Monday, December 5, 2011


Gertrude Foster came from a Southern family that valued education and books.  Her grand niece told me that there was a long tradition of educated women on both sides of her family, and she described the Fosters as “book crazy.”  Gertrude Foster’s father was a surgeon and her mother was a teacher.

Gertrude Foster probably attended the Alabama Central Female College although it is not known if she graduated.

The 1900 census lists Foster as a Transcript Clerk in the Tuscaloosa Probate Court.  Later that year, she left that position to move to New York City and join the Aguilar Free Library.  She received her library training in 1901 at the Amherst Summer Institute.

Foster became an NYPL staff member when the Aguilar Free Library consolidated with NYPL in 1903.  In 1908 she was promoted to be Branch Librarian of the Stapleton Branch.  Three years later, she transferred to head the Jackson Square Branch in Greenwich Village and served there for the next 18 years.

In 1915 Forster married William Frederick Hamilton who had been born in Great Britain.  In 1920 she took a six-month leave of absence due to her own poor health and to care for her husband, who had contracted tuberculosis while serving in World War One.  He died in Montreal in October 1920.

In 1929 Gertrude Hamilton was forced to resign her position at NYPL due to poor health.  She moved to Sewanee TN and served as an assistant librarian in the university library 1929-1931.  She later returned to Alabama and lived with the family of her great niece.

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