paper we read called The
Tender Technicians, not Tender the Tender, The Tender Technicians, the
feminization of public librarianship.

Speaker 1 (04:29):
It's basically sminty in a paper.

Speaker 6 (04:33):
It's so fascinating and full of really incredible detail about
gender dynamics and anxieties about gender in librarianship.

Speaker 4 (04:45):
Yeah, there's so many intersections of gender, class, raise, sexuality
going on.

Speaker 1 (04:51):
In the development of librarianship.

Speaker 4 (04:53):
And now I will think of that every time a
I smell that book smell love it, which is one
of my favorite smells. Wish then instead of the new
car smell, I could get a car that just smells
like a library.

Speaker 1 (05:06):
It's that old, that old book smell.

Speaker 6 (05:08):
And you just had a book in your car at
all times that you could rest your face on.

Speaker 1 (05:13):
Am I the only one who likes to snuggle a book?
It's pages? Never mind?

Speaker 6 (05:17):
Anyway, what I was going to say is that.

Speaker 5 (05:22):
We we move after after the Civil War, we move
from the stereotypical librarian being a curmudgeonly upper class white.

Speaker 6 (05:33):
Guy to it being a spinster woman. And so what
was going on. Basically, libraries were opening very quickly, as
we discussed in our last episode. They needed workers, and
they needed them cheaply, and as happens with so many
fields and industries in the world, in this country, they

looked at women as a bargain.

Speaker 4 (06:01):
Yeah, women were absolutely a bargain because there were very
few job opportunities for women at the time. And at
the time we're talking about is the late eighteen seventies
into the turn of the century.

Speaker 1 (06:16):
So this is the period when the guys at.

Speaker 4 (06:20):
The top, Dewey at all, are really trying to professionalize things.
But parallel to the development of the public school system,
they can't get teachers or librarians fast enough. Because of
industrialization and urbanization, men are being attracted to different kinds
of jobs and entrepreneurialism. So who's a bargain. Women are

a bargain. And by eighteen seventy eight, two thirds of
library workers in terms of the clerks and assistants, were women.
And it's no surprise because libraries tended to have pretty
small budgets. They had to be thrifty with what they
had from taxes and endowments. And in an eighteen seventy

six article titled how to make Town Libraries Successful, one
of the tips was quote, women should be employed as
librarians and assistants as far as possible, essentially as far
up the ranks as possible.

Speaker 6 (07:25):
Yeah, it's crazy to me to read about women as.

Speaker 1 (07:31):

Speaker 6 (07:32):
I mean, I know I'm saying that as a co
host of Sminty and so I should be used to that.
But like, literally, women aren't discussed as, oh, they're a
great investment because they're hard workers, or they're so smart,
or like they go to a fabulous all women library schools.
It's literally like, get those women bodied people in here
because they are so cheap.

Speaker 4 (07:54):
Yeah, and you'll get a lot of bang for your buck,
whereas if you hire a man cheaply. And this is
a according to this eighteen seventy six article, this is
me not just going off the mouth.

Speaker 1 (08:04):
If you hire a.

Speaker 4 (08:05):
Man at the same rate, you're not going to get
as much work out of him because these are as
the title of the paper says, they have a tender technicians. Again,
not to be confused with the tender technicians, because that's
another podcast. And this kind of work, like being a secretary,

like being a teacher, but even more so, was considered
respectable and very women appropriate because books equaled culture, and
thus it was within women's separate sphere during this Victorian.

Speaker 6 (08:42):
Era, right because, as we discussed in our last episode,
we had moved away from the masculine ideal being the elite, genteel,
non working man, the man who sat around with his
bubble pipe at home. Now we have the ideal masculinity
being the self made hardware man. And so you have

a job where, yes you have to leave the house,
but it's now so much better suited to complimenting what
masculinity was perceived to be at the time. So you
have women being the overseers of culture, working in quiet libraries,
and it was perceived to be this great position, even

more so than teaching, because you didn't have to breathe
that bad air of those stifled classrooms. And again not
my words words of the time, you didn't have to
be around dirty children all day, and you didn't have
to put in.

