Publication Date

Fall 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)


Library and Information Science


Debra Hansen


blind, California history, California State Library, disability history, library history, women's history

Subject Areas

Library science; History


This thesis examines the life and career of Kate Foley, home teacher of the blind with the California State Library from 1914-1940. The purpose of this investigation is to determine how Foley, who was disabled, built a successful career with the state library despite facing significant discrimination and prejudice. Using a wide variety of primary source material, including letters, library publications, conference proceedings, newspaper articles, and census data, this biography evaluates Foley’s pioneering role as well as the challenges she faced. Home teaching provided a new vocational opportunity for blind women, whose professional choices were extremely limited. Despite her unique career, the extensive contributions she made, and the fact that she was lauded upon her death as a pioneer and asset to the State of California, Foley’s life has been largely ignored in the historical literature. This biography remedies the omission, drawing upon the history of library services, the history of disability, women’s history, the history of Progressive Era California, and the history of state and federal welfare systems to provide context for her life and achievements. Chapters include discussions of the cause of Foley’s blindness, her education at the California School for the Blind, her volunteer teaching work, her career with the California State Library, the early organized blind movement, and the development of social services for blind individuals.