For the 175th birthday of Chicago I decided that it might be nice to use my library’s monthly book display to celebrate the anniversary in conjunction with Women’s History Month. As I went through the collection to pull appropriate titles in fiction and non-fiction, I quickly noticed a pattern emerging: Jane Addams, Hull House, prostitution, welfare, crime, crime fiction, and so on. The women who fight vice and degradation, and those who profit from it.
I kind of wrote it off as a need to seriously expand a collection which, until about the 90s, was primarily developed for a male readership. I went on the CPL site to see if I could broaden our scope a bit more by purchasing some new titles, and was surprised to find that their Chicago in Women’s History guide reflected similar trends. This is no shortcoming of the Chicago Public Library’s collections - they have just about everything ever written, and I was able to pick up some great new titles - but instead points to a real lack of creative scholarship about the roles of women in the shaping of Chicago. Come on Chicago scholars - especially those who are women - don’t we amount to more than prostitutes and social workers? Women in Chicago have done some amazing, noble, wonderful things over time. I know that the legacy of Jane Addams and Hull House cannot be overstated, but it’s not all our gender has managed to accomplish in 175 years.
I will keep digging to find more, but would ask those of you who read this blog to chip in. What do you know about women in Chicago that falls outside the familiar themes? Do you have any good books to recommend? Websites? Blogs? Zines?