"Telling Lives: Women Librarians in Europe

and America at the Turn of the Century."

Plenary Paper to be presented by Mary Niles Maack



Nearly one hundred years ago, on June 26th, 1899 several hundred women delegates and a few male participants assembled in London for an International Congress of Women. These meetings which lasted until July 4th were sponsored by the International Council of Women (ICW), a body that included "associations of women in the trades, professions and reforms as well as those advocating political rights." (Women, 1966, p.12) When representatives from dozens of countries gathered in the Westminster Town Hall they were welcomed by ICW president Lady Ishbel Aberdeen, a capable leader who had been involved with women's rights and other social reforms in Britain and in Canada where her husband was serving as Governor General. The names of many of the participants are no longer remembered, but among the organizers and speakers were Beatrice Webb, an English social reformer and economist, Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman from Italy to earn a medical degree, and Suzanne B. Anthony, a prominent American woman suffrage leader. Although she did not attend any of the meetings, the elderly Queen Victoria invited three hundred of the American, colonial and foreign delegates to come to Windsor Castle for tea.

Once the conference ended, Lady Aberdeen assembled hundreds of papers read at the meetings, and these were published over the next two years as a seven volume work that provides a rich source of information on the goals and ideas, accomplishments and set backs discussed by women leaders from Europe, North American, Argentina, China, Persia, Palestine, Russia and from many parts of the British Empire. I would like take a few minutes to briefly discuss this historic congress-- both because of its importance as the first international women's meeting to feature a session on librarianship as a career and because the statements by participants help to establish the context of women's opportunities and achievements at the end of the nineteenth century.

The delegates to the 1899 congress were very aware that the struggle for womens rights and suffrage as well as equal access to education and employment would have to be continued in the new century. However, for those who had spent many years working for suffrage or social reform, the congress was also a time for reflection on the legacy of the past hundred years. Just prior to the meetings Lady Aberdeen prepared a thoughtful article in which she enumerated some of the most striking changes in women's opportunities and organizations that had occurred during the nineteenth century. She wrote:

"Think of this country a hundred years ago. Who represented the women workers of Great Britain and Ireland ... ? Look through that admirable Englishwoman's Yearbook , wherein are three hundred pages all too short to chronicle the many societies, institutions and organizations projected and managed by women; then try to discover traces of such organizations in the year 1800, and you will find that nothing of the sort existed. FF

As to educational institutions? --The first College for Women only celebrated its [fiftieth aniversary] jubilee the other day, and in 1860, when the first class for book-keeping for women was started, grave doubts were expressed lest it should take woman out of her proper sphere.

As to trained nursing? --There was no such thing in England until it was given to Florence Nightengale [1820-1910] to evolve the system out of her terrible experiences in the Crimean war [1854].

As to associations for young women? In 1861 the first home for young women was started... in connection with the Young Women's Christian Association. ... Today there are 5,000 branches and 500,000 members all over the world ...

It is scarcely possible to believe how recent has been the origin of all the women's work of the present day, and at the beginning of the century organized women's work did not exist outside the Roman Catholic Sisterhoods and the Society of Friends.

Apart from these, the women workers of a century ago consisted only of a few brave-hearted, large-minded women, working here and there in loneliness to carry out ideals which were deemed but madness to those around them. "(Aberdeen, 1899, p. 18-19).

During the last week in June in the last year of the century Lady Aberdeen and delegates from Britain and abroad discussed the progress of women in many fields, and some speakers recalled the great changes in the social as well as the economic conditions of women. One of the most arresting speeches was presented by the elder stateswoman of the American suffrage movement, Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) "who was received with prolonged applause, the audience all rising." (ICW, VII, p.125). Anthony explained the complicated process of gaining approval in 2/3 of the 45 states of the union before a constitutional amendment for national woman suffrage could be ratified. After a "half-century of agitation" suffrage had been won in only four states, but in 23 states (over half) women had gained school suffrage, and in one state they could also vote on municipal tax issues. Although disappointed by "this slow process," she nonetheless expressed optimism about other changes won during her lifetime. At the age of seventy-nine she reflected on her early experience as a young teacher and exclaimed:

"The distance we have gone in the last fifty years is beyond computation. Before I sit down I will tell one little incident illustrating the condition of things when we started. I had been a teacher in the State of New York for fifteen years, from the age of 15 to 3O. A state Teacher's Convention was held in my city of Rochester . Over 1000 women had gathered in that Convention and perhaps 200 men. Up to that time no woman's voice had been ever been heard in one of these Conventions; only men had reported the result of their experience, because it was considered improper for a woman to speak in public. These men appointed committees to prepare resolutions... I listened with a great deal of interest, and ... --having been born a Quaker, and always taught that God inspired a woman to speech just as well as a man--I rose in my seat and said, "Mr. President!' The President was a professor of Mathematics from West Point , a pompous man, wearing a blue coat, brass buttons and a buff vest. He stepped to the front of the platform, and ... said, 'What will the lady have?' The idea had never entered his cranium that a woman could rise in her seat and address the chair just like a man! And I said, 'Mr. President and gentlemen, I would like to say a word on the question under discussion. 'Then,' said Professor Davies, 'what is the pleasure of the Convention?' And he look down to this little handful of men on the front seats, never casting a furtive glance to the thousand women crowding that hall. One man moved that the lady should be heard, and another seconded, and they discussed the question for half an hour! At last by a very small majority, it was decided that the lady should be heard." (ICW, VII, p.127-128).

Susan B. Anthony did speak at that meeting, but she recalled that when the session closed many women were overhead whispering to each other, " Who was that creature? "... "I have never been so ashamed in my life!"... She continued, "They were honest, they really believed it was degrading to a woman to speak." ICW, VII, p. 128) Her experience as a young teacher certainly was not unique for nineteenth century women who first began to move into the public arena. One of the moderate women's rights leaders from France, Mme. Jeanne Oddo-Deflou, congress stated: "... I believe, in order to succeed, [French women need only] a little couraage, a little constancy, and--why should I not say it?-- a little boldness." For her, this meant overcoming her own upbringing. She continued, "We are taught by our parents, by our teachers, than an honest woman, a good woman, a respectable woman must be careful not to show herself, not to make people speak of her--in a word, to hide and be nothing as much as she can." (ICW, VI, p.144) In a similar vein, a paper submitted by the Italian delegation stated: "However much Italian women may shine in work and in talent, they are still oppressed by the prejudice that feminine virtue consists only in never stepping outside the family circle, and we see a strange fact--of illustrious women lying still in the modest submission consecrated by centuries ... Social studies and collective ideals are grounds almost untrodden by the foot of woman." (Taverna, et al. , ICVvol. I, p. 257)

Even in England where women had been campaigning for school board positions since 1870, young ladies from middle class families sometimes found these "platform women" unseemly. For example, despite her own unconventional work as a social investigator, Beatrice Webb, a member of the ICW's Legislative and Industrial sub-committee, wrote of her reaction to a woman orator whom she heard in 1887. In her diary she stated: "But to see her speaking made me shudder. It is not womanly to thrust yourself before the world. A woman, in all the relations of life, should be sought. It is only on great occasions, when religious feeling and morality demand it, that a woman has the right to lift up her voice and call aloud to her fellow-mortals." (quoted in Martin, 1999, p. 8) These recollections of the social and cultural restraints that had limited women's sphere during much of the nineteenth provide a testimonial to the perseverance and courage of women who faced public ridicule in their efforts to speak for themselves. It is little wonder that although those attending the 1899 congress realized there was a great deal of work ahead, they also shared a sense of optimism and pride in their accomplishments. After all, even fifty years earlier few people could have imagined participating in an international congress organized by women, presided over by women, and made up primarily women delegates.

Like the ICW President Lady Aberdeen, many of the congress organizers and delegates were wealthy, titled women. Among the foreign delegates were Baronesses and Countesses as well as daughters of the rich merchants or industrialists. However there were also a few representatives from left-of-center women's organizations and trade or craft unions who addressed issues of women in the workplace. Although the major theme of the conference was Women in the Professions, the term was interpreted broadly to include a range of occupations, and women spoke of their work as sculptors, writers, beekeepers, and clerical workers as well as addressing issues such as women's access to higher education and their struggle to enter fields such as medicine and law.

The struggle to enter the professions was especially difficult in France . One speaker noted that women had never been excluded from French Universities by law, but "until 1868 no woman every availed herself of her rights." That year an American doctor, Mary Putnam (eldest sister of future Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam) was admitted to the faculty of medicine by the minister of public education despite the objections of the faculty; in 1871 she won a bronze medal for her thesis and became the first woman to receive a medical degree in France . Four years later Madeleine Bres became the first Frenchwoman to earn a medical degree. From 1875 to 1888, only 262 women obtained degrees in French universities, but 55 of these were foreigners from Russia , Roumania , England and India , the United States , Belgium and Alsatia. Foreign women continued to study in France, and In 1891 a young Polish woman, Marya Sklodowska (later Marie Curie) graduated from the Sorbonne with first place in physics; in 1898 Julia Morgan, a 26 year old American, became the first woman admitted to the architectural section of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.

By the end of the century there were 325 women university students in Paris alone, and nearly 2/3 of these were French. Although there were 817 women studying in universities throughout France at the time, they made up a tiny proportion (2.8%) compared to the 28,264 male students enrolled. No woman held a university professorship, and law was still closed to women, although in 1892, Jeanne Chauvin had become the first woman to complete legal training in Paris . However, a riot halted the defense of her thesis and forced the process to be completed in a closed session. Even with her thesis completed she could not be admitted to the bar. Unfortunately Mlle Chauvin's experience at the university was not an isolated incident. "Student riots also greeted a woman enrolling in letters at the Sorbonne in 1893; demonstations ended only after the cancellation of her course." (Hause, 1984, p.24). Most of the Grandes Ecoles were completely closed to women, and Mme Camille Bélilon remarked with irony at the 1899 congress, "It is not forbidden for a women to be an engineer, but because there are no courses available to prepared her for this goal, it is absolutely the same as if this profession was barred to her." (Bélilon, ICVvol. III, p. 147-148). However she noted that there were women postal and telegraph workers as well as many nurses in French hospitals. In addition numerous women served as elementary teachers and secondary teachers, but for the same work they were paid lower salaries than their male counterparts.