Speaker 1 (09:37):
All of that hard mental and physical work.

Speaker 4 (09:39):
Well, and as we talk about in our episode for
a while back on the feminization of teaching, like ye
oldie public schools were kind of intense sometimes, like because
you would have these untrained women teachers coming in with
students of all ages, sometimes who were a larger and

taller than them, and it could be physically exacting to
manage a classroom. Oh yeah, because you have, of course,
like all different grades smushed together, but not so in
a library.

Speaker 1 (10:15):
And the way that.

Speaker 4 (10:17):
Libraries were even advertised was as domestic spaces, because these
were public facing roles where people would come in and
you would be, you know, obviously like guiding them to
the kinds of books and learning. There was the benevolent
feminine mission of libraries. So on the one hand, it's

good that libraries were so welcoming to women because it
gave them job opportunities, but on the other hand, because
it's so neatly fit into that Victorian womanhood idea that
it really handicapped them from asserting equal status with men

since they were essentially conforming in this role.

Speaker 6 (11:09):
Yeah, and it's no surprise that the first children's libraries
and reading rooms that this country saw were overseen by women.
And you know, we read stories too about women in
the progressive era who ran reading rooms in like tenement
housing and settlement housing, who really dedicated themselves to the
moral and social uplift of either the lower classes or immigrants.

Speaker 1 (11:34):
Or both through reading.

Speaker 6 (11:37):
There was one woman in I wish I could remember
her story, but there was one woman in Boston who
established the Saturday what was it called the Saturday Evening
Girls Club. Yes, and I mean it was as cool
as it sounds. I'm gonna say that it sounded cool
to me. And it literally brought poorer young women together

of all different backgrounds, Jewish girls, Italian girls, you know
who might Irish girls who might not meet at church
or at school because they are so separated by neighborhood.
They were able to come together in these library clubs
that started popping up in Boston. And they were I mean,
they took dance lessons, they obviously focused a lot on

reading and literature and literacy, and it gave so many
girls an opportunity to be out of the house learning
rather than holding down a job at fourteen.

Speaker 4 (12:34):
Well, and that's the catch twenty two of this whole thing,
because yes, you have like the restriction of all of
the gender norms that were kind of heaped upon this
particular occupation, but like the importance of their work, like
can't be emphasized enough.

Speaker 6 (12:55):
Well, and it's also the fact that you know, we
don't have to tell you this, fair, listeners, but masculine
is the norm in our society. And so even with
the important roles that these librarians were playing, because they
were pursuing a quote unquote more feminine way of doing things,

it was easier to dismiss.

Speaker 4 (13:18):
Yeah, I mean, and they didn't really have any power
within the profession either, which leads us to how some
women were totally aware that the system was rigged. In
eighteen ninety one, we have Caroline Hwans raising the quote
unquote woman question at a meeting of the American Library Association,

which means that she was essentially getting up to a
room mostly filled with men, saying, Okay, I'm a little
concerned because women make between three hundred and nine hundred
dollars per year. That's not a lot in case you
were wondering, And she said, librarians, you know, we aren't

considered like that valuable. Yet we write for six to
seven hours a day. We have to know multiple language
and quote understand the relation of all arts and sciences
to each other, and must have a minute acquaintance with geography, history, art,
and literature. And she said, in order to avoid just

exhaustion and break down humans, says, I mean, we just
have to make sure we sleep and we eat well.
And I also recommend a two to three mile walk every.

Speaker 6 (14:35):
Day, which, hey, listeners, Kristen, if you can figure out
how to do all of this stuff in a day,
let me know, because I don't see how you can
have all of these things.

Speaker 1 (14:45):
Yeah, we do a lot. This is more than that.

