Monday, May 16, 2011


In a previous post on marital status, I identified three patterns in the first decade of the NYPL Circulation Department (CD):  the one married man stayed employed, single women quit NYPL to be married, and the only married women to head branches were widows.

The second decade saw a continuation of these patterns but also one significant change regarding marital status.      

Starting in 1913, NYPL wanted to install men as Branch Librarians and three were hired.  All three were married while working for NYPL.  Although this experiment was regarded as a failure and the three men had left NYPL by 1917, the initial pattern of married male librarians was confirmed. 

Likewise, at least two women, and probably three, resigned as branch heads at the time they got married. 

But, 1913 also saw one significant change.  Ida Lowther Molnar, who had been a Branch Librarian for eight years, was married that year.  She not only remained employed but NYPL selected her to be the first Branch Librarian at the newly opened Melrose Branch.  Two years later Gertrude Foster Hamilton also married and remained as a Branch Librarian.  Alison Baigrie Alessios, who had been a Branch Librarian since 1911, married in 1916 and stayed employed.  

Given the few married women librarians, one must ask whether the Library discouraged married women from being the head of a branch.  Little direct evidence has been found so far.  Alison Alessios, however, was concerned enough about this being the case that she had asked the Chief of the CD about it before she was married and even after being reassured had an intermediary inquire again on her behalf.  The Library’s reply in both instances was that it did not discriminate against married librarians.

t also is possible that the Branch Librarians themselves preferred other single women in the role.  The Branch Librarians were at the apex of their autonomy in terms of choosing which librarians would be hired or promoted.  More analysis will be required to determine if this was a factor.

We can say that through 1920, of the 70 women librarians who had headed a branch only the three mentioned above were married while in NYPL’s employ, but all four of the male Branch Librarians in that period were married.

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