In Italy the employment pattern of women was similar. Dr. Maria Montessori noted that there were 36,000 women in elementary teaching , double the number of male teachers who were paid far superior salaries. (Montesori, ICV III, p. 51). An address drafted by the Countess Taverna, the Princess di Venosa and the Italian Minister of Public Instruction stated "We have employees in telegraph and telephone offices, in libraries, women directors of many important houses of business; popular education is almost two thirds in the hands of women, who especially in the last ten years, raise themselves in large numbers in the literary and scientific studies of the university. ... [T]oday there is no university course that is not attended by women." (Taverna, ICVvol. I, p. 256) However, in a later presentation Professor Pauline Schiff from the University of Pavia remarked that it was rare for women to attend the Faculty of Law, since they were not allowed to practice as barristers or solliciters. She added that in 1894 there were 121 women university students in the kingdom, but at present there were more than double that number. However, she cautioned: "The law makes no difference between men and women students; but on entering the life beyond the university, women naturally experience a harder struggle. We cannot expect to change our interests and traditions without encourntering keen opposition." (Schiff, ICVvol. I, p. 147-148)

In discussing access to the profession in England, Ethel Hurlbatt, Principal of Bedford College in London suggested three categories: "(1) Professions almost entirely open to women alone, e.g., nursing; (2) Professions at which women have every access, e.g., teaching, except in its highter branches; (3) Professions in which women compte at a disadvantage, e.g. medicine." She noted that as of 1891 there were 150,000 women teachers, in England , but only 139 women doctors--although there were also 85 Englishwomen serving as physicians in India and another 45 in China . A few professions still barred women and she observed, "In law little or no advance has been made. Although a few women have qulaified themselves by examination, the Inns of the Court and an Act of Parilament respectively bar the way to their becoming barristers or solliciters." Among those professions women entered in large numbers Hurlbatt included "nursing, journalism, Civil Service, technical work, including domestic arts, horticulture and various branches of agriculture." She continued: "There are others in which small beginnings have been made, e.g., stockbroking, architecture and librarianship." (Hurlbatt, ICV III, 31, 32-33)

Outside Britain and North America librarianship was considered a new career for women, and the 1899 congress of women was the first instance when women's opportunities in the field were discussed by an international gathering that was not limited to librarians. Although there was some post-conference criticism of this session which had been "arranged at the eleventh hour," the papers and discussions by librarians from the United States, Britain and New South Wales nonetheless mark an important step toward international recognition of the new role women were beginning to play in this expanding field. Four papers dealing with librarianship, library training , and indexing were written and read by women; however, this session was one of the few meetings at the congress not presided over by a woman. Instead, Dr. Richard Garnett, C.B., LL.D. late Keeper of the Printed Books at the British Museum had been invited to serve as chair. A noted scholar, Dr. Garnett had held the presidency of both the Bibliographical Society and the Library Association, and in 1899 he was still overseeing the printing of the British Museum 's monumental book catalog. Although no women librarians were then employed at the British Museum , Dr. Garnett "eulogized the general fitness of women for employment in libraries" and referred to the "pleasure he had always received from the frequent visits of American lady librarians ." (ICW, VI, p.144) Perhaps the decision to invite Dr. Garnett to preside over the session was viewed as a means to legitimize women's entry into a field which was at the time still contested in Britain . However the presence of this renowned scholar-librarian was also symbolic, for Dr. Garnett represented the highest attainments in a profession that, in 1899, was simultaneously confronting weight of the past and the challenge of the future.

The library world at the turn of the century was a world of learning on the verge of becoming overwhelmed by the literature of the new sciences--from anthropology and sociology to psychoanalysis and electrical engineering. It was a world of tradition already becoming transformed by a myriad of new technologies such as typewriters, telephones, electric lights, card catalogs, vertical file cabinets, pneumatic tubes for sending request slips and mechanical conveyers for delivering books. It was an elite world of books and scholars that had only recently been extended to the wider community as a result of active public library movements in Greater Britain, northern Europe and the United States . Yet despite these tremendous changes, outside of North America the library world in 1899 was world almost without women.



By the 1890's, as American women first enrolled in the newly created library schools, a few well educated European women also began to perceive librarianship as a field that would offer them an intellectual challenge, a chance to help others, and means of earning a living. However, while the duties of the librarian were in many ways similar in Europe and the United States , the experience of women librarians differed significantly due to social and cultural norms in each country as well as the economic and political conditions. This study will use a biographical approach to analyze and compare the careers of four women prominent in the library field at the turn of the century. The main focus will be on Mary Wright Plummer, a dynamic American library educator, association leader and internationalist who made three trips to Europe to study library practices abroad. In addition to discussing her reception by European librarians (mostly men), this paper will profile three of her female colleagues and friends: Giulia Sacconi-Ricci, one of the first women librarians in Italy who was known for her sholarship and innovation; Marie Pellechet, a noted scholar-bibliographer named honorary librarian of the Bibliothèque Nationale in France; and M. S. R. James, librarian at the People's Palace in London and one of the most outspoken women members of the Library Association.

Since all four women published extensively, I will draw heavily on their own words. However, secondary biographical sources are also important--particularly for Marie Pellechet and for M. S. R. James. I have worked extensively with the papers of Mary Wright Plummer, and although there are regrettable gaps in her correspondance, her letters from Europe to her family offer considerable insight into the experiences of a single woman living and traveling abroad. In addition, Plummer's letters provide information on the character and opinions of her close friend, Giulia Sacconi-Ricci. In 1898 Plummer also published a lively biographical sketch of her Italian colleague, but unfortunately I have found no biography that covers the years after Signora Sacconi-Ricci left Italy . However, my visit to the Marucellian library in Florence where she worked for 11 years provided some very useful information on her career, thanks to the assistance of the librarians there.

For the purpose of this study, both a "gender role" perspective and a "structural perspective" will be used in creating a framework for comparative analysis. After briefly sketching each woman's career, I will discuss and compare those factors that inhibited each one in her profession as well as those factors that motivated these four women to seek careers in field a previously occupied by men. I will also look at the career strategies they employed and analyse their contributions to the profession.


Mary Wright Plummer as an Internationalist

A graduate of Melvil Dewey's 1887-1888 class in library economy at Columbia College in New York , Mary Wright Plummer is a fitting exemplar of the first generation of women trained in American library schools. She herself was the founder of two library schools (Pratt, 1890 and New York Public Library school, 1911) and much of her career was devoted to library education. However, she also served as director of the Pratt Institute Free Library where she built a collection to serve the broader community and designed the first separate children's room. In addition she pioneered in training for children's services and wrote children's books related to her travels. She was also highly visible as a leader, and throughout her career she was active in local and state library associations and holding numerous ALA offices. In 1915 she became the second woman president of ALA, but she was too ill to deliver her presidential address the following year. She died of cancer in September 1916.

Shortly after her death, a very distinguished group of librarians came together at New York Public Library (NYPL) to honor her "work and influence." Recognizing her national standing as well as her active role in the field, Princeton University librarian, E.C. Richardson declared that no other individual except for Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam had "contributed so much constructively to the elevation and dignity of the library profession in America ." 39 Putnam himself was present at the memorial service, and in his eulogy he described Mary Wright Plummer as a woman "whose strength lay not in aggression ... but rather in quiet steadiness of motive and of action ... Her influence has been a potent force and ... a radiant one." 35

What is perhaps most remarkable about Mary Wright Plummer's career is her experience abroad and her dedication to promoting international exchange within the field. She made three trips to Europe and not only maintained numerous personal contacts, but gave papers at international conferences and published accounts of European libraries and librarians for a number of periodicals--including the Nation , a popular American magazine of political commentary, and Pratt Institute Monthly , which she described as a "quasi-literary periodical." She also published in Library Journal and Public Libraries and she contributed a column entitled "Chroniques américaines" which was published for two years in the scholarly Revue des Bibliothèques , the major library periodical from France . Although a number of American women librarians of her generation did have some opportunities to travel abroad, Plummer is probably the only one who could be truly considered an internationalist.


Early Years and First European Trip (1856-1890)

Born in 1856 in Richmond , Indiana , Mary Wright Plummer was the first of six children of Jonathan Wright and Hannah Ballard Plummer. Her parents were members of a prominent Quaker family, and as girl she especially admired her distinguished grandfather, Dr. John T. Plummer, a leading physician. One close friend linked Mary's interest in languages to Grandfather Plummer, a graduate of Yale medical school who published widely in several scientific fields. but also had a strong interest in linguistics ( Moore ,1916).

Although she has no where published an account of her early years, Mary Wright Plummer's friends indicate that her character was indelibly shaped by the Quaker tradition in which she grew up. Because Quaker women had their own meetings and were acknowledged as community leaders equal to their husbands, it is not surprising that many notable American suffrage organizers and social reformers were drawn from the Quaker faith. Plummer's female relatives are named as active leaders in their Quaker meeting and both her mother and auntattended Greenmount Friend's Boarding School and then taught for a time. As a child Mary was undoubtedly encouraged to read by her mother, Hannah, and she was later remembered as a precocious and "book-hungry girl " who was "by special dispensation ... admitted to the privileges of the [Richmond,] public library as soon as it was opened." (Eastman, p. 868).

Mary and her brothers and sisters attended the Friend's Academy in Richmond until the family moved to Chicago in 1874 where they remained active in the Society of Friends. Hannah Ballard Plummer was a member of the Friend's Council, "a study club composed of women of serious purpose;" she was also active in the Chicago Woman's Club, a group that was active in social reform. On her death a close friend observed that after relocating to Chicago , Hannah Plummer's "sphere of influence was widened. Being herself broad-minded in regard to all questions political, social or religious, she formed a wide acquaintance among liberal-minded men and women all over the country." (Jackson, 1910, p.123)

Although exposed to a wide range of people involved with liberal issues, it appears that Mary did not leave the close knit family circle until she enrolled as special student at Wellesley in 1881 when she was 25. During her year there Mary studied German, French, and history and took a special literature course for teachers. She then returned to Chicago where she remained with her family, giving private lessons and writing poems which were published in respected literary magazines Although it is evident that she had strong leanings toward a literary career, she reached her late twenties unmarried and with no clear direction as to her life work. Then, about six months after passing her 30th birthday, she saw an advertisement that caught her interest. As she recalled several years later: "In August or September of 1886, I saw the announcement that the School of Library Economy would open at Columbia College in January, 1887, and though my ideas on the meaning of Library Economy were very vague, it sounded very well and it evidently meant association with books. I made application and was registered a member of 'The first class in library science on the planet,' as our director used to say."

Mary Wright Plummer found the introduction to library techniques a revelation, and she was soon caught up in the excitement of the students and faculty in the school's first experimental year at Columbia . However, despite an initial burst of enthusiasm, she had some doubts as to whether she wanted to abandon literature for cataloging, accessioning, and circulation systems. Mocking her own naiveté she writes:

When I found out, as I soon did, that we were supposed to have done our reading and that thenceforth we should have time to look into the Promised Land of literature only by means of reviews and criticisms, the prospect lost its alluringness for a time. But as we were led to see that our business was to make the path easy for others to read and study, the altruistic element came to the front, and we rejoiced over every difficulty smoothed out as we would have done had it been for ourselves. (p3-4)

Mary Wright Plummer was soon singled out as one of the most promising and articulate students in the class, and it was she who was selected to present an ALA conference paper on the first year at the school from a student's point of view. Although she remained at Columbia to take further course work in 1888, she was also engaged to assist the cataloging instructors. At the end of the academic year she accepted a position as a cataloger at the St. Louis Public library. Despite the progessive reputation of the library, Plummer felt professionally isolated there, and when she learned of a postition that might become open at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn she immediately applied. As she put it to her close friend, the publisher R. R. Bowker, "the chief rival to the Brooklyn possibility is that of a year abroad beginning in April or May with my going with three friends ... My father wishes me to go and thinks it feasible."

