Rutgers University "Seminar in the History of the Book" will feature a program titled, "A Cultural History of the Women’s Library at the World’s Columbian Exposition" on February 21st. Melodie Fox, Associate Dean of Instruction at Bryant & Stratton College (Milwaukee) will give an interactive demonstration of the Woman's Building Library relational database.
From May to October 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago hosted over twenty-seven million visits from people who came to witness the myriad technological and cultural wonders on display. One such marvel was the seven-thousand-volume library housed within the Woman’s Building. As the first attempt to gather under one roof the collective contribution of women to the world of letters, the Woman’s Building Library carried the weight of a momentous historic event laden with lasting significance. But the library has a more elusive value as well, one that can be recovered only by considering the collection within the historical context of the 1890s. This presentation considers the Woman’s Building Library as simultaneously a representation and a redaction of the ways in which women of the late nineteenth century conceived of women’s writing and constructed it as a meaningful body of texts. The surviving bibliography can be regarded as a mirror of sorts that reflects (and sometimes distorts) the way in which women’s literary culture was perceived by the Library’s creators as well as by visitors to the Fair. The presentation includes a behind-the-scenes history of the Woman’s Building Library—a story saturated in the gender and racial politics of the American 1890s—as well as an analysis of some of the more striking features of this landmark collection of women’s writing. A brief demonstration of the Woman’s Building Library database will suggest ways in which the story this collection tells about women’s role in print culture departs substantially from those articulated in conventional literary histories.
For more information, visit the "Seminar in the History of the Book" events page. I envy those who can attend this program.
Additional Information on the Women's Building:
The Women's Building at the 1893 Exposition: Architecture, Statuary, Murals, part of the
Women's Art at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893 website.
"The Women's Pavilion," an essay by Anna Burrows. Part of the extensive website, A Treasury of World's Fair Art & Architecture A Digital Archive 1851 – 1986.
World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893 on the Women Working, 1800-1930 website.
Brief biography of Sophia Hayden, architect of the Women's Building.
ART AND HANDICRAFT IN THE Woman's Building OF THE WORLD'S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION CHICAGO, 1893 EDITED BY MAUD HOWE ELLIOTT (Illustrated)CHICAGO AND NEW YORK: RAND, MCNALLY & COMPANY, 1894.
List of the Books in the Library of the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, 1893.