Speaker 4 (14:48):
And one thing that came to mind when I was
reading Hwans's account of having to understand the interrelatedness of
all those different subject matters knowing all these languages is
the comedy from the nineteen fifties called Desk Set, which
is on Netflix listeners, and it's fantastic if you haven't
seen it. It stars Katherine Hepburn and she is the

head of this team of reference librarians and they were
essentially human Googles because computers did not exist. And these
women are brilliant because essentially their job is to answer
telephones of you know, people in the building needing to
know answers to their questions and like really esoteric kind

of stuff, and these women would just.

Speaker 1 (15:35):
Rattle it off immediately because.

Speaker 4 (15:37):
They knew all of these subject matters they're brilliant. So
going back to eighteen ninety one, I mean humans and
her cohorts were in a way like human computers.

Speaker 6 (15:50):
Yeah, and so you know, it sounds like with Hwans's
argument saying we're not paid enough and yet we do
all of this stuff, which is clearly being I have
to be brilliant, I have to work really hard, I
have to be on all the time I'm.

Speaker 1 (16:05):
Doing all of this work.

Speaker 6 (16:06):
That sounds like an argument for a professional field. It
does not sound like an argument for a service oriented occupation.
And I'm not in any way disparaging service industry work.
But what I'm saying is that librarianship is strange and
that it exists in that sort of weird twilight area,
that gray area between professionalism and well in perception at least,

and in pay, between professionalism and service industry.

Speaker 4 (16:36):
And it's understandable that if those overworked and underpaid women
at that time wanted to climb the very limited ranks,
they would remain unmarried. It was really only the spinsters
who could succeed.

Speaker 1 (16:54):
So by nineteen hundred to nineteen oh.

Speaker 4 (16:56):
Five, the prudish, withdrawn life lady librarian stereotype was firmly entrenched.

Speaker 1 (17:03):
It took no time at all.

Speaker 6 (17:05):
Well yeah, and I mean keep in mind this earrow
burrows that's happening right here, because women, socially and a
lot of times according to the rules of the company,
granted retirement libraries.

Speaker 1 (17:18):
But once you got.

Speaker 6 (17:19):
Married, you typically couldn't hold a job anymore. You were
expected to return to your home and cook for your
husband and whatever whatever, be a housewife, exactly like it
was with teaching, exactly. And so the women who remained
in the profession and wanted to stay dedicated, wanted to
rise through the ranks, didn't want to leave having a

job that they loved, presumably. Well, of course, they were
then considered spinsters because they weren't married. And so it's
just like a cycle of like, well, wait, that society
is creating this trap, and then you're.

Speaker 1 (17:52):
Punishing women for it.

Speaker 6 (17:54):
You're punishing women for being the undesirable, crotchety spinsters, when
in reality, if they had wanted to keep their job,
they can't get married.

Speaker 4 (18:04):
Yeah, and hence we fast forward to It's a wonderful life.
And if George Bailey hadn't married Mary, she would have
become that spinster librarian. That was her punishment. I remember
watching that as a kid and being like, but I
like librarians. Huh, she's so scary. Why she's so scary.

Speaker 1 (18:24):
I'm gonna knit something.

Speaker 6 (18:26):
It's the table's returning conger.

Speaker 1 (18:28):
You've never seen. It's a wonderful life. I've never seen.
It's a wonderful life.

Speaker 4 (18:32):
Okay, listeners, and case you're relatively new to the podcast,
my pop cultural knowledge spans from about like nineteen forty
to nineteen sixty.

Speaker 1 (18:41):
I almost just inhaled my water.

Speaker 4 (18:47):
You've still got a lot on me.

Speaker 6 (18:50):
Yeah, well yeah, my nineties witch comedies or dramas whatever.

Speaker 4 (18:57):
Although I'm finally watching Buffy the Vampires lare, I feel
like I'm really.

Speaker 1 (19:01):
Reclaiming my youth, my lost youth.

Speaker 6 (19:04):

Speaker 4 (19:05):
So, by the nineteen thirties, librarianship was ninety percent female
and second only to public school teaching as the most
feminized job in America.

