Monday, June 18, 2012

ALICE HARRIS BROWN (1869-1950)

In earlier posts on Lucie Bohmert, H. Estelle Olmsted, Ella Sauer, and Marie Saxer I described how NYPL kept aged and even infirm librarians on the payroll since they had no pension plan.   The case of Alice H. Brown is similar but also confusing.

Brown began working at the New York Free Circulating Library in 1890 and from 1896 until 1901 was head of the Harlem Branch.  She continued in the position at NYPL until 1911 when she was transferred to head the Kingsbridge Branch in a less busy neighborhood.  Brown retired from NYPL in 1913 and at the time was described as being deaf and nervous. 

Although Brown was only 44 years old, she had been in the system for 23 years and for most of that time was in charge of a branch library.   The Director recommended that Brown be given a small pension (paid out of private funds) for her many years of service.

The confusing aspect is that later in 1913, Alice Brown became a librarian at the Rochester (NY) Public Library.  In 1921 she became a reference librarian at the University of Rochester and in 1930 she retired for the second time in her career. 

We know that Brown’s pension was being paid in 1934 because she was one of several retirees whose pensions were reduced due to the financial problems of the Library during the Great Depression.  It is not clear whether NYPL kept paying Brown’s pension between 1913 and 1930. It is possible that NYPL suspended the payments but later reinstated them when Brown stopped working in Rochester. 

Alice Brown died in Delhi NY in 1950 and a contemporary document indicates that she was still receiving her small NYPL pension at the time of her death.

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