Home, Work, and the Institutional Infrastructure of Print in Twentieth-Century America
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
In the first decades of the twentieth century, print-centered organizations spread rapidly across the United States, providing more women than ever before with opportunities to participate in public life. While most organizations at the time were run by and for white men, women—both Black and white—were able to reshape their lives and their social worlds through their participation in these institutions.
Organizing Women traces the histories of middle-class women—rural and urban, white and Black, married and unmarried—who used public and private institutions of print to tell their stories, expand their horizons, and further their ambitions. Drawing from a diverse range of examples, Christine Pawley introduces readers to women who ran branch libraries and library schools in Chicago and Madison, built radio empires from their midwestern farms, formed reading clubs, and published newsletters. In the process, we learn about the organizations themselves, from libraries and universities to the USDA extension service and the YWCA, and the ways in which women confronted gender discrimination and racial segregation in the course of their work.
“This ambitious, deeply researched book shows not only the important gains pioneered by these women but also their failures and limitations. Pawley expertly and engagingly explains the evolution of libraries and librarianship, revealing how print culture, and especially library work, both stifled and empowered women.”—Nancy C. Unger, author of Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History
“Organizing Women succeeds impressively in achieving its goals by blending print culture and women’s history. It builds on library history, particularly the literature on public libraries, by emphasizing the role women played in the ‘infrastructure’ of print.”—James J. Connolly, coauthor of What Middletown Read: Print Culture in an American Small City