Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Marital Status is one of the demographic facts that I have collected about the Branch Librarians.  Drawing from census records, NYPL archival material, several editions of Who’s Who in Library Service, family histories, and related sources, I have been able to determine the marital status of all but one librarian in my study.

When NYPL’s Circulation Department was created in 1901, the heads of the 11 branches were all single working women.  That changed in 1904 when NYPL absorbed the Webster Free Library and its head librarian, Edwin White Gaillard, became head of NYPL’s Webster Branch.  He had been married since 1902.  This consolidation also made Gaillard the first man to head a branch of NYPL.  When Gaillard was promoted to head the Library’s work with schools in 1904, the branches returned to being headed only by unmarried women. 

By the end of the first decade of its work the Circulation Department had grown to 40 branches and 51 librarians (including Gaillard) had headed one of those branches.  Of the 50 women, two were widows and 48 were unmarried librarians.  At least one of the latter, Alice Slater, resigned her position in order to get married. 

Both Gaillard and Slater followed the gender conventions of the time—the male librarian by getting married and continuing to work and the female librarian by giving up her job before getting married.

In terms of marital status, the first decade of the Circulation Department was one of very conventional gender roles.  It would also be the last decade when that would be completely true.  I will post later on the changes in marital status over the next few decades.

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