288 pp., 6 x 9
A volume in the series:
Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book
Right Here I See My Own Books
The Woman's Building Library at the World's Columbian Exposition
The story of a historic library of women’s writing at the 1893 World’s Fair
On May 1, 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago opened its gates to an expectant public eager to experience firsthand its architectural beauty, technological marvels, and vast array of cultural treasures gathered from all over the world. Among the most popular of the fair’s attractions was the Woman’s Building, a monumental exhibit hall filled with the products of women’s labor—including more than 8,000 volumes of writing by women. Right Here I See My Own Books examines the progress, content, and significance of this historic first effort to assemble a comprehensive library of women’s texts.
By weaving together the behind-the-scenes story of the library’s formation and the stories between the covers of books on display, Wadsworth and Wiegand firmly situate the Woman’s Building Library within the historical context of the 1890s. Interdisciplinary in approach, their book demonstrates how this landmark collection helped consolidate and institutionalize women’s writing in conjunction with the burgeoning women’s movement and the professionalization of librarianship in late nineteenth-century America.
Americans in this period debated a wide range of topics, including women’s rights, gender identity, racial politics, nationalism, regionalism, imperialism, and modernity. These debates permeated the cultural climate of the Columbian Exposition. Wadsworth and Wiegand’s book illuminates the range and complexity of American women’s responses to these issues within a public sphere to which the Woman’s Building provided unprecedented access.
"The brief but glorious history of the Woman's Building Library is a fascinating story in itself, yet Wadsworth and Wiegand perceive a larger significance within the very pages of the library's books. . . . By analyzing representative books, [they] uncover the "gendered discourses of duty, vocation, and progress" reflected in the library's holdings."—American Libraries Magazine
"Women's issues and general book history holdings will find this a lively and important read."—Midwest Book Review
"[A] thoughtful examination of a turning point in American society."—Wisconsin Bookwatch
"A lively and important read."—California Bookwatch
"Readers interested in understanding the phenomena of world’s fairs through the lens of gender . . . will find this volume indispensible. . . . Ultimately, by illuminating how power and privilege shaped the rather unconventional collection of woman-authored texts at the Woman’s Building Library and by providing a detailed overview of the Library’s holdings, the authors broaden our understanding of how nineteenth-century women perceived their world, and how they shaped it through their own cultural contributions."—Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society
"Perhaps the most compelling discussions within this study are the ways in which the Exposition in general and the Woman's Building Library in particular attempted to convey 'the image of openness and inclusiveness,' but did so in ways that were 'relentlessly exclusive." . . . Drawing on works of Toni Morrison, Hazel Carby, and others, this study makes significant contributions to discussion of race and gender within nineteenth-century America. . . . Right Here I See My Own Books is a deeply engaging study that makes significant contributions to our understanding of the history of American women's writing, American literary history, and the ways in which libraries both reflect and shape the work in which we live."—Libraries & Information History