Timeline of women in library science in the United States

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This is a timeline of women in library science in the United States.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or simply America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. Most of the country is located in central North America between Canada and Mexico. With an estimated population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City.

1890: Elizabeth Putnam Sohier and Anna Eliot Ticknor became the first women appointed to a state library agency--specifically, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Elizabeth Putnam Sohier (1847–1926), a member of Boston's wealthy class, persuaded the Massachusetts Legislature to establish the Free Library Commission in 1890—the first of its kind in the United States. She and Anna Eliot Ticknor became the first women appointed to a United States state library agency when they were appointed to that commission in 1890. As a member of the Free Public Library Commission for thirty six years she worked tirelessly to ensure that every city and town in Massachusetts had a library. She also worked to encourage these libraries, once established, to expand collections and circulation. In 1952 the Commission was renamed the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Anna Eliot Ticknor American author, educator

Anna Eliot Ticknor was an American author and educator. In 1873, Ticknor founded the Society to Encourage Studies at Home which was the first correspondence school in the United States. She is attributed as being a pioneer of distance learning in the United States, and the mother of correspondence schools. She served as one of the original appointees to the Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission, which was the first of its kind in the United States. She and Elizabeth Putnam Sohier became the first women appointed to a United States state library agency when they were appointed to that commission in 1890.

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (est.1890) is a state agency that supports libraries in Massachusetts. The governor appoints each commissioner. The current board consists of librarians, academics and library trustees: Carol B. Caro, Mary Ann Cluggish, George T. Comeau, Mary Kronholm, Frank Murphy, Roland Ochsenbein, Janine Resnik, Gregory J. Shesko, and Alice M. Welch.

1911: Theresa Elmendorf became the first woman elected president of the American Library Association. [1]

Theresa Elmendorf librarian

Theresa West Elmendorf was a prominent American librarian of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. In 1911 she became the first female president of the American Library Association.

The American Library Association (ALA) is a nonprofit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 57,000 members.

1923: Virginia Proctor Powell Florence became the first black woman in the United States to earn a degree in library science. [2] She earned the degree (Bachelor of Library Science) from what is now part of the University of Pittsburgh. [3] [4] [5]

Virginia Proctor Powell Florence was a trailblazer in both African-American history and the history of librarianship. In 1923 she became the first black woman in the United States to earn a degree in library science. This also made her the second African-American to be formally trained in librarianship, after Edward Christopher Williams.

1972: Zoia Horn, born in Ukraine, became the first United States librarian to be jailed for refusing to share information as a matter of conscience (and, as she was female, the first female United States librarian to do so.) [6]

Zoia Horn American librarian and human rights activist

Zoia Markovna Horn, born in Ukraine, became in 1972 the first United States librarian to be jailed for refusing to share information as a matter of conscience. Horn, an outspoken member of the American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee, worked at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania in the early 1970s. Horn was jailed for nearly three weeks for contempt of court after refusing to testify for the prosecution in the 1972 conspiracy trial of the "Harrisburg Seven" anti-war activists.

1973: Page Ackerman became University Librarian for the University of California, Los Angeles, and was the United States's first female librarian of a system as large and complex as UCLA's. [7]

University of California, Los Angeles Public research university in Los Angeles, California

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), is a public research university in Los Angeles. It became the Southern Branch of the University of California in 1919, making it the fourth-oldest of the 10-campus University of California system. It offers 337 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a wide range of disciplines. UCLA enrolls about 31,000 undergraduate and 13,000 graduate students and had 119,000 applicants for Fall 2016, including transfer applicants, making the school the most applied-to of any American university.

2016: Carla Hayden became the first female Librarian of Congress. [8]

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Librarian person who works professionally in a library, and is usually trained in librarianship

A librarian is a person who works professionally in a library, providing access to information and sometimes social or technical programming to users. In addition, librarians provide instruction on information literacy.

Librarian of Congress Head of the Library of Congress

The librarian of Congress is the head of the Library of Congress, appointed by the president of the United States with the advice and consent of the United States Senate, for a term of ten years. The librarian of Congress appoints the U.S. poet laureate and awards the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke American politician

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke is a politician from Los Angeles, California, United States. She was the first African-American woman to represent the West Coast in Congress. She served in the U.S. Congress from 1973 until January 1979. She was the Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the 2nd District (1992–2008). She has served as the Chair three times. Her husband is William Burke, a prominent philanthropist and creator of the Los Angeles Marathon.