By May 1890 she had left Saint Louis --but with no definite job prospect in hand. After spending a few weeks in Chicago with her family, Mary Wright Plummer sailed for Europe on May 30th with an impressive itinerary of libraries she hoped to visit in the British Isles and on the continent. In her request for advice from Melvil Dewey she wrote: " You offered specific letters in certain places and so I write to send a list of the cities we expect to visit, where there must be libraries worth seeing. Liverpool, London, Oxford , Brussels, Antwerp, Cologne, Dresden, Munich, Vienna, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Genoa, Pisa, Milan, Geneva, Lucerne, Paris, Edinburgh and Glasgow . It is a long list to be compassed in three months but it has to be done; and I would be very grateful indeed for any letters that would help me to get an inside into the library systems in any of the cities mentioned." Underlined in green pencil are the cities Liverpool, London , Oxford , Florence , Paris , Edinburgh and Glasgow -- perhaps an indication that in these places Dewey knew librarians to whom he could offer her introductions. (Dewey Papers,)

By late August when she was leaving Glasgow Mary Wright Plummer remained optimistic about going to Pratt, although she still had no offer. On the one hand she may have been aware that a study trip focusing on libraries would make her an attractive candidate for the Brooklyn post, since Charles Pratt, the founder, and his sons had made several trips to Europe to study educational techniques in the fine and applied arts. Even more encouraging was a letter from her friend Eulora Miller, another graduate of Dewey's 1888 class who had been working as a librarian at Pratt; it was she who had urged Mary Wright Plummer to apply for the position the previous spring, offering a personal recommendation to her employer. It is not clear when Miss Miller made her engagement known but her marriage plans seemed to preclude her continuing employment there in the fall of 1890 she left her position.

When Mary Wright Plummer began her work at Pratt her duties included the development of a training class. Although some training in cataloging had been offered the previous year, 1890 is usually considered the first year of the Pratt Institute Library School , which now holds the distinction oldest, continuously existing library education program in the United States . While many of the first Pratt library students were from the region, soon the school recruited from the rest of the country and even attracted a few students from abroad. As she was developing the curriculum at Pratt, Plummer became active in the ALA committee on library training . She also gave talks about the program at Pratt to groups such as the Brooklyn Woman's Club and the students at the New York State Library School at Albany .

Because the Pratt Institute Free Library served as Brooklyn 's first free public library as well as an academic library for students and faculty, Mary Wright Plummer's duties were extremely varied during the period when she served as "assistant librarian." She was involved in developing a picture collection and an art reference library as well as pioneering in services to children. The reputation of the Pratt library spread quickly, and even during her first year Plummer was "continually in receipt of requests for advice and suggestions in regard to small libraries." Therefore in July 1891 she wrote to Dewey, requesting opinion of her proposal to prepare "a little pamphlet or circular with a few directions for procedure" that would be of help to "small or poor libraries." She then continued: "It is a matter I really begin to feel 'called' to take up, if I find that no one else has done it." Although she may have distributed an earlier draft of the manual, it did not appear as a printed publication until 1894, when it was issued under the title, Hints for Small Libraries . The first edition of one thousand copies sold out, and over the next few years it was reprinted several times and even translated into Russian.

By her fourth year at Pratt, Mary Wright Plummer had gained an extraordinary range of professional experience-- from cataloging, art reference work and children's services to teaching and curating the Education Exhibit of Pratt Institute at the 1893 Columbian Exhibition in Chicago . In addition she published papers in Library Journal as well as editing Pratt Institute Monthly . Plummer was also increasingly visible in ALA and served as Vice President of the New York State Library Association as well as

holding office in the New York Library Club. Her confidence and her public presence were also enhanced by the numerous presentations she made at these meetings, and in 1893 she also presented a paper at the International Congress of Librarians held in Chicago in conjunction with the World's Fair. Although she seemed to thrive on this demanding schedule, Mary Wright Plummer decided to take an unpaid leave in the spring of 1894 in order to make another tour of Europe , visiting libraries. During this ten month trip she not only learned a great deal about European libraries and culture, she also gained a deeper understanding of her own religious and cultural heritage and her personal ambitions.

An American Abroad, 1894-1895

Although many American and British women traveled or lived in Europe by the 1890s, it was very unusual for a single woman to travel alone. During her first European tour in 1890, Mary Wright Plummer had traveled with a married couple--but for this more extended trip her companion was an unmarried woman, probably a family friend, whom she refers to only as "Miss Hunt." While Miss Hunt's interests were in concerts, shopping and sightseeing, Mary Wright Plummer's agenda was more ambitious and included language study, library visits and writing a series of articles on European libraries for the Nation . After landing in Antwerp in August, the two women took a journey up the Rhine to Bayreuth , Germany where they attended performances of several of Wagner's operas and visited his tomb. However, Plummer also sought out the small public library located in a monastery. There, after showing her letters of introduction, she was given a tour and allowed to check out two books. The following week she and Miss Hunt went on to Nuremberg where they also visited the public library. As an American librarian, Plummer was received courteously and allowed to check out books, but she observed in her first article: "Here, however, as in Bayreuth , the idea of a woman being interested in libraries seemed to afford polite amusement to library officials." ( Nation , 1894, p. 306). Miss Hunt, her companion, was more blunt and stated that although the German librarians were very polite, they behaved "as if they thought a woman-librarian some new kind of monkey." (Pratt, letter 8/25/94)

After being received with surprise or bemused glances in Germany, Mary Wright Plummer and her friend went on to Italy where her reception was welcoming and gracious, especially in Florence at the Marucellian library where the director Cavalier Angelo Bruschi and his assistant, Signora Giulia Sacconi-Ricci received her warmly. She writes in the Nation : "I felt myself in an atmosphere of 'mental hospitality' both to people and to ideas" ( Nation , 4/7/95, p 181) In the course of her stay in Florence , Plummer became "fast friends" with Signora Ricci whom she describes as "a charming woman of thirty, I should say, and quite a scholar." (Pratt 9/14/94) However, when she first arrived Plummer spoke little Italian, generally using French during her library visits. With her characteristic sense of humor she recalls the first occasion where she was introduced to Italian librarians at the Sacconi-Ricci home at the end of October 1894:

They all had the impression that I could not speak Italian very well, and so each brought to the meeting whatever other languages he or she could command; and such a confusion of tongues you never heard. I quite covered myself with glory by answering all their questions in the tongues in which they were asked, but I felt as if I were playing a game of bluff because I knew what mistakes I was making and most of them didn't know, except when I ventured upon Italian. It was a very funny experience. (Pratt, 10/26/94)

This reception was written up by Angelo Bruschi for a Florence newspaper, and in it he described Mary Wright Plummer as "one of the most distinguished American librarians." Although the biographical notes which Bruschi apparently compiled from Library Journal , had a number of errors, this notice clearly shows the respect and warmth which greeted Plummer in Florence .

As a result of the publicity surrounding her Florence visit, Mary Wright Plummer received an unexpected invitation from the Duke of Fiano to visit a private collection of 15th century editions known as the Boncampagni Library. (Nation, 1/3/95, p.7). Since the duke has given her a printed catalog of the collection, she prepared a list of manuscripts she wished to see. A few days later one of the duke's attendants escorted her and Miss Hunt to the library in a beautiful Palazzo in Rome . After presenting her list of books, Plummer soon had five male library attendants puzzling over her requests. She writes: "If I had not happened to have my letter of introduction with me, which I showed to ease their minds, I think they would have died of curiosity or perplexity. There was a long list of mss. I wanted to see, and they all set to work to get them for me. The rooms were deep in dust, so they took off their coats and worked in their shirt sleeves."(letter, MWP-11/9/1894)

Plummer's Italian travels included visits to libraries in Genoa , Venice and Milan as well as Rome and Florence and in her articles for the Nation she described private subsciption libraries, municipal libraries and university libraries as well the great scholarly collections of manuscripts and early printed materials. She also discussed library practices and especially noted the influence of American methods, such as the use of the Dewey Decimal Calissification to organize periodicals in the Biblioteca Nationale in Florence . Throughout her tour she found many Italian librarians who were familiar with American library publications and eager to discuss a variety of topics-- from Poole's suggestions for shelving to the ALA 's Model Library Catatlogue which was being consulted by the librarian at the Querini library in Venice . (Nation, 11/4/1894, p.7) She remarked on the use of card catalogues in Venice and Florence , but she also discussed alternative systems for constructing catalogs and described other Italian practices that might be applied in American libraries. Although she was aware of the dissatisfactions that some Italian librarians expressed in regard to recruitment and appointment practices, she admired the Italian government's efforts to co-ordinate library work and believed that the system of government examinations for librarians "must certainly be of interest to all who directly concerned in the management of libraries in the United States ." (ibid.)

In her discussion of most of the libraries that she visited, Plummer offers observations on women, both as librarians and readers, and in an 1895 article she states: "The admission of women into library work has been conceded in no other continental country except Italy , I believe." ( Nation 4/7/95 p. 181). In Florence at the Biblioteca Nationale she found two women librarians and saw special tables reserved for women and at the Marucellian library she especially remarked on "a room set apart for women students." (LJ, 1901 p. 126). In Venice she commented on a "ladies reading room" in the Querini library , and when she went to Milan to visit the Brera Library with its great historical and literary collections she observed: "The reference-room was the first I had seen in which women might occupy any seats they chose, no table or room being especially reserved for them." (Nation, 5/9/1895, p.359) Plummer saw no women readers when she toured the Vatican library with prefect, Monsignor Carini, whom she described as "a beautiful little old father, in a back gown ... with features like a fine cut cameo, and bright color in his cheeks." (MWP to Frances 11/11/1894) However, when the monsignor informed her that "women were not admitted to the library yet as students" she reminded him that an American woman had recently published a study of Raphael's book of hours based on research in the Vatican collections. Recalling this incident, Monsignor Carini not only "admitted that an exception had then been made in this case" but also remembered the case of another American woman, Mrs. Nuttal, who had done a study of some Mexican codices in the collection. (Nation, 1/3/1895, p.8)


Florence Interlude

After her tour of libraries in Rome , Mary Wright Plummer and her companion made a brief visit to Naples and Pompei, returning to Florence in early December. Although Plummer had originally planned to go back to Germany after her Italian trip, both she and Miss Hunt were so charmed by Florence that they decided to extend their stay. The two women rented rooms with a family in a lovely house near the center of the city where they remained from December through April. Plummer's letters from these months are filled with descriptions of social gatherings, lectures, concerts, operas and pleasant entertainments at the home of her Italian family or with friends. A frequent visitor in the Sacconi-Ricci home, she later wrote: "In her domestic relations, as a daughter, wife and the mother of a very promising boy named Aldus, [Signora Sacconi-Ricci] fulfils her complication of duties con amore . " (PIM. p. 109)

Giulia Sacconi- Ricci, who described her young son as her "chef d'oeuvre," may have felt that her American friend would also find marriage and family compatible with a library career. At any rate, the Riccis soon became involved in what Mary Wright Plummer described as "a little matrimonial agency business ... quite friendly and disinterested but still a bit of a conspiracy." (letter 1/95) Nonetheless Plummer was quite surprised in January? when a gentlemen whom she met in their home sent her a letter "which contained the equivalent of a delcaration and was evidently the expression of sincere feeling." (MWP-letter) Perhaps somewhat flattered, she descibed her suitor as a bachelor in his early forties "with an excellent government position, the title of Cavalier, good social standing and reputation here and considerable scholarship, --in fact, any woman might feel complimented so far as these things are concerned." (MWP-letter) Despite these attractions, Plummer firmly rejected the proposal and assured her family that she had no desire to live in Italy permanently. Although she was later sorry that she had hurt the gentleman's feelings by being too brusque, she seems to have had no regrets about her decision.