Speaker 6 (19:17):
Yes, basically, women could be teachers, librarians, or nurses.

Speaker 4 (19:19):
Or secretaries or secretaries until they got married, in which
case sometimes by law, they had to quit their jobs.

Speaker 1 (19:26):
Yeah. So womaning is great.

Speaker 4 (19:29):
Yeah, but well, next up we're going to talk about
some amazing women who are like, Okay, I see you
cultural confines, and I will raise you my brain, my
library code.

Speaker 6 (19:50):
So in our last episode, which we're not going to
rehash every reason why Dewey is super creepy, Melville Dewey
the father of modern librarianship. But despite the fact that
he was a creep, he did draw so many women
into the profession. He was the one who really sparked
the feminization of librarianship. And again, despite his general shadiness,

because he trained so many women and he expected such
brilliance and hard work and efficiency, robotic efficiency, he did
have some pretty brilliant women emerge from his teaching.

Speaker 4 (20:30):
So we wanted to highlight three of them, starting with
Mary Salome Cutler, who became a head cataloger at the
Columbia Library in eighteen eighty nine. And that's a pretty
big deal considering how Columbia University was all men at
the time. Now, eighteen eighty nine was also the year

that Dewey resigned from Columbia University because they were like Dewey.

Speaker 1 (20:57):
We don't want all these women around.

Speaker 4 (20:59):
So Cutler had to leave her job, and she followed
Dewey actually too his newly established New York State Library School,
and I want to say that she was actually in
his very first class. And in eighteen ninety three she
chaired the American Library Association's committee to build the model

library for the World's Columbian Exposition. And that doesn't sound
like a big deal, perhaps to modern ears.

Speaker 1 (21:28):
But it was quite a big deal. It was a
big deal.

Speaker 6 (21:32):
The exposition was where you showed off new advancements and
innovations and peered into what might be in the future.

Speaker 1 (21:41):
Shelves of books look at it.

Speaker 4 (21:43):
But it was a pretty controversial move because Dewey was like, dudes,
I want Cutler to had this committee, and they were.

Speaker 1 (21:52):
Like, d Dewey, but we hate girls. Look at the
sign it says no girls allowed. And Due was like,
I only likes I'm leaving this treehouse.

Speaker 6 (22:02):
And then the second woman we wanted to highlight is
Mary Wright Plumber.

Speaker 1 (22:05):
She helped establish the Pratt Institute's.

Speaker 6 (22:08):
Free Library and pioneered library children's rooms, among of course
a lot of other amazing stuff, and became the American
Library Association president in nineteen fifteen.

Speaker 4 (22:20):
And even though she was one of Dewey's earliest students, plumber,
as we talked about in the previous episode.

Speaker 1 (22:27):
When she became ALA President, she was.

Speaker 4 (22:30):
Like, Okay, well, now that I'm in a position of power,
guess what, Dewey.

Speaker 1 (22:36):
I'm not gonna I'm not gonna meet with you. Yeah no,
be it out of here.

Speaker 6 (22:39):
Yeah, you guys goes in another episode if you haven't.
And then we have to talk about Katherine Sharp, Catherine L. Sharp,
who was such a whiz. When Dewey was asked for
the best man to start a library program at Chicago's
Armor Institute, Dewey said that the best man is a woman,
which to me sounds like such a romantic comedy line,

except that Dewey is super creepy and I would not
want to see a character based on him in a
rom comm And Sharp actually became director of the University
of Illinois's library program and the university's library And you
know that doesn't sound like, oh okay, university librarian great,
but no, like, there were cast systems in place almost

for librarians, and university or academic libraries were seen as
such a big deal compared to your smaller local libraries.

Speaker 4 (23:28):
Well in, University of Illinois apparently still has one of
the most renowned library science programs in the US. So, oh,
catherinell Sharp did a good job because she was their
first director and she set up everything being a dual
director of an academic program and a library.

