Edith Guerrier

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Edith Guerrier (1870–1958) was a pioneer in the field of library science.

Biography[edit]

Guerrier was born in 1870 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her father, George Guerrier, was an English immigrant who served in the American Civil War as a Second Lieutenant of Colored Infantry. Edith's mother, Emma Guerrier (Ricketson) died when Guerrier was a young child. Guerrier spent a great deal of her childhood separated from her father and his side of the family due to his lack of a steady job. She lived at times with her late mother's siblings, Anna and Walton Ricketson and her elderly Uncle Fox on her father's side.[1] In 1887, Guerrier 's father sent her to school at the Vermont Methodist Seminary and Female College in Montpelier, Vermont. She graduated on June 25, 1881, after four years.[1] Upon graduation, Guerrier was able to attain a job in Boston at Pauline Shaw's Nursery School, which catered to the families of lower class immigrants.[1]

While working in Boston, Guerrier attended classes at the Museum School of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. While there, she met a fellow student named Edith Brown. The two formed a fast friendship, which turned into a lifelong partnership, both personal and professional.

Work[edit]

Guerrier spent a few years working at the nursery school in Boston, trying to help the immigrant families of Boston to become integrated into the American way of life. While there, she started story hour groups for the girls who attended the nursery. Edith had a love for storytelling, plays and folktales. There were groups for all ages, starting with fourth graders all the way through high school aged girls.[1] The groups became very popular, especially with the older girls, who named their club the Saturday Evening Girls.[2] Soon, the group grew to incorporate Edith’s love of storytelling, plays and folktales.[1] The girls learned how to produce and put on performances, which included operas, folktales and plays.[1] This club was very effective in helping the girls become more literate. Working with the Saturday Evening Girls also led Guerrier to believe that libraries could incorporate services for children into their mission.[1]

During this time period, Edith Brown and Guerrier spent time traveling to Europe. While there, they noticed the local women selling arts and crafts that they had created. After working with the Saturday Evening Girls, they decided that the members could also earn money by selling items they crafted. Soon, The Saturday Evening Club branched out to form another club named the Paul Revere Pottery Club.[1] Edith Brown and Guerrier helped oversee the creation of pottery pieces by the girls. This enabled the immigrant women to become skilled in a certain task, in hopes that they would be able to better provide for their families. Pottery works the students created and sold became an important source of income for the club members.

While running these clubs, Guerrier also became a librarian at the North End Branch Library in Boston. In 1917, Guerrier took a six month paid leave from her position at the library to volunteer her time in Washington D.C. for Herbert Hoover's National Food Administration.[3] While there, she was in charge of collecting, organizing and distributing information to many public libraries throughout the country, and she started the Food Administration Library Information Service.[3] She initiated a bulletin named the Food News Notes for Librarians, which lasted for thirteen issues during 1917.[3] Guerrier believed the library could play a larger role in American society than most thought possible:

"My business of making the library play a vital part in the organization took me to every department head in turn, as it was necessary to point out to these chiefs the services public libraries could offer as advertising agencies and mediums of approach to the American public"[4]

In the fall of 1917, Guerrier took a trip around the country to hand out bulletins for Herbert Hoover's Food Administration. The trip started in D.C. and sent Guerrier to cities such as Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, California and Missoula, Montana.

Before she left for Washington D.C. to return to Boston, Guerrier took on yet another challenge. She believed the libraries of the time did a great deal of work that was underappreciated, and she thought they lacked sufficient government funding. She soon began to work on a new set of bulletins, named the National Library Service.[3] Guerrier wanted to send out these bulletins to all of the libraries to which the bulletins for the Food Administration had been sent, which totaled to more than eight thousand libraries.[3]

Over the course of the following year, Guerrier and her fellow librarian professionals spent a great deal of time trying to get a bill passed by Congress. They believed that there should be a national service that kept librarians up to date with all new material published by the government.[3] Together with a helpful Congressman from California, the women drafted a bill.Unfortunately, after a great deal of time and hard work, the bill was not passed.

Over the course of those years, Guerrier spent time compiling a book titled The Federal Executive Departments as Sources of Information for Libraries. This book was a compilation of letters written by Guerrier herself and those of which she co-authored with powerful men of that time. Included are letters from Secretary of War Newton Diehl Baker and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, who then made changes to the letters as they saw fit.[3] The book was prefaced by President Woodrow Wilson.[3] Upon the completion of her book in 1919, Guerrier returned to work at the Boston Public Library as the "Supervisor of Circulation,"[1] because her old position had long ago been filled. With time, Guerrier became the supervisor of the branch libraries in Boston.[1]

Retirement[edit]

Edith Guerrier and Brown spent the following years living and working in Boston. In 1932, at the age of 60, Edith Guerrier's partner of almost 40 years, Edith Brown died.[1] Eight years later, in 1940, Guerrier was reluctantly forced into retirement. During her retirement, she remained active, volunteering as a librarian of the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety.[1] Also during this time, she penned another book, titled We Pledged Allegiance, a Librarian's Intimate Story of the United States Food Administration. [1] In 1958, Edith Guerrier died at the age of eighty-eight.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Matson, Molly. (1992). “An Independent Woman The Autobiography of Edith Guerrier”. xxiii-xxxix.
  2. ^ Chalmers
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Guerrier, Edith. (1992). “An Independent Woman The Autobiography of Edith Guerrier”. 3-135.
  4. ^ Guerrier 1992, p. 99.

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