Clearly her experiences in Florence had given Mary Wright Plummer a new perspective on her own goals, and shortly before she rejected the prospect of marriage, she also resisted family pressure to take a position in an Illinois Library nearer to her parents' home. Although still somewhat torn between a literary career and her commitment to the library profession, she had no doubt that she wanted a career that would give her financial independence and and opportunity for self-expression. While this would be a normal goal for a son, she was quite aware that what her contemporaries referred to as "the family claim" weighed more heavily on daughters. She cadidly states:

"I ought to have been a man--my ambition is greater than is becoming in a woman I suppose, --but it hasn't swallowed up my family feeling yet." She then continued: " With a work of my own, -- regular, dignified and of some consequence, whatever the kind of work,--I can be happy, but not otherwise. I don't think I was made to help other people in their work, but to do my own, and I can't see why that should be thought selfish in a woman more than in a man; yet I know some people think it so."

While she was still in Florence in December 1894, Plummer also received a letter from Frederick Pratt who to wished to meet with her prior to her return to work in order to discuss her responsibilities in editing the Pratt Institute Monthly as well as the added duties she would have in the absence of the current library director, Miss Healy. Plummer wrote to her family: "From this it looks as if they might wish to make some new arrangement with me. ... Miss H's leave may be indefinite, in which case I should expect full powers and an equivalent salary ." (12/23/94 --emphasis mine) Plummer was well aware that the directorship would mean responsibility for the library school as well as the library-- now a collection of over 50,000 volumes. The demands of the faculty and staff at the institute were varied, and the library had to provide materials and services for kindergarten teachers, Pratt High School students, business and engineering students and those taking courses in domestic science as well as the fine and applied arts. The work of the director was further complicated by the fact that the Pratt library was still the only free public library in Brooklyn and it had branches as well, including one located in the Pratt sponsored settlement house in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn .

In her letter to Frederick Pratt, Plummer first discussed the varied demands of the position, noting that the Library School also gave the Pratt Institute Library "a unique position among free public libraries," Plummer confidently stated:

Now, I shall be held entirely and directly accountable ... I feel justified in asking for an advance of salary commensurate with the work and responsibility I assume.

Librarians who are doing less work, less important, and less varied, are receiving salaries in many cases several times as large as mine. ... I feel sure that it must be your intention to recognize financially the increase in my responsibilities , ." (6/8/95 --emphasis mine)

This masterly example of salary negotiation is expressed in terms of Plummer's expectation that her employer believed in fair compensation and therefore intended to raise her salary. She forcefully justified the increase as recognition of the intellectual and executive nature of the position--in fact she used the phase "hard thinking" three times. She further bolstered her case by comparing the nature of the work at Pratt with the less varied responsibilities in other libraries where the directors were earning $4,000 to $5,000 per year--but she avoided mentioning that all of the librarians with salaries at this level were men. While a few experienced women in large libraries earned as much as $2000, an 1892 salary survey of the 38 women librarians trained by the Columbia / New York State Library School showed that their annual earnings ranged from $600 to $1,500 with an average salary of $900. (Weibel, p.14) Plummer was therefore quite pleased to accepts Pratt's offer of $2500 and immediately sent this information to Melvil Dewey to be included on the new ALA Directory.

On her return to Pratt, Mary Wright Plummer took on her new duties with enthusiasm, but she did not neglect to keep up her interest in European library development. She published several articles on continental libraries in the Pratt Institute Monthy and began a series of articles entitled "Eminent Librarians" where she offered biographical sketches of many of the the most notable European and American librarians. In her first set of biographies she included four individuals: Giulia Sacconi Ricci, from the Marucellian library, Leopold Delisle, director of the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris ; Dr. Richard Garnett, Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum and Rev Franz Ehrle, director of the Leonine library at the Vatican . In addition to her articles, Plummer also spoke of her travels at library meetings, gaining national recognition as one of leading internationalists in American library community.


ALA and the Exposition Universelle, 1900

Because of Plummer's role in promoting cultural exchange between American and European libraries and librarians, she was a logical choice to serve as part of an ALA delgation and to act as host for ALA Exhibt for the Exposition Universelle in Paris .

Parisian librarians may have met informally from time to time, but Plummer believed that the 1900 library conference was the first time the librarians from all over France had come together "in a congress assembled." (PIM, 1900, p. 44).

Marie Pellechet

In her biographical sketch of Marie Pellechet, Mary Wright Plummer refers to her as "among the most interesting personalities of the the library congress held in Paris ." Although she obviously knew of Pellechet's work and held her in great respect, Plummer had made no mention of her in letters written to her family during her brief stay in Paris in 1895. However, in 1900 the two women must have had several opportunities to meet in the course of the bibliographical conference. In any event, Mlle Pellechet seemed to take a liking to her younger colleague from America , and she invited her to come to her summer home at Marly-le-Roi, a town that Plummer describes as "a suburb of Paris where Louis XIV had a chateau, now in ruins." (PIM, 1900, p. 44). In a letter to her family, she writes: " I had a lovely day Sunday. M. [Louis] Polain and I took the train to St. Germain where Mlle Pellechet met us and showed us the park ... Mlle Pellechet and her widowed sister have a little property they have owned for years -- a cottage which was an inn in the time of Louis Quatorze, with a little garden. ...The ladies are quite well off and have a small house in Paris also, as a winter residence. " (letter, 8/30/1900)

Having a comfortable income as well as an independent spirit made it possible for Marie Hélène Catherine Pellechet to pursue an unusal career as an itinerant scholar-bibliographer. She was born in 1840 to a family of architects, and told Plummer the story of her paternal grandfather who had been inspector of buildings at the time of the Revolution of 1789. Her father was also an architect and he apparently had a stong influence on his daughter throughout her life. In 1897, two decades after his death, Marie Pellechet dedicated the first volume of her Catalogue général des incunables to him with the following words: "To the memory of my father, Auguste Pellechet, whose long life (1789-1874) constantly provided an example of highest integrity and of a passion for work (probité)."

At a time when there was no secondary education open to women in France , and when the university was an exclusively masculine precint, Marie Pellechet studied at home. It is not known whether her studies were directed by her father or whether she was taught by priviate tutors and governesses, but it is certain that she spent endless hours in her father's library. She wrote to Mary Wright Plummer: "Provided that a page bore printed characters, it had a charm for me, whatever the subject,--history, tales, law treatises, or what not; though the preference of my childhood was for Greek history with its heroes and poetic gods, and for the code Napolean which I found in my father's library and read through (though I should not do it again!) (letter, 8/30/1900) Her voracious reading even incldued a large tretise on chemistry that belonged to her brother. In recalling her favorite heros from classical history and mythology she mentioned Brutus--perhaps an indication that she shared her family's republican sympathies while growing up during the reign of Napolean III.

At a very young age Marie Pellechet read both French and German, and while still a child she also learned Latin and Italian. Her fluency in several languages as well as her scholarly interests lead the historian, Abbé Augustin Ingold to request that she do some copying for him in manuscript collections located in several cities. While she was carrying out this research in Marseilles she became interested in liturgical works and their influence on renaissance literature. In connection with this research she began to compile a list of the printed and manuscript copies of early liturgical works that belonged to the diocese of Autun, Châlons and Mâcon. The qulaity of her patient work on this volume came to the attention of the librarian of Dijon who requested that she catalog the incunabula in the library of that city. By 1886 she had completed the inventory and published the first of several bibliographies that provide a record of the remarkable collections of incunabula owned by French municipal libraries --collections enriched at the time of the revolution by the donation of confiscated books that had previously belonged to monasteries and or to noble families . Marie Pellechet's passion for the study of incunabula grew, and she continued her research in some of the richest collections in France , including the library at Versailles , the Biblithèque Saint-Genevieve in Paris , and the splendid holdings of the municipal library in Lyons --a city which had been one of the most important centers of 15th century printing in Europe . These patiently researched volumes appeared in 1887, 1889, 1892, and 1893. Meanwhile Pellechet also published her research in various scholarly jounals, writing articles on the history of printing, on individual printers and presses, on typography and on the identification of variant editions.

Marie Pellechet's work soon came to the attention of the Minister of Public Instruction who wished to publish an inventory of incunabula that would be parallel to the inventory of manuscripts in the great public library collections of France . In 1886 the minister sent a circular to all the librarians in charge of such collections to ask that they undertake the difficult task of providing information on their holdings of 15th century materials. In her introduction to the first volume of the Catalogue général des incunables Marie Pellechet notes that not all the librarians had access "to the neccesary tools (instuments de travail) that could guide their research, nor did they have the leisure for such research, often new to them, and in all cases, of long duration." (vol I, 1897, viii). She then provides an extensive list of libraries that contributed their inventories along with the name of the librarian who prepared the work. While part of Marie Pellechet's task was to compile these entries, because much of the information submitted was incomplete or improperly entered she herself went to many of the libraries to look at the books, correcting the information submitted or preparing new entries.

In order to have a visual image of the important identifying elements of the books, she herself made photographs which she kept in the workroom at her summer home. Mary Wright Plummer was astounded when she was shown this collection. She writes:

"I was priviledged to look over the photgraphs of the towns where she had staid from time to time while pursuing her researches, and better still, at her unique collection of photographic facsimiles of pages from the celebrated incunabula with which she has dealt. So far as I know, there is no other such curious catalogue in existence, for catalogue it must almost be called. These facsimile pages showed frequently lying on the margins the pen knife, paperweight, or whatever had been put upon the leaf to hold it still while the photograph was being taken." (PIM, 1900, p. 44).

It is easy to see the need for a weight to hold open these books, some of which may have been printed on velum. However, it is harder to imagine how scholarly Frenchwoman of nearly sixty, dressed in the fashion of the time which featured ankle length skirts and tight corsets, managed to handle a large cumbersome camera, adjusting it to difficult light conditions, and getting the proper exposure. Nonetheless, Mary Wright Plummer declares that Mlle Pellechet was an experienced photographer who made her own photographs. She also learned during her visit that Marie Pellechet wrote reviews of photography for several magazines, including La Mode Illustré , -- but these publications she signed with the pseudonymn, "Ki-non." (PIM, 1900, p. 44). It is possible she may have chosen to use a pen name in order not to detract from the scholarly reputation she among French librarians. However, according to Plummer, these gentlemen were open-minded and seemed quite tolerant of Pellechet's idiosycracies.