Speaker 1 (23:48):

Speaker 6 (23:49):
Well, she did such a good job that she actually
retired in nineteen oh seven because quote, it was crushing
the human element.

Speaker 1 (23:55):
Out of her life. Yeah, so she wrote that in
her resignation Life Our Lord.

Speaker 6 (24:00):
Yeah, so that's burnout. So then I recommend you go
listen to our episode with Emily Airis of bost Up
on Burnout.

Speaker 4 (24:07):
Well, I mean, but that just goes to show what
Caroline Hewans was talking about in eighteen ninety one, like,
we are doing so much and catherinell Sharp surely didn't
have time for a two to three mile walk every day.

Speaker 6 (24:22):
No, who does.

Speaker 4 (24:24):
So there were these women who were so dedicated to
the job and really passionate about this work and obviously innovative,
just as innovative.

Speaker 1 (24:36):
As Dewey was. And all of our.

Speaker 4 (24:41):
Librarian history that we've talked about, even in the last
episode and up till now, has been exclusively about white folks. Yeah,
and even today the profession is largely white. But you
know who else was trailblazing as all of this was
going on, even though they were very much shoved to

the side.

Speaker 1 (25:04):
Or African Americans.

Speaker 6 (25:06):
Yeah, that's right. There is such a rich history around
African American library culture in this country, but it tends to,
like so many things around diversity in this country, just
not be discussed as much.

Speaker 1 (25:19):

Speaker 4 (25:19):
So Philadelphia is home to both the Reading Room Society,
which was the first social library for African Americans, which
was established in eighteen twenty eight, and the Female Literary Society,
which was established in eighteen thirty one, which was the
first social library for black women.

Speaker 1 (25:40):
So Philadelphia got it going on right.

Speaker 6 (25:44):
Which just Philadelphia just makes me want to start singing
the fresh Print song.

Speaker 1 (25:48):
Me too, I got to start it, I know, I
held back. I did too.

Speaker 6 (25:51):
I did two conger where I feel like we're growing up, although.

Speaker 4 (25:55):
I really want to grown up from our fresh Prince,
Fresh Prince days.

Speaker 6 (26:00):
But it wasn't until nineteen oh four that in Hnderson, Kentucky,
we get a one room annex opening at the rear
of the eighth Street.

Speaker 1 (26:08):
Colored School to serve as a library.

Speaker 6 (26:11):
This is the first structure built specifically to offer public
library services to African.

Speaker 4 (26:17):
Americans, whereas the first white essentially public library tax supported
library had been established all the way back in eighteen
thirty three, and you would have little kind of blacks
only library rooms popping up here and there that would
have been privately funded or funded through churches, but this

was the first one supported by public tax dollars. And
the thing is as lofty as public libraries original goals
were in terms of enriching the entire community, what they
really meant at the time was the white community.

Speaker 1 (26:57):
Because libraries were segregated.

Speaker 6 (27:00):
Yeah, and so what do you do when you're unwelcome
in essentially a public facility that says we don't want
you or won't serve you.

Speaker 1 (27:08):
You start your own organizations.

Speaker 6 (27:11):
And so you have Molly Lee Houston, who established a
library for African Americans in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Speaker 4 (27:18):
And this would have been happening around the same time
as women's clubs popping up in African American communities and
progressive era ideals of lifting as you climb and providing
these kinds of services and particularly literacy for this community
that was coming out of the grips of slavery. So

fast forward to nineteen twenty eight, and we have the
West Virginia Supreme Court ruling that Charleston libraries cannot exclude
black patrons since as taxpayers.

Speaker 1 (27:54):
They're equally entitled to library service.

Speaker 4 (27:58):
But it wasn't until nineteen fifty fo were Supreme Court
ruling in Brown versus Board of Education that across the
country you have separate but equal being outlawed in those
public spaces like schools, but also libraries. We never hear
about civil rights and libraries.

