Publication Date

Spring 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)


Library and Information Science


Debra Hansen


California, librarianship, library development, library education

Subject Areas

Library science; Women's studies; American history


Librarians have been depicted in the literature as missionaries, apostles, and crusaders, militant maid Marians spreading the gospel of the library spirit. This thesis examines the historical depiction of the "typical" early librarian by posing two key questions. First, to what extent was the work of librarianship different or unique compared to that of other middle-class female occupations? And second, in what way was the librarian herself distinct from other middle-class women; that is, what defining characteristics or life events brought her to and kept her in librarianship?

Utilizing local newspapers, official reports, and census and vital statistics data, this study contrasts the lives of forty-one women who, between 1895 and 1924, worked in or took the six-month library training course at the Redondo Beach Public Library to those of other librarians as well as to the lives of their mothers, sisters, neighbors, fellow church members, and clubwomen. The conclusion reached is that librarianship was similar to other female-dominated work, and that librarians were not special or unique, were not self-sacrificing idealists, or missionary reformers, but simply middle-class women working in a middle-class occupation.