This Beautiful Sisterhood of Books is a collaborative space. Its purpose is to foster a community of scholars and readers working together to reconstruct an extraordinary – and all but forgotten – episode from women’s literary and cultural history. Our project contributes to the ongoing recovery of forgotten works by early women writers, and it provides a framework for exploring their significance to readers in 1884 and today.
Here are some ways that you, your students, and your community members can Join the Sisterhood!
Help us build the Beautiful Sisterhood:
There are still many items from Maud Howe’s catalogue that we have not yet tracked down.
In some cases we have not been able to verify that a particular text even exists (“no mention of text or author found” will appear on that item’s exhibit page). For those entries, we’re hoping that someone will recognize a title or author and send us the missing information.
In other cases, we know a work exists but have not found a digitized copy (“still searching for digitized text” will appear on that item’s exhibit page). For those entries, we’re hoping that someone will send us a link to a digitized version that we overlooked, or scan a hard copy from their own collection or local library and allow us to host it on our site. We also recognize that texts are being scanned and added to databases all the time, so new searches might find a digitized copies not previously available.
Help us beautify the Beautiful Sisterhood:
Many items from Maude Howe’s catalogue are wonderful visual objects, with elaborately decorated covers and spines, or colorful frontispieces and illustrations. We seek help gathering images of authors, books, and pages that we can display throughout our website. We welcome links to images already digitized and available on the internet, and we are eager to receive newly scanned images from physical copies of books in your collection or local library.
Help us interpret the Beautiful Sisterhood:
Our goal is to provide a short piece of researched writing for every item and author included in the 1884 Women’s Literary Department. If you would like to contribute an “exhibit label” such as this one, or if you are a teacher who would like to have your students create exhibit labels — a research assignment that results in an electronic publication! – contact us for guidelines and examples.
Help us contextualize the Beautiful Sisterhood:
The work of literary recovery is not complete without research that situates authors, texts, and – in this case – collections and exhibitions within historical contexts. What should we make of the fact that the New Orleans World’s Fair Women’s Department only accepted work from white women? Or that its Director, the northerner and former abolitionist Julia Ward Howe, was viewed with resentment – even hostility – by many New Orleanians who felt that local women should take charge of the exhibit? What do we learn about this early women’s library by looking at it through the lens of other libraries? Or of other World’s Fairs?
We invite research and writing about Maud’s beautiful sisterhood of books that examines questions about its racial, class, and sectional politics; or its importance as an episode in library or literary or exposition history. And we especially invite research and writing that asks questions we haven’t yet thought to ask. If you would like to contribute original research, or assign research projects to your students, contact us to propose topics. We can provide guidelines and examples, and we welcome your suggestions.