Plummer mentions that Pellechet was "in professional communication and relation with nearly all the learned men who are interested in incunabula or researches into the history of printing." (PIM, 1900, p. 44). Since the Association des Bibliothécaires Français was not founded until 1906, Mlle Pellechet probably had had few occasions to attend professional meetings. However, in the course of her extensive travels she had already met many of the most noted French librarians; others whom she did not know personally were undoubtedly acquainted with her through her publications. In recognition of her biblographical accomplishments Marie Pellechet was named honorary librarian at the Bibliothèque Nationale by Léopold Delisle, and was invited by him to serve on the Organizing Committee for the l900 congress. Although she apparently did not attend all the meetings, her comments at several of the sessions are recorded and her paper on ___________was published in the Proceedings of the congress.

At the end of August in 1900 when Mary Wright Plummer became acquainted with Marie Pellechet, she had the impression that her French colleague was in robust health. After Plummer's visit to Marly-le-Roi Mlle Pellechet later came to call on her in Paris , bringing her a beautiful bouquet of roses. Touched by this gesture, Plummer wrote of her new friend, "She is sixty, large and strong, impulsive and odd, but so kind hearted and right feeling." (letter, 8/ 1900) Plummer must therefore have been surprise and saddened to learn that Marie Pellechet died in December-- before she could see the biographical tribute published as part of the Pratt Institute Monthly series on "Eminent Librarians." Louis Polain, Pellechet's closest friend and collaborator was also taken by surprise at her sudden death. He recounted that in January 1900 Mlle Pellechet shared with him her fear that she would not be able to finish the monumental Catalogue général des incunables . At that time she asked him if he would agree to finish the work she had begun. He at first attributed these preoccupations to a recent illness which she had suffered, and although he promised to carry out her instructions, he hoped that she would be able to complete the work herself, and would be able to "receive during her lifetime the legitiment reward of so much effort." (vol II, 1905, p. ) Then the following November when Polain was a guest in Pellechet's home, she took to bed with a chill and again asked him to pledge that he would continue the project. He writes, " I could not imagine that I was speaking to her for the last time when she reminded me of the promise I had made several months before, and once more entreated me to swear that I would keep this pledge. One month later, I had to carry out her wish." (vol. II, 1905, p. v)

Marie Pellechet, who was unconventional in both her studies and her behavior, had chosen an unusual life style in a country where it was very rare for a woman to remain single. However, although she moved far beyond the constaints of woman's domestic sphere, she did not completely reject the gendered culture of 19th century France . Mary Wright Plummer writes of her friend: Her generous, impulsive nature and quick sympathies proclaim her the woman and the French woman, and her independence of useless and unreasonable conventions--not of sensible ones--is so taken for granted by those who know her that she can do easily and without criticism whatever she chooses. Yet she is not in sympathy with the feminist movement." (PIM, 1900, p. 44).

Giulia Sacconi-Ricci

While both Marie Pellechet and Giulia Sacconi-Ricci were attracted by the scholarly aspects of librarianship and both were recognized for their bibliographical descriptions of incunabula, their attitudes towards woman suffrage were at opposite ends of the political spectrum. In a letter describing her Italian friend's views, Plummer wrote that Signora Sacconi-Ricci "thinks Italy is really making progress. We both agreed that where women had equal chances and rights with men, the country was progressing solidly, but not otherwise." (Pratt, 12/23/94) Like Plummer, Sacconi-Ricci believed that opportunities for women had changed markedly in her generation. Plummer states in an 1894 letter:

Signora Saconni-Ricci told me the other day that when she was in the University and began to study the classics, everyone was scandalized; but that now in nearly all the Universities women are studying all that men study and are doing well. She says that ten years have made the greatest difference in the position of women in Italy and that she hope a great deal from it. They read and study in the libraries which always have tables or rooms reserved for them against the will of some of the library people and the professors...

By the late 1890s many Italian women had gained access to universities, and there were a few women librarians working in Florence and Rome, but their entrance into the field was recent and hard fought as shown by Sacconi-Ricci's own experience.

Giula Sacconi was born in 1868, the only child of Anna Fabiani di Lateri ? and Torello Sacconi. Her father had been active in the Italian unification movement, and, as a result of wounds received in the battle of Curatone in 1848, his right arm was amputated. He was given a military pension, and although he had taken a law degree (laurea in legge) from the University of Pisa rather than a liberal arts degree, he was named to a post at the Biblioteca Riccardiana-- a distinguished Florintine collection of books and manuscripts on history and literature. Dedicated to improving library practices and extending service to readers, Torello Sacconi rose to become the Prefect of the Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence where he served from 1877 to 1883. In many ways ahead of his time, he believed that "the special goal of a public library is to provide researchers with convenient and easy access to the largest amount of good books and to satisfy any form of request in the shortest time possible." (Benelli, p177). During his tenure two important Florentine collections were merged to form the Biblioteca Nationzale, and the books and manuscripts was transferred into two palaces adjoining the Uffizi where they occupied 87 rooms. The staff of the library also grew, and as library director Sacconi mentored a number promising young librarians, including Giuseppi Fumagalli who developed the most influential cataloging code in Italy and the scholarly Dr. Guido Biagi who was soon to become one of the most prominent library leaders in Italy.

Nonetheless, according to the family history told to Mary Wright Plummer, Torello Sacconi "was anxious to have a child follow in his footsteps, which would have been thought quite natural and laudable had that child been a son."(PIM, IV Jan 98 p107-108), Sacconi's determination to overcome the social

and educational obstacles facing his daughter was also praised by Dr. Zulia Benelli who prepared a lengthy obituary for the leading Italian library journal. She wrote:

"He was not only a virtuous citizen and a civil servant, but also an intensely loving and enlightened family man. Precursor of a new age and proponent of classical culture... [Torello Sacconi] therefore ... wanted his daughter, to become the first among young Italian women to attend Gymnasium, which at the time was exclusively masculine, and then [to enter] the Lyceum; he refused the widespread sophisms used to deny women the usefulness of this kind of education. He believed that what was considered as the perfect spiritual harmony, the highest lesson, the preparation for a superior conception of duty and life for men, should not have been considered inappropriate for women. Since he was immune from that cowardly kind of paternal love that leads fathers to spare their children difficult studies, to warrant them a less difficult youth, he wanted his daughter to pursue his own noble profession, and he was the first one who opened the doors of State Libraries to women." (Benelli, p177).

A picture of Giulia Sacconi was included in the commerative hundreth anniversary volume published by her school, the Liceo Dante. The photograph shows lovely young woman, elegantly dressed but serious beyond her years. She holds a fan and looks pensively at the viewer, her mouth set in a determined line with barely a hint of a smile. Below the photograph, the caption reads, "Giulia Sacconi, former librarian of the Marucelliana, courageous alumna, was the first woman who enrolled as a student the Liceo Dante in 1882 after bitter controvery." ( Liceo Dante di Firenze, 1853-1953, p.265). A more vivid account is given by her friend Mary Wright Plummer:

The courage of Signorina Sacconi, supported by her father, was sufficient to enable her at the age of fourteen to force entrance, contrary to the will of numerous greater and lesser authorities on public instruction, into a boy's Gymnasium, where she gradually bore down opposition by her indomitable will and her success as a student. (PIM, IV Jan 98 p107-108)

Information available at the Biblioteca Marucellian suggests that Giula Sacconi did not complete a classical course at the university; instead, at the age of twenty, she sat for the library examinations administered by the Mininstry of Public Instruction. In 1888 she and another woman named Anita Castellano (later Contessa Castellano-Teloni) both successfully passed the first set of examinations and were offered apprentice posts in national Biblioteca Nazionale in Florence . The following year both women passed a second round of examinations that entitled them to posts as as assistant librarians (sotto-bibliothecare).

Giula Sacconi started her professional career at the Biblioteca Marucelliana whose initial collection had been given to the city of Florence in the 18th century by Francesco Marucelli, a noted author and art connaisseur. Building on this heritage, the library continued to acquire modern works on the arts and humanities, and by the 1890s the it contained 120,000 items. Of all the Florintine libraries, Mary Wright Plummer considered the Marucelliana "the nearest to our ideal of a modern reference library in its collection and its methods. " Readers had ready access to a card catalogue by subject and an author catalogue in book form. Since the library was open in the evenings, its rooms were "often crowded with students until closing time." (LJ 1901, p. 126). Among the readers there were always a number of university women or teachers, whom Plummer described as "industriously turning the leaves of books of reference or consulting MSS." Giulia Sacconi was put in charge of the room reserved for women and her popularity was shown by "occasional tributes of flowers" brought to her, lending "a feminine and home-like air to the room." (Nation, 3/7/95).

In addtion to working with readers, Sacconi was also assigned to catalog all the incunabula belonging to the Marucellian library. However, rather than preparing traditional handwritten slips she used a new Hammond typewriter--which she proudly showed her American visitor. Believing that "the key to the contents of the library is found in the catologs," she also saught ways to make her catalog easier to use. (LJ, 1893, p. 423). By 1890 she had perfected a system of mechanical binding that was based on an earlier model which had been designed by her father during his last years at the Biblioteca Nationale. Working from his prototype, she developed a method of strengthening the binding and invented a locking device that could only be opened by a key shaped like a small screw driver.

Librarians could easily open the volumes to add new catalog slips, and thus the library's holdings could be kept as up to date as easily as with a card catalogue. Sacconi also notes that the the slips could be made in different sizes, and if the larger format was chosen, then several works of an author could be entered on a single page, making browsing much easier than in a card catalog. The large sized binders contained 250 sheets, but various sizes were available. Whatever the size, reviewers noted that the volumes lay flat and were easy for readers to take notes from.

A Florentine firm marketed this new cataloging devise which received favorable notice in English, American, and French library journals. In 1891 when Justin Winsor, then librarian of Harvard and former president of ALA , visited the Marucellian library he was also impressed with Sacconi's invention. After discussing the disadvantages of card catalogues and other mechanical binding systems, Winsor wrote: "The alternative plan, here in Italy so admirably exemplified, is to write the title on stiff paper, say 4 x7 inches, and then to bind them in small volumes of a hundered slips each, using a mechanical spring or other device which binds and unbinds easliy. The slips with a little dexterity of handlling, fly rapidly over under the eye so that a hundred titles are scanned with but a small part of the time requisite to turn over as many cards." (Nation, 7/9/1891). Another American librarian, Horace Kephart, from the St. Louis Mercantile Library noted in Library Journal : " The chief feature of the [Sacconi] binder is its device for holding the sheets. ... I will say that it is simplest, strongest and best that I have ever seen. It takes no more time to instert a new sheet into this binder than to put a new card in a locked drawer." (LJ June 1893). He also noted that if one made several entries on a page, the Sacconi system would be cheaper to maintain than a card catalogue.

