Women Of 1876 Leave Message
BY RICH QUACKENBUSH
News Staff Reporter
How does it feel to get a 100-year-old message?
“It’s a weird sensation,” says Mrs. Millard Pryor, immediate past president of the Ladies’ Library Association.
“It's like the past reaching out to touch you on the shoulder.”
But the touch was light, although somewhat poignant, when current association members opened a message — in an old account book — left by the organization's members of 1876.
The message was inscribed by then association President Sarah C. Angell, wife of U-M president James Angell, warning that the ledger was “not to be opened until April 17, 1976.”
In late April Dr. Robert M. Warner, director of the Bentley Historical Library, turned over the ledger to Pryor. It was opened and read at the association’s spring meeting.
“It’s not very long" Pryor said. "But we feel it’s significant because this is the bicentennial year as well as International Women’s Year.”
What association jnembers found when they carefully read through the yellowing 1876 ledger included what Pryor calls '“important signatures” of 1876 members and supporters of association work.
There are the Signatures of President and Mrs. Angell; Mrs. T. M. Cooley, wife of the dean of the U-M engineering school; Moses C. Tyler, noted historian and U-M faculty member; Mr. and Mrs. Noah Cheever, the latter's name familiar in Ann Arbor as the name of a cooperative girls’ dormitory; A. H. Pattengill, noted educator for whom Pattengill School is named; Mrs. Israel Hall, grandmother of present member; Mrs. Joseph R. Hayden; and Irving K. Pond, architect of the first library.
The ledger gives a rundown of what happened during ah association meeting on April 18, 1876 and two “charming, very touching letters" from junior and senior women at the University, Pryor noted.
These women of 1876 noted that they were pioneers; that the “admission of women to colleges is a new thing . . . and it required some heroism to enter upon a university course” in their time.
When this letted was written, there were just 24 women in the junior and senior classes at the U-M, according to the ledger.
“And, indeed,:"Pryor noted, “one of their number was among the first women graduates to bring honor to the women of the University.” One of the signers of the senior women’s letter was Alice E. Freeman, later to become president of Wellesley College, using her married name, Alice Freeman Palmer.
The association was just 10 years old when the ledger and its messages were written. Already, the association had established the city’s first library as a subscription library that was the forerunner of the Ann Arbor Public library.
Massive fund raising events allowed association members to buy their own building at 324 E. Huron in the late 1800s. But members felt that the city was growing at a rate that required a free public library.
Much of the Association's efforts were directed toward this goal until 1916, when the Board of Education agreed to accept responsibility for maintaining the library.
Since 1931, association members have acquired art books for the library, continuing to assist in that area, and also assisted the library with what Pryor calls “the seed money” to start the art lending library.
Pryor said the association will continue its work, but the ledger of 1876 has adddd "a couple of other priorities to our agenda."
“We’re determined to get the messages of those 1876 women of the University to today’s women," she said.
And, Pryor, continued, a committee of current members already has been formed to create a 1976 record of association activities and thoughts.
“We hope that our words will be read at the Tricentennial,” Pryor said.
News photo by Larry E. Wright
Millard Pryor (Left) Association President Gayward Keniston Look Over Ledger With Message From 1876
Ann Arbor Public Library
Ladies Library Association
University of Michigan - President
Bentley Historical Library
University of Michigan - Faculty & Staff
University of Michigan - Students
Ann Arbor Board of Education
Books & Reading
Art & Artists
Ann Arbor News
Sarah C. Angell
James B. Angell
Mrs. T. M. Cooley
Moses C. Tyler
Mrs. Noah Cheever
A. H. Pattengill
Mrs. Israel Hall
Mrs. Joseph R. Hayden
Irving K. Pond
Alice Freeman Palmer
Larry E. Wright