An Independent Woman
The Autobiography of Edith Guerrier
Edith Guerrier (1870-1958) embodied the ideals of the "New Women" who emerged by the thousands in turn-of-the-century America to take advantage of greater economic and educational opportunities for their sex. At the age of twenty-one, she began working with children in a settlement house in Boston's North End, where she soon maintained a reading room and a Boston Public Library delivery station. A pioneer in the new field of librarianship just opening to women, she founded many library clubs and eventually became the supervisor of branch libraries in Boston.
Guerrier is perhaps best remembered for her work on behalf of young immigrant women in Boston's North End. Among the numerous "girls" clubs she founded was the Saturday Evening Girls, composed of young women of Jewish and Italian ancestry. Wanting to do more than simply "keep the girls off the street," she devised a plan to enable her charges to become financially self-sufficient. In 1908, with her lifelong companion Edith Brown, she began to develop what eventually became the Paul Revere Pottery. Potters worked an eight-hour day in an airy, healthful atmosphere, and received a decent wage, an annual paid vacation, and a daily hot lunch--all of which were virtually unheard of in the early twentieth-century workplace. Paul Revere Ware today is valued as a collector's item.
Guerrier's autobiography has never been published. Her story takes us from her New England girlhood through her years on the midwestern frontier, to her education at Vermont Methodist Seminary and Female College, and finally through her odyssey in Boston, where she lived for most of her adult life. Molly Matson provides an introduction that examines Guerrier's life and several careers and discusses the history of turn-of-the-century Boston. In a substantive foreword, Polly Welts Kaufman situates Guerrier's autobiography within the context of recent scholarship on the changing roles of women during this period of American history.