The Women's Library. (Frontline)

By Byatt, Antonia | History Today, February 2002 | Go to article overview

The Women's Library. (Frontline)


Byatt, Antonia, History Today


ON FEBRUARY 4TH, THE WOMEN'S LIBRARY opens in an extraordinary new building in Aldgate East. Designed by Wright and Wright, it retains the facade of the old wash houses formerly occupying the site, a place where women gathered and worked. Behind, a startling contemporary building rises, constructed from brick, stone, copper and oak. In 1942, the Librarian of the Fawcett Library, Vera Douie, had written `Though at present only in its infancy, great things are expected of this little Library, which shows every promise of a very useful future'. Since 1977 the Library has had its home in a basement at London Guildhall University, hard to find, charming but cramped. Visitors from all over the world have visited it, but so has rain and, even worse, sewage. After the third flood, the University decided the Library must be rehoused in order to survive. It successfully applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. In 1998 4.2 million [pounds sterling] was awarded. The resulting magnificent new home offers the potential for much wider use of the collection. It is what many women, including Virginia Woolf, Philippa Strachey and Vera Brittain, have worked for over the last century.

The Library grew out of the London Society for Women's Suffrage, which was founded in 1867. Its formal life started with the appointment of Vera Douie, its first librarian, in 1926, in headquarters in Marsham Street, with a cafe and lecture theatre.

Subsequently, the library was renamed The Fawcett Library after Millicent Garrett Fawcett. She was the president of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and campaigned for the vote constitutionally, persisting throughout the First World War, and beyond. Consequently, the Library has rich and unique suffrage holdings. During its initial life many women who had been involved in the campaign for the vote donated material. Not only does the Library have probably the most extensive collection of suffrage banners, but it also houses objects produced to incorporate the campaigns into daily life: badges, tea services, suffrage cookbooks, postcards, board games and card games. There was even suffrage tea. In the archive of Emily Wilding Davison, movingly, is her tiny purse, removed from her body after her death, a result of falling under the King's horse at the Derby. In it, her return ticket to Epsom, suggests she did not plan to die, but in giving her life for the cause, her funeral, attended by thousands, was that of a martyr's.

After the vote was won, the Library became a useful source of information for women who were hoping to enter the professions. The collections continued to grow, still mainly concerned with women's campaigns, from Greenham Common and the Movement for the Ordination of Women, to domestic violence and self help health. The Library is an extraordinary collection of social history; some of the earliest books document women's position in the law, or trace the beginnings of women's campaigns for equality. The woman as good as the man: or the equality of both sexes by Le Comte de la Barre (1677), is a kind of early relation of Mary Wollstonecraft's seminal Vindication of the Rights of Women (of which the Library has a first edition). More surprising riches in the collection are those of daily life. A look at women's magazines over the last 200 years tells us an extraordinary amount about how attitudes have changed, and about what hasn't! …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Women's Library. (Frontline)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.