Speaker 6 (28:16):
I feel like, yeah, I know, people just think libraries
are nothing but super quiet spaces where nothing ever happens.
But so much happened, right, I mean, they became another
yet another site of civil rights sit ins for integration,
like integration in reality, not just the legal dismantling of segregation,
actually legitimately integrating libraries. In nineteen sixty three, for instance,

a white mob attacked two black men who were just
trying to get library cards in Aniston, Alabama.

Speaker 4 (28:48):
I read that and just wanted to throw my laptop
out the window. I mean, because if like that crystallizes
so much like the level of deep sea racist hatred,
that you would want to attack someone for getting a
library card.

Speaker 1 (29:07):
Like it's horrifying.

Speaker 4 (29:10):
So, not surprisingly these were sites of protests. But to
its credit, the American Library Association was on record as
pro integration. And I think it was actually in the
fifties that they held their first meeting in the South,
because initially they had been kind of nervous about racial

tensions in the South.

Speaker 1 (29:33):
But they amended their Library Bill of Rights, which how
cute is that? That's really sweet?

Speaker 4 (29:41):
But they amended the Library Bill of Rights in the
early sixties to codify its stance saying like, you cannot
exclude people on the basis of race from entering these
places of public learning.

Speaker 6 (29:56):
Yeah, and I mean not everyone was terrible. You have
during the civil rights era, twenty five freedom libraries that
were established in Mississippi by volunteer civil rights advocating librarians.

Speaker 4 (30:08):
Talk about some superheroes, and anyone listening who knows more
about these freedom libraries please write to us mom stuff
at houstuffworks dot com. Because this was we found this
information on the American Library Association's website, so to me,
that means it's legit. But when I started doing more

research trying to find out more about freedom libraries, because hello,
how cool? Is that I couldn't find anything else because
so much of our popular civil rights history is focused
on desegregating schools.

Speaker 1 (30:42):
And things like that.

Speaker 4 (30:43):
So if anyone knows anything, I want to know because
I just want to be able to give those librarians
their druthers.

Speaker 6 (30:51):
Yeah, and what is so fabulous about this is that
when we talk about the history of African Americans, when
we talk about the history of black people in this country, so.

Speaker 1 (31:01):
Much is lost. We don't have some of the.

Speaker 6 (31:04):
Names the amount of names that we do from pioneering
white people, even pioneering white women. But we are so
happy to be able to give you a few names
of some badass black librarians who led the way.

Speaker 4 (31:18):
So in nineteen twenty three, you have bibliotherapy pioneer Sadie
Peterson Delaney, who establishes the library in the Veterans' Hospital
in Tuskegee, Alabama, for recuperating black soldiers.

Speaker 1 (31:32):
And I had not heard the term.

Speaker 4 (31:34):
Bibliotherapy before, Caroline, but it makes total sense. So Delaney
realized that there are therapeutic benefits to reading, and she
specifically sought out African American focused reading material at the time,
which in nineteen twenty.

Speaker 1 (31:52):
Three was a bit of a task, but she did
it because.

Speaker 4 (31:57):
She knew how important haveing that inspirational literature would be
for these soldiers. Who I mean, they're coming back home,
they're injured, but they're coming back to a prejudice society,
even after they fought for their country.

Speaker 5 (32:16):

Speaker 6 (32:16):
And another incredible woman carving out of space for African
American readers is Vivian G. Harsh, who in nineteen thirty
two was Chicago's first black librarian and she established a
world renowned research collection of African American history and literature
that is still at the Chicago Library. It's still in existence,

and according to a biographical source on Vivian Harsh, this
library that she established became quote a mecca for literary
and cultural icons of the period, including Richard Wright, Lanston Hughes, Zorain,
Neil Hirston, and Gwendolyn Brooks, some of whom even contributed
manuscripts to the institution.

Speaker 1 (32:57):
And Vivian G.

Speaker 4 (32:58):
Harsh is someone who we could go go back and
do an entire podcast on because she's one of the
most important librarians in American history. Because she made it
her mission to essentially preserve African American culture, and is
considered one of the reasons why the uh like Chicago

Black Renaissance happened because there were she essentially like set
up this whole repository, this cultural center, saying look here,
here we are, here is here all of the things
that we've produced, here's our history, all those things that
otherwise would have been marginalized or completely lost.