In addition to publishing about her new invention, Giulia Sacconi also wrote other articles for the Riviste delle Biblioteche a new periodical launched in 1888 by Dr. Guido Biagi while he was was her supervisor at the Marucellian library. The first Italian journal to publish on contemporary library issues, the Riviste had the broader goal of becoming "a useful and neccessary guide not only for all who work in libraries...but also for all who love erudite research ,,, into the minutia of bibliography."(Biagi, 1888, no. 1-2, p. 1) While the early issues of the journal contain a number of articles on scholarly bibliographic work, Biagi and his collaborators regularly reported on libraries and librarianship in other countries Since he and his assistant at the Marucelliana, Angelo Bruschi, were especially interested in German libraries and librarianship, it is likely that they encouraged their young colleague, Guilia Sacconi, to prepare a detailed account of her visits to libraries in Switzerland, Germany, Monaco and Austria.

In 1892 Giulia Sacconi married Vittorio Ricci, a gifted musician, and he then accompanied her on this trip which she describes as a wedding journey taken during the month of August. Despite the excitement that must have accompanied her wedding preparations, it seems very likely that she did some research prior to the journey. In any case, whether published materials were obtained before or during the trip, the documentation that Sacconi-Ricci provides in her bibliographical references is quite impressive. Remarking on the "copius notes" that the young bride compiled during her honey moon, Mary Wright Plummer exclaims, "Professional devotion could go no further." (PMI p. 108).

However, in a very modest and unassuming introduction to her book Sacconi-Ricci writes: "I want to state, first, that I do not mean here to give a complete account of the Libraries I visited last August. ... [Although] traveling for pleasure, indeed being on my honeymoon, I remembered that there are Libraries in the world and that my colleagues and I might be interested in their current conditions."(Saccon-Ricci, 1893. p. 3) She continues, "Furthermore, in a rapid journey across Switzerland, Bavaria and most of Austria, in less than a month, how could have I found all the time necessary for a serious study of the history and arrangement of each Library?

(Saccon-Ricci, 1893. p. 3) In fact, Giulia Sacconi-Ricci did visit all kinds of libraries, including civic and cantonal libraries in Lucerne and Zurich , university libraries in Monoca, Vienna and Graz , the royal library of Monaco and the Imperiale library in Vienna . Far from being a mere travelogue, her account of the trip provides detailed descriptions of library policies and practices, cataloging and classification systems used, hours of operation, services to readers, and library statistics. She also described the buildings she visited, and in several cases detailed floor plans are reproduced. Sacconi-Ricci begins each presentation with the history of the library, drawing on many published sources as well as information from interviews and library reports. The wealth of data which she obtained indicates that she must have read and spoken German fluently.

Unfortunately she has offered no clue as to whether the scholarly German library directors expressed surprise at being interviewed by a very young , newly-wed, woman librarian. However, their co-operation in providing information suggests that they treated her as a serious colleague and her acknowledgement of their help is touching. She writes:

"I will limit myself, then, to summarize the impressions I received

during my brief visits to the various foreign Libraries, doing my best to re-arrange the few notes I took and that I obtained thanks to the exquisite kindness of the Librarians. In regard to this, I really want to publicly repeat here how grateful I am to all those excellent people, who through their warm welcome and their attentiveness to comply with my requests, gratified in a thousand ways my pride of being Italian and a librarian. (Saccon-Ricci, 1893. p. 3)

Sacconi-Ricci's comparative study was first published in two issues of the Riviste delle Biblioteche where it occupies over eighty pages in folio format, not counting numerous supplementary charts and illustrations. Apparently her Italian colleagues found the work useful, and the following year it was reprinted as a 287 page book in 16 mo format. Meanwhile Sacconi-Ricci continued to write about her mechanical binding system, defending it from its competitors and detractors. She also sought new clients through displaying her invention at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago . After doing further research in American, British and French publications she submitted a paper in English entitled: "On the Various Forms of Catalogs Used in Modern Libraries: With Special Reference to a System of Mechanical Binding." This international and comparative analysis of book and card catalogs was accepted to be read at the World's Congress of Librarians which was to be held concurrently with the World's Fair. Although her colleague Anita Castellano (who was listed as a member of the international women's committee for the library conference) may have gone to Chicago , Guilia Sacconi-Ricci was unable to attend since the meetings convened in July, the same month that her son Aldo was born.

When Mary Wright Plummer met her in 1894, Giulia Sacconi-Ricci was still filled with enthusiasm for her profession and proud of her 18 month old son. She not only continued to work and maintain her family obligations, she also became one of the founding members of the Societa Bibliographica Italiana whose organizers held their first meeting in the Marucellian library in 1896. Giulia Sacconi-Ricci may have had a hand in formulating of this new society's goals which included the promotion "of bibliographic studies, the love of books and bibliographic collections and the expansion of libraries in Italy" (Dean, 1983, p. 409); these aims in fact parallelled own professional goals, given that her work encompassed traditional scholarship and modern library methods. It is likely that Sacconi-Ricci attended the biblographical society's organizing meeting and she is listed as present at the first national congress in 1897. However, the following year she left Florence when her husband accepted a position to establish a new music school in Edinburgh . Although she intially thought of the move as temporary, the family stayed in Edinburgh for many years before returning to Italy where they purchased a villa outside Florence .

Shortly after moving to Scotland , Giulia Sacconi-Ricci wrote a poignant letter to her friend Mary Wright Plummer expressing her longing for her parents and for the sun of Florence . However, she sought to find beauty in her new situation and poetically described Edinburgh's fog and mists, noting that this northern city framed by mountains and the sea had an "irrestible fascination {that can] charm the onlooker into thinking and dreaming." (PMI, p. 108) By 1899 she had formally resigned from the Marucellian library, but she retained her membership in the Societa Bibliographic Italiana and she and her father Torello Sacconi are listed in all the association directories which were published up through 1911. (Guinchedi and Grignanai,1994) Meanwhile she may have become involved in a long-distance effort to contribute to the Italian feminist movement. Plummer writes in 1898, "Signora Ricci has recently takenup the cudgel's in print in behalf of the right ... of free competition between men and women in all the business and professional walks of life--a subject on which her countrymen and countrywomen need enlightenment. " (PMI, p. 108)

I have not yet been able to discover whether Giulia Sacconi-Ricci became involved with the British feminist movement or with local library development during her years Edinburgh . While she seems to have published nothing further on libraries abroad, her interest in cultural exchange was continued by her only child Aldo Ricci who was completely bi-lingual, having received most his education in the British Isles . In 1910 Aldo Ricci won a scholarship to King's College Cambridge where he took first class honors in English literature. After miliary service during World War I, he returned to Florence to head the British Institute; there he taught courses, translated English literature into Italian, and published numerous scholarly works.

In the preface to Adlo Ricci's post-humus work. Le Origini della Civiltà Inglese , Harold E. Goad decribes his Italian colleague as being "peculiarly fitted to be the scholarly interpretor of English literature to his fellow countrymen." Goad further characterizes the young scholar who died at 37 as "keen, active, enegetic, ... with unbounded enthusiasm for our English language and literature [and] exceptional powers of organization ... as Headmaster [he] raised the Institute into the first rank of educational institions in Florence ." (p. vii). While Giulia Sacconi-Ricci must have encouraged her son's studies and was undoubtedly very proud of his accomplishments, only her husband, Vittorio Ricci, is mentioned in Goad's biographical tribute. Although she considered her son her chef d'oeuvre, perhaps Sacconi-Ricci's most important legacy was in opening the way for other Italian women who attended the Liceo Dante or chose to pursue library careers . Plummer ended her 1898 sketch of her friend stating: " The bondage of women to tradition and custom is loosening somewhat in Italy ; and when their freedom is accomplished, it will be much to have been a pioneer in the work." (PMI p. 108-109)


M. S. R. James

Like Giulia Sacconi-Ricci, Minnie Stewart Rhodes James was also pioneering in her efforts to open librarianship to women. Although women had been employed in the Manchester Public Library since the 1870s, and a few women did join the Library Association of the United Kindom (LAUK) in its early years, M. S. R. James was the first member to emerge as an outspoken advocate for the employment of women librarians on an equal footing with men. Miss James also surveyed the employment of women librarians abroad, and she mentioned the work of Giulia Sacconi-Ricci in three of her articles. In 1893 the two women both had papers accepted for presentation at the World Congress of Librarians; however, since the Italian librarian was unable to travel to Chicago , it seems doubtful they ever had an opportunity to meet. M. S. R James cites articles she had read relating to the accomplishments of Sacconi-Ricci and it is quite possible that she also heard of her through her friend Mary Wright Plummer whom she frequently visited in New York . Plummer clearly admired both the Italian and the British librarian for their unstinting advocacy of women's employment, but she must have been struck by how much their career patterns and life choices had been affected by the national context in which each worked.

Born in Suffolk , England in 1865, Minnie Stewart Rhodes James was the daughter of Henry Haughton James who had made a career in the Indian Navy. Although members of her family achieved prominence in public affairs, education, religion and literature, little is known of M. S. R. James' early years or her education. One well documented study of her life has been published by library historian A. Clarke who infers that she may have been educated at home, since "her name does not appear among the records of Oxford or Cambridge ." (Clarke, 197, p. 30). Although there are few clues as to what motivated her to take up librarianship, it is possible that her interest may have stemmed from charity work; in any case, by the age of 23 she was working in East London as a librarian and an advocate for the poor. In 1889 she had joined the Library Association and was soon quite active, frequently giving papers at local meetings. Three years later when the Library Association held its fifteenth anniversary meeting in Paris in 1892, she became the first woman to give a paper at an annual meeting.

Many of M. S. R. James' American friends first became acquainted with her in Chicago when she presented a paper at the 1893 World Congress, and much later Mary Ahern, the editor of an American journal called Public Libraries, remembered how her young English colleague "at once won all hearts by her bright, intelligent grasp of library ideals." Ahern continues, "the friends made on that occasion grew in number and strength when she came, as she did later, to make her home in America . "(1903, p. 315-16). Ahern also recalled "the Little English Miss James," as a "gentle, broad minded, well balanced" woman who was "modest in her bearing." Mary Wright Plummer described her as attractive, business like, and generous with her time, but also referred to her as "a retiring woman, caring nothing for publicity, yet ready to do what was necessary in that way in the furtherance of the cause of libraries." ( Ahern 1903, p. 315, Plummer, 1903, p.330)

The quiet, unassuming image portrayed by these American friends contrasts markedly with the portrait offered by Henry Guppy, editor of the Library Association Record who referred to M.S.R. James as "the most zealous supporter of women in British libraries. She was prominent in all branches of library work and there is hardly a point in library science on which she has not expressed an opinion--debated a point." ( Guppy, 1903, p. 326) He further comments: "From the beginning of her career in library work Miss James stands out as a vivid personality. The room was full when she was announced to read a paper, whether it was on her own library, or the future of women in library work ...all she said was forceful, witty and to the point." (Guppy, 1903, p. 327) An interviewer from the Woman's Herald describes her as "pretty, vivacious, piquant, with a decided opinion on many subjects," while a journalist from Young Woman refers her as "brimful of vivacity, her piquant playfulness kept bubbling up." (quoted in Clarke, 1977, p.31).

