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Libraries Week: Friday

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Life writing in the US collection. Women writing during the American Civil War.

Inspired by my recent reading of Sebastian Barry’s Days without End (borrowed from my local public library) I wanted to check out our holdings for the American Civil War 1861-1865 especially from the point of view of the women that stayed at home. I knew we had some diaries and collection of letters -I should know – being the librarian in charge of that collection but still – I was quite surprised to find out we had that many. I have got about 15 works of diaries and letters on my desk right now and that is not all of them.

They are normally located in the North American room on the second floor. It is a great feeling to just go to the room and browse the shelves to be able do a bit of shelf-cruising as Simon Schama calls it ( check out the Libraries week: Monday Blog ) I did just browse the shelves and found what I wanted but as it turns out all the items have same the class mark – as they should. Thank you to my colleague Michael Townsend for our in-house classification scheme. The class mark is UF.5175 Non-combatant Individual narratives.

And it is surely the individual speaking through these printed sources making them some of my favourite items in the library. Obviously the writers here the women are not all brilliant at conveying their experiences onto paper so if you are looking to be entertained it might not be the case. But the sheer amount of different kind of information these works can provide is staggering. Hidden within the details of for example meals, family illnesses, social gatherings and money worries there is a load of information. For a researcher patience and time are required depending on which issues are being studied. However all the works include indexes and in studying this material something might pop up which turns out to be quite essential for the research and to be exactly what was being looked for.

Not all of them stayed at home we have got memoirs of women working as spies, doctors, nurses and teachers. Women from the north living in the south for example “A Northern woman in Plantation south”, women from the south living in the north. Women travelling. Women writing a diary for themselves, for their children, writing letters to friends, lovers, mothers, brothers and fathers. Come and look for yourself.

Interested in other sources for US history check out the collection guide here.

Finally have a very lovely Library weekend and hope you enjoyed Libraries week!

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