Speaker 1 (33:40):
And not too far away from Vivian G.

Speaker 4 (33:42):
Harsh in Detroit, a little bit later, you have Clara
Stanton Jones, who became the first woman and African American
to serve as director of Detroit's Public Library, despite white
public protests. They're like, no, how could I, how gonna
an African American woman be serving in this role? But

thankfully she was able to claim her post and later
went on to become the first African American president of
the American Library Association, And in nineteen seventy eight, she
was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the National Commission
on Libraries and Information Science, where she served until nineteen

eighty two.

Speaker 1 (34:26):
So, in other words, she was a big deal.

Speaker 6 (34:30):
Yeah, and I love that. When MSS magazine in two
thousand and three was recognizing the contributions of incredible women
to this country. They looked to Carla Diane Hayden, who
was the second African American president of the ALA, and
she basically her reaction was basically like who me? And

she told the magazine, when people ask what's unusual about
me being the ALA's president, the first thing that comes
to mind is that I'm African American. But really what's
more significant is that I'm a woman, Because even though
it's a female dominated field, most library directors are men.

Speaker 4 (35:08):
And thus these two episodes have come full circle.

Speaker 6 (35:12):
Yeah, and the hierarchy is still in place.

Speaker 4 (35:17):
So we have all of these amazing female librarians throughout
the twentieth century, who I mean essentially are to thank
for our public.

Speaker 1 (35:28):
Learning and literacy in a lot of ways.

Speaker 6 (35:30):
And community building.

Speaker 4 (35:32):
Absolutely, and they don't get nearly as much recognition as
they should because I feel like the only name that
we associate with libraries.

Speaker 1 (35:41):
Is Melville Dewey.

Speaker 4 (35:42):
And so I hope that this raises some awareness of
just what amazing women and men librarians are. But like
the women who really built the libraries from the ground.

Speaker 6 (35:56):
Up, yeah, and who had so few positive expectations put
on them.

Speaker 4 (36:02):
Yeah, and exceeded them to the moon and back. So
now we want to hear from you. Do you have
beloved librarians in your life?

Speaker 1 (36:21):
Are you a librarian? We want to know all of
your library thoughts.

Speaker 4 (36:26):
Mom Stuff at house stuffworks dot Com is our email address.
You can also tweet us at mom Stuff podcast or
messages on Facebook, and we've got a couple of messages
to share with you right now.

Speaker 6 (36:41):
Okay, well, I have a letter here from Joshua in
response to our Queer Fashion episodes.

Speaker 1 (36:47):
Joshua says, greetings.

Speaker 6 (36:48):
From Sitting Bull College on the Standing Rock Lakota Indian
Reservation in fort Yates, North Dakota. I'm from another planes tribe,
but I'm here for an intensive summer program that trains
teachers and how to teach the Lakota and To languages.
First off, is everyone in Atlanta as cool as you too.
I've been listening to the podcast for years, and I
appreciate the sensitivity with which you address a variety of topics.

I usually can't bring myself to listen to white street
people discuss any of the minority groups I'm part of,
because they almost invariably wind up saying horribly offensive things,
even when they mean well. But I'm always seriously impressed
with what a great job y'all do. Thanks so much
for keeping me company on my recent twenty five hours
of driving from California to North Dakota. One of your
episodes prompted me to write in the Queer Fashion episode,

thanks so much for covering this topic. I've always wondered
why men's Western clothing was so much more boring than
what Western women wear, and I found it fascinating to
learn that it was the result of a deliberate social
movement to tone things down. But also I feel like
it's worth noting that this boring men's wear phenomenon is
not universal in Native American cultures. I see men wearing regalia,

ceremonial clothing, and every day wear that is just as
colorful as.

Speaker 1 (37:56):
What women wear.