Altogether M.S.R. James authored close to three dozen articles and the voice that emerges from this body of work is indeed witty and outspoken rather than modest or shy. Her earliest publications concern the library which she directed at the People's Palace, a recreational and educational center established by funds from several British philathropists. The initial idea for such an institution was inspired by the novelist and social reformer, Sir Walter Besant who wrote of the desparate need for a cultural and recreational facility located in the East End slums of London . The first unit of the People's Palace was opened by Queen Victoria in 1887 and when the whole complex was completed, it contained a large lecture hall, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a winter garden, art studios and, in the words of Besant, "one of the finest library buildings in London." (Besant, 1902, p. 244).

Sir Walter Besant served as chairman of the library committee, and since he was known as a supporter of women's rights, he is credited with the appointment of female librarians. Besant wrote in his autobiography:"We had three ladies as librarians--most efficient librarians they were. They ruled over the rough people who came into the library with a gentle but steady hand. There was no such thing as a row while they were there." (Besant, 1902, p. 245) M.S.R. James joined the staff in 1888 and after 18 months she became head librarian. During her tenure there she received unswerving support from Besant. Like him, she took special interest in the most impoverished readers, but she noted that the library was "patronized by all social classes," with 1200 to 1400 readers using the books on an average day. (James, 1893, p, 429) She was a close observer of her diverse clientel, and she expressed concern that it was "difficult to make the readers believe the librarian exists for their benefit; they are shy about giving trouble and profuse in their thanks..." (LJ, 1893, p, 429) She was always a strong advocate of service to readers and she urged librarians to "always be accessible" and to offer guidance that was " clear, direct, and comprehensive; " she believed that "the librarian's relation to her readers is that of [someone who helps] a "friend in need." (LJ 1893, p, 147)

During her years at the People's Palace M.S.R. James gave interviews to London newspapers, and made every effort to publicize the work of the library --perhaps with the goal of raising money for its continuation. Clarke notes that from the outset the entire project suffered from financial difficulties. Within a few years, most of the recreational activities of the People's Palace were curtailed, leaving only a technical school; eventually the lovely octagonal library and what was left the collection (which had begun with 15,000 books) was turned over "to the poverty striken rate payers of the parish." (Besant, 1902, p. 244) Five years after giving up her position, M.S.R. James wrote: "I left the People's Palace in 1894 ... because I was weary of seeing and being powerless to prevent the ... authorities from letting it go all to pieces for want of subsidy and interest." (quoted in Guppy, 1903, p. 327)

Later in 1894 M.S.R. James accepted a positon at the Library Bureau, an American company that manufactured and sold a wide range of library equipment from catalog cards made on "Library Standard" Bristol card stock to furniture such as file cabinents and wooden card catalogs with specially patented fittings. Incorporated by Melvil Dewey in 1888, the Library Bureau, which had its main headquarters in Boston , was eager to establish a branch in Europe . After a six month appreticeship in the Boston Headquarters, M.S.R. James returned to to set up a London branch of the company. However, in 1897 she decided to move to Boston where she took the position as the librarian of the Library Bureau. In that capacity she began to write articles that focused more on the technolgical tools of modern library practice.

In a 1903 article she gave examples of the early use of card filing systems in a few French and British librairies --a practice which long preceded their introduction in the United States. However, she noted that "Americans realized its vital principle and American inventive ingenuity promptly improved and perfected its details to such an extent, that the relationship between the old form and the new form is hardly recognizable. Having once realized its value practical business men proceeded to apply it with increasing success to every form of record and every kind of business transaction." (James, 1903, p.186) Because the Library Bureau sold extensively to business, she was very aware of the impact these new methods of handling complex information were having in the broader world. She wrote: " Card ledgers are superseding [sic] book ledgers and revolutionizing bookkeeping, and the card principle has recently been applied advantageously to the filing of letters, papers, catalogs, pamphlets, scraps, photoes, etc., and all loose matter that requires to be kept for reference ... Indeed, the card system in its modern business aspects is one of the greatest labor-savers and indispensible improvements of the present time, as has been abundantly testified by electric, gas, water, telephone, railroad companies, factories and other users." (James, 1903, p.189) Four years later, Herbert Davidson, who was then president of the company, noted that "The enormous growth of the Library Bureau has come from the development and application of these library systems and methods to commercial work." (Flanzraich, 1993, p.404).

Even though M. S. R. James appreciated the many innovations patented and sold by the Library Bureau, in her final article she warned: "Technical methods are really the least part of library work, though all parts of a machine must be in the best condition." ( James, 1904, p. 375) Nonetheless, she continued to champion new technologies when their use might improve the efficiency of service to readers; she therefore recommended "an increased use of the telephone in libraries" because she believed that telephone reference service could be beneficial for business men, journalists and "other busy people who have no time to go to the library for information which could quite well be given to them over the telephone to the saving of the inquirer and the librarian." ( James, 1904, p. 375).

Although both technology and training are important themes in M.S.R. James' writings, the topic that she contiually returned to in almost every publication was he work of women librarians. Even when describing the her work in the East End, library association meetings, modern British libraries or the libraries in Barbados (where she went briefly for her health) she always notes the presence of women librarians, commenting on their number and their role. It is of course impossible to know if M. S. R. James' speeches or writings lead young women to seek library careers or encouraged library committees to appoint female librarians. However, the interest in her ideas is clearly shown by their wide circulation through conference papers and magazine interviews as well as articles published and later reprinted on both sides of the Atlantic . For example, her paper entitled "Women Librarians" was first read at the LAUK annual meeting in Paris in 1892. Henry Guppy, the editor of the Library Association Record indicated that her presentation was well received and he quickly published it in his journal. Soon after an exerpt appeared in the Review of Reviews , a journal aimed at general readers; the following year the text was reprinted in the United States in Library Journal .

Library Journal also published the paper that M.S.R. James presented at the 1893 World Congress in Chicago , and although the topic was her work at the People's Palace, she ended with a discussion of women in librarianship. Following the Chicago meeting she visited libraries in the United States and prepared a paper on "American Women as Librarians" which she gave at the LAUK annual meeting in Aberdeen ; shortly afterward this paper was published in the Library Association Record. M. S. R. James' next paper on the topic was the one she presented at the 1899 International Congress of Women in London . This paper and a shorter paper she wrote on women as indexers appeared in the proceedings of the congress; in 1900 the longer paper was published in the Library Association Record in a more complete form that included a bibliography, and two years later a slightly shortened version appeared in the American journal, Public Libraries.

While the focus of each of her three major articles on women librarians is different, M. S. R. James usually treats five maor themes: (1) qualities needed by a librarian; (2) defense of women's ability to engage in library work; (3) the importance of training for librarians, especially women; (4) salaries and (5) surveys of women in librarianship. Although some of her colleagues believed that librarianship had not yet attained the satutus of a profession, M.S.R. James accepts the premise that it is a profession and one that can have an important impact on society. In 1892 she writes: "The idea that the librarian as a caretaker is happily becoming extinct, and it is expected of every librarian nowdays, and rightly so, that he or she should at least know something of the books they issue, and the best ways of classifying and cataloging them; in fact library economy is about to become an exact science. (1892. LAR, p. 218)

These developments in the field lead her to promote training of male and female library assistants. However she notes: "If without any marked degree of training women can succeed in doing what they have done in various departments of work .... --what would the result be if they were trained thoroughly and fitted for the duties of their various occupations. "(LJ, 1893, p. 430). Although admitting that conventional upbringing of women left them deficient in business skills, she believed that this could easily be remedied by proper training. While her articles on library training outline suggestions of ways to help all library assistants, she also urges that training for girls and women should not only equip them with business skills, but also "make them independent and self-reliant in every particular."(LJ, 1893, p. 430). In addition to discussing training issues, M.S.R. James served on the LAUK Education committee and she also became involved with the summer session courses first organized up by the Library Association in 1893. Later, during her years in the United States , she gave guest lectures at library schools such as Pratt as well as keeping in touch with the work of her British colleagues.

M.S.R. James discussed American library education in many of her articles and she also emphasized the importance of professionalism in the United States . She declared, "Library work is looked upon as a profession and rightly so, for only in this way can the value of public libraries as educational centers be appreciated." (1893, LAR, p. 270) In her 1899 paper she pushes this idea still further, asserting that "the status of the librarian is being raised; more is expected ... for it is a positon of great responsibility and one of unlimited possibilites and far-reaching influence." (1902, PL p. 5). She further elborates on this idea, stating: "the public library and librarian of any community, or educational institute should be regarded as ... a very important part of the machinery of technical, secondary and higher education. Carlyle says libraries are the universities of the people, and this being so, the library comittee, librarian and staff can not be too carefully selected. If the best professors and instructors are not too good for a university, the best educated, most widely read and highly cultured persons cannot be too good for library work..." (1902, PL p. 3).

Although this last statement was addressed to the women's congress, M. S. R. James makes it clear that the librarian's qualifications and skills should be the same for both men and women.

In her attempt to recruit women to the field, she states: "The librarian has gorgeous opportunitie s and her work can never really be finished." (Lib, 1892, p. 222). In the same talk she strongly cautions against underestimating the amount of effort required. She writes: "it has been said the work of the library is light, but let no one run with this idea. It is interesting, delightful, absorbing but it can not be called light if performed with any degree of thoroughness, and it must be remembered that the work is what the worker makes it to an extent." (Lib, 1892, p. 222). Because the requirements for library work are "kaledioscopic," librarians are "rightly expected to be well up in all works on modern science, industries, economics, and all branches of literature; to be able to recommend the best and latest editions of any subject; to suggest books for purchase..." (1902, PL p. 3-4). In addition to mastering a wide range of up-to-date knowledge, she recommends that librarians "possess unfailing patience, tact, courtesy, an appreciation of humour, keen preceptions of a good indexer, and an unobtrusive ability to penetrate the minds of inquirers for the elucidation of their somewhat involved demands. " (1902, PL p. 4). Despite the length of this list of skills and attributes M.S. R. James boldly declares that educated women possess all the qualities listed above. She then concludes: " it is a source of great wonderment...that so few women have been employed in British libraries in really responsible positions." (1902, PL p. 4) Later in this same paper, she asserts that "a woman is instinctively quick, tactful, and patient."