UCLA Library library system of the University of California, Los Angeles, USA

The library system of the University of California, Los Angeles, is one of the largest academic research libraries in North America, with a collection of over nine million books and 70,000 serials. The UCLA Library System is spread over 12 libraries, 12 other archives, reading rooms, research centers and the Southern Regional Library Facility, which serves as a remote storage facility for southern UC campuses. It is among the ten largest academic research library systems in the United States, and its annual budget allocates $10 million for the procurement of digital and print material. It is a Federal Depository Library, California State Depository Library, and United Nations Depository Library.

Ella P. Stewart American pharmacist

Ella Nora Phillips Stewart was one of the first African-American female pharmacists in the United States.

Hillman Library library

Hillman Library is the largest library and the center of administration for the University Library System (ULS) of the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Located on the corner of Forbes Avenue and Schenley Drive, diagonally across from the Cathedral of Learning, Hillman serves as the flagship of the approximately 7.1 million-volume University Library System at Pitt.

The Harrisburg Seven were a group of religious anti-war activists, led by Philip Berrigan, charged in 1971 in a failed conspiracy case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, located at Harrisburg. The seven were Phillip Berrigan, Elizabeth McAlister, Rev. Neil McLaughlin, Rev. Joseph Wenderoth, Eqbal Ahmad, Anthony Scoblick, and Mary Cain Scoblick.

Library science is an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary field that applies the practices, perspectives, and tools of management, information technology, education, and other areas to libraries; the collection, organization, preservation, and dissemination of information resources; and the political economy of information. Martin Schrettinger, a Bavarian librarian, coined the discipline within his work (1808–1828) Versuch eines vollständigen Lehrbuchs der Bibliothek-Wissenschaft oder Anleitung zur vollkommenen Geschäftsführung eines Bibliothekars. Rather than classifying information based on nature-oriented elements, as was previously done in his Bavarian library, Schrettinger organized books in alphabetical order. The first American school for library science was founded by Melvil Dewey at Columbia University in 1887.

Higher education was designed for men in colonial America. Since the 1800s women's positions and opportunities in the educational sphere have increased. In 1980, women surpassed men in number of bachelor's degrees conferred annually in the United States, and more bachelor's degrees have been conferred on women each year since. Since 2005, the majority of degrees in each category have been conferred on women in the U.S.

Carla Hayden Librarian of Congress, American librarian

Carla Diane Hayden is an American librarian and the 14th Librarian of Congress. Hayden is the first woman and the first African American to hold the post. She is the first professional librarian appointed to the post in over 60 years.

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The Jean E. Coleman Library Outreach Lecture presented at the annual conference of the American Library Association is tribute to the work of Jean E. Coleman to ensure that all citizens, particularly Native Americans and adult learners, have access to quality library services. Dr. Coleman directed the American Library Association, Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) which served the Association by identifying and promoting library services that support equitable access to the knowledge and information stored in our libraries. OLOS focused attention on services that are inclusive of traditionally underserved populations, including new and non-readers, people geographically isolated, people with disabilities, rural and urban poor people, and people generally discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, age, language and social class. The Jean E. Coleman lecture is now sponsored by the Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS).

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This is a timeline of women in library science throughout the world.

Vivian Ann Davidson Hewitt was the first African American president of the Special Libraries Association. She was also Pittsburgh’s first African American librarian and an art collector. Her art collection, which she and her husband amassed over fifty years, mostly features artwork by African-American artists and is on exhibit at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C.


  1. Thomison, p. 280 The death of her husband had forced Theresa Elmendorf to end her unpaid status, and for the next 20 years she held the position of vice-librarian at the Buffalo Public Library. Her new role also meant an increased participation in the American Library Association; in 1911–12 she served as its President, the first woman to hold that position.
  2. 175 Years of Black Pitt People and Notable Milestones. (2004). Blue Black and Gold 2004: Chancellor Mark A. Norenberg Reports on the Pitt African American Experience, 44. Retrieved on 2009-05-22.
  3. "Claiming Their Citizenship: African American Women From 1624–2009". Nwhm.org. Archived from the original on 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  4. Celeste Kimbrough (2004-03-18). "University of Pittsburgh to Honor First African American Librarian In Plaque Dedication Ceremony April 2 | University of Pittsburgh News". News.pitt.edu. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
  5. "05-3180-Oberlin-Issue No.32" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-10.
  6. Egelko, Bob (2014-07-15). "Zoia Horn, librarian jailed for not testifying against protesters". SFGate. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  7. Setzer, Dawn (2006-03-09). "Obituary: Page Ackerman, Former UCLA University Librarian". UCLA News. Retrieved 2006-12-13.
  8. "Carla Hayden is officially sworn in as the first woman and African-American librarian of Congress". Vox. 2016. Retrieved 2016-09-14.