Everett Woman's Book Club petitions City of Everett for a free public library on November 12, 1894.

  • By Janet Oakley
  • Posted 8/02/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7377
On November 12, 1894, the Woman’s Book Club of Everett passes a resolution to petition the mayor and common council of Everett to create a free public library for the city. They will secure their first books at a club picnic seven months later. By 1896 they will acquire 1,000 books and present them to the city. Their enthusiasm and dedication brings about the first library, which is housed in a private home. In 1905, the club will move into a permanent building constructed with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation (located on southeast corner of Wall Street and Oakes Avenue). In 2005, the club is still be active in the Everett community.

Energetic and Experienced

The Everett Women’s Book Club came into being on June 10, 1894, at the home of Mary Lincoln Brown. Wives of prominent business and professional men in the town, the women were energetic and experienced in community improvement. While working on an earlier grassroots effort to establish a hospital for Everett, some of the women had discovered that there was little reading material for hospital patients. The lack of books also affected their own quality of life. Several of the women exchanged books amongst themselves, but they wanted a public reading room. At this first meeting, they decided to organize “interested women into a club” (O’Donnell).

The club moved quickly on its intended purpose. They held the first organizational meeting a couple of weeks later at the home of Alice Baird, wife of the freight agent for the Everett and Monte Cristo Railway. The women decided that their club would be for married women only. Their specific purpose was to establish a public library, but they also wanted to improve their minds through the study of literature as well as addressing social needs and topics of the day. Music would also be considered. Baird became president and Mary Brown, vice-president.

Books and Discussion Topics

Twenty-three charter members turned out for the club’s first official meeting on July 2, 1894. They adopted the name of “Women’s Columbian Book Club of Everett” (later the "Columbian" was dropped from the name). At the end of the month, club president Baird appointed a standing library committee. Then at a special meeting on November 12, they adopted a resolution to petition the mayor and common council of Everett:

"The Woman’s Book Club of said city, being desirous of founding a free public library in said city, respectfully petitions your honorable body to aid in this direction and to take such steps as may be necessary to carry out the purposes herein set forth ... (O’Donnell).

At this same meeting, the women voted to join the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, a move that would affiliate them with 450 other women’s organizations. Over the next few months, they sent out letters to these various organizations to ask for book donations. They held monthly discussions on topics such as “Does higher education make women unfit for domestic duties?” and prehistoric arts, and they gathered books. At a club picnic on June 26, 1895, they had collected nearly half of the 1,000 books they hoped to present to the city as the nucleus of the library.

They reached that goal in late summer 1896, but the city had no money for a facility. The women continued to collect books, storing them at the home of Mrs. Robert McFarland. Finally the city offered three rooms in City Hall. The women moved the books from the McFarland home to City Hall and on April 21, 1898, the library opened to the public. Miss Alice McFarland was its first librarian. Her salary, $15 a month, was paid by the club.

A Handsome Library

In 1901, the library was moved to a one-story building on Rockefeller Street provided by the city. Two years later, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) offered $25,000 to construct a library in Everett. In order to accept the offer of the library, the City would have to pledge $2,500 annually to support and operate it. The Everett Herald urged that the name Everett Public Library be retained instead of calling it the Carnegie Library. This was done and the new library was called the Everett Public Library.

A library board of trustees handled the application, but the ladies of the club pressed the cause. They had, after all, delivered 2,100 volumes to the project. The Everett Improvement Company offered two lots for the new building. Local architect August Heide was appointed to prepare a design. The city accepted and work began in April 1904. It was completed on January 1, 1905. It was a handsome building, designed after a library in Pomona, California. It was located on the southeast corner of Wall Street and Oakes Avenue. It was described at the time as follows:

"The substantial building, one story and basement, is of cream-colored brick. The basement contains an auditorium, seating some three hundred people, a newspaper and periodical room, furnace and unpacking rooms, janitors’ closet etc ... On the main floor is a small vestibule opening into the delivery room, on the right of which ... is the children’s room. On the left of equal size, is the general reading and reference room, back of that a small reference and study room and the woman’s parlor ... The building is heated by a hot–water plant, and is well lighted" (History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties).

The library formally opened on July 1, 1905, after a seven months’ wait for furnishings. The club’s hard-fought dream of a permanent home for a free public library came true. Perhaps as a gesture of thanks for their work, the library granted the Woman’s Book Club the use of a room at the library where they could hang pictures and other decorations. They did so for 20 years until the library needed it for other uses.

The Everett Public Library today is housed in a new building, but the library that the Woman’s Club of Everett built is, in 2005, still in use for Snohomish County offices.

Sources: "The Everett Library," in The History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties, Washington (Interstate Publishing Company, 1906), 910; History of Snohomish County, Washington ed. by William Whitfield (Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 1926), 140, 369; Lawrence E. O’Donnell, Woman’s Book Club of Everett, Washington: Centennial History 1894-1994 (Everett: Woman’s Book Club of Everett, 1994).

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