The last statement quoted above is the only reference I have found in any of M. S. R. James' writings where she suggests that women have innate abilites that fit them for library work (1902, PL p. 4). Unlike some writers who stress women's special qualities as justification for their employment, M. S. R. James takes an egalitarian stance, staunchly defending women's ability to engage in all kinds library work on equal footing with men. She writes: "Judge us by the facts , not the fancies of the old conventional kind."(1893, LJ, p. 430) Squarely addressing the accusation that women could not maintain control of a library she writes: "As for keeping order, personally I think that a word or look from a woman has more effect on a miscreant than the forcible ejection or emphatic language of a man, and having had several years in the East End district, I consider I am entitled to speak on this matter." (1892, LAR, p. 223). She also rejects the idea of a woman's sphere, stating "why a woman's sphere in work should differ so distinctly from a man's is a littel difficult to see." (LJ, 1893, p. 430).

Her egalitarianism also extended to the issue of earnings, and she frequently urged women not to accept low salaries but demand equal pay for equal work. This argument was both radical and politcally astute, since one reason a number of male librarians opposed the appointment of women in Britain was the fear that their lower wages would drive down the already meager salaries offered in rate supported libraries. M. S. R. James stated: "Women do not want to oust men from such work by accepting lower salaries because their labor is reckoned as cheaper . ..all they demand is equal chances. If the woman applicant be better fitted by education, etc., ...surely it would be policy for the library board to employ her, since the library requires the best, regardless of sex which should not enter into the question." (PL, 1902, p.6) However, she was very aware that this would be controversial, and that women libriarans were still regarded with skepticism by some of her colleagues. In her 1892 talk she stated: "We must not forget that it yet remains for us to prove ourselves capable of fulfilling such responsible posts in th eyes of our brother librarians, who at present, I fear look upon us with a great degree of suspicion." (Lib, 1892, p.222) She then recommended visits to other libraries, not only to learn new practicies but also as a means of alleviating this tension and "encouraging a feeling of brotherhood which ought to exist between members of such a profession." The following year she closed her paper given at the World's Fair by urging her colleagues to "above all keep in mind the neither sex is wholly independent of the other and the best can only be obtained by loyal co-coperation. " (LJ, 1893, p.430)

M. S. R. James frequently criticized the state of low pay for both men and women, and in several instances she upbraided libraries for offering salaries so low that educated women are unwilling to apply for positions. Throughout her writings she strongly argued that women needed a decent living wage, because not all could live at home and work for "dress money." Like Mary Wright Plummer she believed a woman should be able to support herself and live both comfortably and independently. Although salaries were much lower in Britain , M.S.R. James observed that "the same inadequate reasons" were used on both sides of the Atlantic to justify of paying women less. She also reminded prospective employers that female librarians often "have others dependent on them," and that "women have in many instances to make their way in the world, marriage not being the ultimate finale of every woman." (Lib, 1893, p. 272).

Even though she was quite aware that American women had not yet gained equality in the field, in her 1899 paper she optimistically refered to the United States as the "elysium of of women ... all positions are open to them." (1902, PL, p. 8) In an earlier article she noted that most of the American women librarians whom she met were "enthusiastic about their work, sparing no pains ...and considering the reader and his present and future needs from every point of view."(Lib, 1893, p. 272) She concluded: "the success attained by American women ... is due to the fact that on entering the profession they recognize it as their life-work and throw all their powers of mind and body into the occupation which they have chosen; there is no half-heartedness, not taking it up as a stop-gap, and the result is that they have won fro themselves and those who come after them, an honoured position in an honourable profession." (Lib, 1893, p. 272) Although her glowing assessment of her women colleagues across the Atlantic was not completely warranted, Miss James' last statement does capture the passion and dedication of a remarkable generation of American women who took up the librarianship with missionary fervor.

While most of her writings on women librarians focus on the United States and Britain , M. S. R. James was also interested in the situation of women librarians in other counties. In her 1899 paper she mentions several librarians by name including Signora Sacconi-Ricci from Italy , Fröken Valborg Platou, chief librarian in Bergen Norway , Mlle. Pellechet from France and Mary Burbank, a librarian in Hawaii . She also notes that female librarians were extensively employed in Canada , while in several other countries such as Austrailia , Germany , Swizerland a few women had been hired by libraries.

In Britain Miss James identified 21 women holding positions as head librarian in 1893 but she could only find 19 at that level five years later. She also expressed disappointment that at the LAUK annual meetings women were still were a tiny minority. In her report of the 1897 meeting she writes with irony: "As usual, only on a few occasions were any ladies (except my obscure self) present at meetings and the rarity of such a sight was obvious by the remarks of the speakers, for "Mr. Chairman and gentlemen" had become so customary a commencement that it never occured to them a woman could possibly take any interest in the proceedings ... to judge by the appearance of the meetings, one would think, like snakes in Ireland, there were no women librarians in England." Later in this same report she mentions a paper on a Berlin public library where a woman was employed, and adds wickedly: "Photos of the library and its custodian were handed around amid general interest, the woman librarian being somewhat like the dodo, an extinct species to the English mind..." (1897, PL, p. 497).

M. S. R. James biting remarks about the LAUK conference may have been influenced by her experience working in the United States where she found numerous female colleagues at ALA meetings, Massachusettes Library Club meetings and other local or state groups she attended. However, just before her death from typhoid fever in 1903 she completed a manuscript on "Modern British Libraries" in which she gives a very different assessment of women's accomplishments and progress. Although she did not indicate how many women were employed, she remarked that Greenwood's 1900-1901 yearbook showed and increase in the number of British women who held positions both as chief librarians and as assistants; in addition, she observed that women were working in libraries Austrailia and Barbadoes. With unusual optimism she ends what was to be her final discussion of women librarians by asserting : "There seems every reason to believe that they will ulimately be on the same footing as men in library work of the future." (1904, p. 377).

Conclusion: " No philosophy carries so much conviction as the personal life. "

As the beginning of another century approaches, I am afraid we can only conclude that the egalitarian future envisioned by M.S.R. James has not yet arrived. However, like those who attended the Internation Women's Congress a century ago, we can also chart the hard-fought gains that the feminist movement has won for women professionals in all fields, including librarianship. Not only have women won their politcial and civil rights, they have also demolished the educational barriers faced by women like Marie Pellechet in France and Giulia Sacconi-Ricci in Italy . Furthermore, the restraints that families imposed on both single and married women at the turn of the century have been loosened considerably and the constraints women felt at raising their voices in public meetings have virtually disappeared. In the century that has elapsed, women have not only made their voices heard, they have become outspoken leaders and have served as presidents of professional associations in most fields, including librarianship.

The library world today, at the turn of the twentieth-first century, is a world of learning, once again on the verge of becoming overwhelmed--but this time by the flood of chaotic information and disinformation on the Internet. It is a world of 19th century traditions and practices becoming transformed by a myriad of new techologies from C-D Rom and online databases to new and undreamed of forms of digital, multimedia information. And these changes are occuring at a time when women in leadership roles have the potential to shape the direction of the future, to take part in the work and privileges of the profession, and to share in the designing and dreaming of a new world. Hopefully continued efforts in the coming century will bring us closer to the social, economic and professional equality sought by much earlier generations of women whose stories we must reclaim as part of our feminist heritage.

We continue to benefit from the legacy of those who stuggled to open librarianship to women, who worked to raise the standards of practice and service in the field, and who, like Mary Wright Plummer's colleague at Pratt, believed that librarianship offered " scope for the exercise of all a woman's powers, executive ability, knowledge of books, social sympathies, [and] knowledge of human nature."(Rathbone, 1910, p. 216 ) However, despite their dedication to the field, the names, faces and accomplishments of our female predecessors have been largely forgotten while the names of Richard Garnett, Melvyl Dewey and Leoplod Delisle are still remembered.

In reflecting on life-work of the four women discussed here, it is apparent that although they had as much energy, abilty, and imagination as male library leaders of their generation, the decisions each woman made in composing her life and conducting her work forced her to confront gender expectations in an era when to be professional and female qualified one as a "new woman." A feminist approach to these biographies must therefore look at how gender issues influenced each individual's life course, examining the intersections between the public and the private sphere. From this vantage point, it is possible to view their efforts to change their own world as a kind of feminist undertaking, which historian Joyce Antler terms "feminism as life-process." Antler defines this concept as personal rather that political feminism; it is thus

"a single individual's struggle for autonomy rather than a self-conscious strategy for altering the social order. It is a personal, rather than a collective, set of processes taking place over an individual's life course by which women have sought to mold their destinies in the world and confront, at each stage of their life cycle, the gender-defined issues that have traditionally limited female opportunities." (Antler, 1981, p. 134)

Using this concept as a lens, it is possible to look at the turning points in Mary Wright Plummer's life and to see in them a complex individual's effort to live with integrity, to consider the needs and wishes of her parents as well as her own drive for autonomy and accomplishment, to balance her own high expectations for her work with a rich peronal life. Dedicated to achievement in the public sphere of her chosen profession, she rejected the option of marriage, but she did not deny her need for connection and intimacy which she achieved through close friendships and strong bonds with her family. Sensitive to the need to balance autonomy with interdependence, she shared her life and her home with many friends who lovingly remembered her.

Like Mary Wright Plummer, both M. S. R. James and Giulia Sacconi-Ricci believed that women were entitled "equal chances and equal rights with men," Each had the enegy and enthusiasm to become an effective leader and all three were active in their respective professional associations. The fact that Mary Wright Plummer was the only one of the three to hold the presidency of local, state and national library associations is in part due to the broader opportunties open to American women in the early years of the 20th century. Her decision not to marry made her career options different that those of Giulia Sacconi-Ricci who valiantly attempted to combine a demanding career with family life at a time that this was almost unheard of in Italy . Although M. S. R. James remained single, her death from typhoid at at the age of 38 meant that her professional career lasted only 14 years, compared to nearly 30 years that Plummer was active in the library field. Yet despite their different constaints they faced, depite their different choices and career paths-- all three could be cited as proof that women could be forceful and visible while not denying their "feminine sympathies." Mary Wright Plummer's third friend, Marie Pellechet, was very much an individualist, and even though she had neither a salaried library post nor a commitment to opening librarianship to women, by achieving an international scholarly reputation she nonetheless proved through her example that women were capable of the kind erudite bibliographic work carried out by conservateurs in the most prestigious French libraries.

Deeper understanding of the attitudes, goals and ambitions of these four women is difficult, due to my lack of access to personal papers of anyone aside from Mary Wright Plummer. Although small, the collection of Plummer's letters is illuminating, and among her papers I was pleased to find annual lists of books she read for her personal enrichment, along with a few notes containing poems or quotations that particularly moved her. Listed in these reading notes was a 1915 book by Katherine Susan Anthony entitled: Feminism in Germany and Scandinavia . From this book Plummer copied several quotations, including three lines from the German feminist, Anna Von Nathasius who declared: "We have talked enough of women's emancipation. Let us begin to live it. No philosophy carries so much conviction as the personal life." (MWP reading notes, 1916) Written some time in 1916, the last year of her life, this quote seems to express her own legacy to the profession-- and I believe it also expresses an important aspect of legacy of each of her three friends, Marie Pellechet, M. S. R. James, and Giulia Sacconi- Ricci. Regardless of her personal philosophy, each of these women had a strong conviction about the importance of her work, and each one attemted to emancipate herself from the narrow restriction of "woman's sphere."