Speaker 6 (37:57):
I'm a pow wow dancer and I also sowwer regalia.

Speaker 1 (38:01):
There is definitely a pretty.

Speaker 6 (38:02):
Strict gender binary enforce and I seriously cringe when outsiders
portray Native American cultures as some magic, gender free utopia.
But you'll see a lot of things that would be
stylistically off limits for Western men, long hair, dangly earrings, sequins,
shiny fabrics, and bright colors as standard styles and attire
in the powow arena. These styles are sometimes misinterpreted by outsiders,

but it's not uncommon for straight, macho powow guys to
wear pink regalia with sequins, for example, and think nothing
of it. Maybe something about different gender standards and different
cultures and what happens when they clash and come together
would be a good future topic. Two of the younger
boys in my powow family have attached pink scarves on
the belts of their powow regalia to support a loved
one who is a breast cancer survivor, which I find

very sweet. The bright colors coming together in the individual
and collective dancers for galia are an integral part of
the powow. So I'm glad we have defied this mainstream trend.
So thank you so much, Joshua.

Speaker 1 (39:00):
But for writing in Well, I've.

Speaker 4 (39:01):
Got a letter here from Nicole about our episode on
women in political campaigning, and she writes, I love your
podcast about women in politics. It really summed up a
lot of my feelings about where women have been placed
in campaigns in my struggles with that, I started out
wanting to be a media consultant or campaign manager in politics,
but while interning for a media consulting firm, I was

steered toward fundraising by my all male bosses. In the
city I worked in, all of the fundraisers were women,
and my boss has told me that to be a fundraiser,
you must be well dressed, and then they ranked the
fundraisers on their level of bitchiness.

Speaker 1 (39:39):
This is one of the hundreds of stories I.

Speaker 4 (39:42):
Could share about sexism in the campaign office. Since then,
I entered on a presidential political finance team and now
work full time at a political fundraising firm where I
worked for the governor of my state.

Speaker 1 (39:54):
What Nicole impressive.

Speaker 4 (39:56):
As you mentioned, in politics, it's important to have a
mentor to add kate for you.

Speaker 1 (40:01):
This is really the only way to get the best jobs.

Speaker 4 (40:03):
Most campaigns never post a job ad, but instead ask
their friends if they have anyone to recommend. Also, people
normally choose to mentor someone that they think is like them,
so it's a lot harder for women to be recommended
for the best jobs in other fields because they're so
concentrated in finance. Other factors that lead to women being

fundraisers is that they're the most abundant job, since candidates
always need more money. If a person doesn't know the
right people or have a mentor to get their resumes
passed around, then fundraising jobs are normally the only ones
posted on political jobs boards. In regard to why people
assume women are better suited for fundraising, something I've noticed
is that donors are nicer to women. We often spend

a lot of time calling people for money, and people
get irritated when they receive those calls. When you call
very cheerfully and sound as sweetly as possible, donors normally
won't yell at you. My bosses too badass women always
tell me to be as peppy as possible when dealing
with difficult clients. I have mail coworkers, and they get
yelled at more often than the women in my office.

I could go on and on about women and campaigns,
and specifically fundraising.

Speaker 1 (41:11):
I hope my email makes sense.

Speaker 4 (41:12):
As you mentioned, everyone in campaigns work crazy hours and
I am very sleeper deprived. Thanks for validating all of
my feelings about my industry and for your other episodes.
Get Me through hours of staring at Excel sheets. Well, Nicole,
thank you so much for your insight and more power
to you in that field because I can only imagine

that it is a toughie. So listeners, now, I want
to hear from you Mom. Stuff at HowStuffWorks dot com
is our email address and for links to all of
our social media as well as all of our blogs,
videos and podcasts with our sources so you can learn
so much more about librarians. Head on over to stuff
Mom Never Told You dot com.

Speaker 3 (41:58):
For more on this and thousands of other tops, visit
HowStuffWorks dot com.

Speaker 2 (42:09):

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