Women Librarians Who Settled the Wild West

A timid, hair-wrapped-in-a-bun, pince-nez-wearing spinster (with a cardigan sweater). Is that the image you have of a librarian from 100 years ago? Hell no, they were gun-toting, horseback-riding, walk-2-miles-to-work-in-a-blizzard type of woman. Those were the kind of librarians who settled the West.

Fascinating bit of history via the Chicago Tribune. Around the turn of the 20th century, graduates of the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science (then called the Illinois Library School) headed to places like Texas, North Dakota, Idaho and Oregon.

Lisa Renee Kemplin, senior library specialist at the University of Illinois, looks through Ida Kidder’s 1908 letter from Salem, Ore., at the Archives Research Center in Urbana. The letter and other documents catalog UI librarians’ trips to the West 100 years ago.