March is Women’s History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to recognize the women who created what is now the Ypsilanti District Library!
In a time when Women’s Suffrage and Women’s Rights were on the rise, the opening of what is now YDL was a pivotal historical moment in our community.
In the Beginning
After Eunice Watling hatched the idea, the Ladies’ Library Association of Ypsilanti opened the first public library in the city in 1868. Six women started the library, among them Watling, Mrs. Follett, and librarian Ms. Sarah Pardee. The library sat in a room in the Arcade Block on Huron Street. It was founded and operated by a group of women, inspiring a new wave of female entrepreneurship.
It was called The Ladies’ Library until it was taken over by the city, becoming then the Ypsilanti Public Library. It became the Ypsilanti District Library in 1983.
Initially, the Library financed operations and materials through $1 annual subscriptions. At the time, the only other libraries available were in academic institutions like the Michigan State Normal School (EMU), and patrons were mainly people of a higher economic class and education level. That changed as the library grew.
Watling and her team were short of money and books for the library, and in the beginning the women held numerous fundraisers so they could demonstrate the need for an educational resource in Ypsilanti. Through public awareness and funding, the women grew support for the Ypsilanti Library in Washtenaw County. In 1904, the Common Council of Ypsilanti decided to form a committee for its oversight and raised the library’s annual appropriation to $1,600 (equivalent to about $45,000 now).
The money raised boosted operations. By the end of the twentieth century, the Ypsilanti District Library:
- Had expanded in size and opened more locations
- Housed more materials for checkout
- Remained FREE and OPEN to all members of the community
You can read more about the history of YDL here.
The original spot where the library was formed is now a local landmark. The building is privately owned and in a restoration period for future offices to be opened to the public.
The library has been in existence for 152 years, and has 3 locations. Our renovated Superior Library is expected to open in 2022.
Learn more about the original library building here.
More on the women in our community
Did you know a real-life Rosie the Riveter resided in Ypsi Township? Rose Will Monroe was a factory worker at the Willow Run Bomber Plant during World War II who appeared with actor Walter Pidgeon in a propaganda film to encourage people to buy war bonds. Pidgeon came to Willow Run to film the footage in 1944, and when he found out a woman named Rose was working as a riveter there, he asked Monroe to be part of the film. At that time, “Rosie the Riveter” was already a symbol of women in the defense industry during the war.
Learn the skills of a factory riveter from Yankee Air Museum’s very own Tribute Rosies! Learn more about Rosie the Riveter at the American Rosie the Riveter Association website.
Historical Women of Ypsilanti Mural
Watch Michigan historian Matt Siegfried talk about the women represented in the Historical Women of Ypsilanti mural at the intersection of Congress and Ballard in downtown Ypsilanti.
Associate Professor of English education, poet, and author of Love from the Vortex & Other Poems, Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz will host this intergenerational community forum.
Students from the Responsive Teaching Coalition Youth Council will discuss the importance of community activism and standing up to racial injustice, with elders from Washtenaw County.
The virtual event takes place on Wednesday, March 24, at 4pm. To learn more about the topics discussed and registration, click here.
Join us for a lively discussion of The Truths We Hold, a memoir written by the first female vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris.
This memoir details the values and influences that motivated Harris to climb the political ladder through having a seat in the senate of California, becoming Attorney General of California, and now serving as Vice President of the U.S. in the White House.
This virtual book discussion will take place on Tuesday, April 27, at 7pm. Get the link to the Zoom meeting and more, here.
Women’s History Month Books
Conkling, Winifred author.
The story of the American women who demanded, fought for, and finally won the right to vote.Find in catalog