Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Petticoat Rule: A guest blog post for the San Francisco History Center of the San Francisco Public Library

In 1898 poet Ina Coolbrith applied for a job as librarian at San Francisco's Mercantile Library (which later merged with the Mechanics' Institute). Several board members grumbled about "petticoat rule," and one said it was nothing against Miss Coolbrith but a "mere question of sex and the weaker is in disfavor."

This injustice came despite the fact that for nearly 20 years Coolbrith had managed budgets, staff, acquisitions, and catalogues at the Oakland Public Library.

The San Francisco Examiner came to her defense when it suggested on January 17, 1898, that the library burn all books written by women if they were to deny Coolbrith the position. "No intellectual petticoatism! Down with the Mrs. Brownings, the Jane Austens, the George Eliots and the Charlotte Brontes!"

Coolbrith got the job and 116 years later was inducted into the California Library Hall of Fame.

Join me to at the San Francisco Public Library on Thursday, June 25, for a talk on Ina Coolbrith, poet, librarian, and the most beloved literary ambassador in the early American West. She was crowned poet laureate on June 30, 1915 during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition 1915 - 2015.

For more on petticoat rule check out my blog on the San Francisco History Center's "What's on the 6th Floor."