Public Women, Private Lives
Since the 17th century, American women have been writing and publishing novels, poetry, essays, children’s literature, biographies, histories, and short stories. The majority of the writers represented in this exhibition came from or lived in Boston and its environs, establishing a strong literary tradition in the area. From Anne Bradstreet’s poems centering on religious and domestic themes to Sarah Orne Jewett’s stories about country life, these texts by women authors in the collection of the Boston Public Library have influenced the tastes and perceptions of generations of both female and male readers alike. Readers can get a sense of these women, their personalities, and their lives through their published work. However, it is the letters that they wrote to friends, publishers, and one another that provide genuine insight into the feelings they had about their writing and the events that composed their daily lives. This exhibition places the public works by these women alongside their private correspondence and personal voices.
Kimberly Reynolds, Curator of ManuscriptsThe books and manuscripts exhibited here are housed in the Boston Public Library’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Department. Some of the most significant materials are part of the Galatea Collection, a collection of books by and about women that was donated by Thomas Wentworth Higginson in 1896. Other books come from the Longfellow Memorial Collection (Artz Collection), which contains literary works from American authors, including first editions. The remaining material is part of the department’s deep and rich collection of 17th-19th century books and manuscripts written by women.
This exhibit was on display at the Boston Public Library from March 7, 2014 to May 30, 2014.