Libraries might just be the most perfect places on earth. Stepping into a library, with the world's knowledge and creativity at our fingertips, fills us with a sense of limitless potential.
Unsurprisingly, women have been at the forefront of making these beacons of possibility available for all to enjoy. From teachers to librarians to philanthropists, women have founded or inspired the founding of libraries across the country, and their contributions have not gone unappreciated.
Here is the second half (click here for the first half) of our list of public libraries in the U.S. that are named after women -- and this STILL isn't all of them! If you don't see your local library anywhere on this list, that means I couldn't find any info about the library's namesake. But I'd love to add it, so feel free to drop me a line with some deets!
Margaret E. Heggan Free Public Library
606 Delsea Dr. • Sewell, NJ
In 1965, the Whitman Square Women's Club began lobbying for the construction of a public library. The original building was opened a year later, growing and relocating over the decades until it found its current home in 2011. The library was renamed in 1983 in honor of Margaret Heggan, a well known community member who volunteered not only 20,000+ hours at the library, but also with the town's very first Girl Scout troop, the PTA, Kennedy Memorial Hospital, the Historical Society, and more. Oh -- and did I mention she was also the first female mayor of Washington Township?
Photos via wtps.org and hegganlibrary.org
Mary Riley Styles Public Library
120 N. Virginia Ave. • Falls Church, VA
The first library in this town was managed by the Church Falls Woman's Club. Mary Styles served as chair of the Club's Library Committee for more than 25 years, more than tripling the inventory, and turning it from a part-time operation run by volunteers to a fully functional library with paid staff. Mary was known for her activism, helping address unemployment and volunteering for the American Red Cross (founded by Clara Barton). In 1977, when a new facility was built, the library was renamed to honor Mary's legacy.
Photo via fallschurchva.gov
Messenger Public Library of North Aurora
113 Oak St. • North Aurora, IL
Emeline Schneider Messenger, granddaughter of the founder of North Aurora, IL, spent more than half of her 98 years working for the library. Starting in 1937 as a volunteer at what was then the North Aurora Public Library, she became head librarian in the early 1940s despite having no official training, learning what she could from neighboring towns. Emeline grew the library from a single room to a full-fledged community center, staying on until 1986, the year after the board of trustees renamed the facility after her.
Photo via librarything.com
45 Center St. • Fairhaven, MA
This library was built to honor the memory of Millicent G. Rogers, who died at 17 years old in 1890. Millicent loved to read, so a year after her death her parents began construction of what is now considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the state. Despite its incredible detail and artistry, it only took 15 months to complete. To ensure Millie's memory lived on, a stained glass window -- 16 feet high -- was installed in the main entry, featuring Shakespeare in the top pane, and Millie as an angel on the bottom.
Photos via millicentlibrary.org, flickr, and fairhaventours.com
Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library
318 S Ramona Ave. • Monterey Park, CA
In 1929 the Bruggemeyer Memorial Library, built in memory of Roberta Pauline Bruggemeyer by her husband, opened for business. It served the community for about thirty years when a new building -- with that super cool mosaic/mural art above the entrance -- was created in a different location, although the library kept the name.
Photos via montereypark.today611.com and PaulMurdochArchitects.com
Nesbitt Memorial Library
529 Washington St. • Columbus, TX
Born in 1894, Lee Quinn Nesbitt was a woman of many interests. A teacher, she also helped run her family's pharmacy, and was an avid genealogist and historian. She also LOVED dolls (see the glass case in the picture above!). Despite inheriting her family's fortune, she lived so frugally (except, ya know, THE DOLLS) that everybody thought she was poverty stricken. Imagine their surprise when she suddenly donated enough money to the town to build a library! Not only did she finance its construction, she also spent many of her Saturday mornings volunteering there.
Photo via mapquest
Norelius Community Library
1403 1st Ave South • Denison, IA
Built in 1985, this library is named after Diane Norelius, who not only has one of the coolest names ever but also led a fundraising campaign to replace the existing small library with a larger facility. Securing contributions from the city, county, philanthropic organizations, as well as private residents, she raised almost $600,000. Diane was also the first president of the Denison School Foundation, a local non-profit that supports education.
Photos via denison.lib.ia.us
Old Lyme Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library
2 Library Ln. • Old Lyme, CT
Phoebe Griffin Lord Noyes (b. 1797) and the library that bears her name (built 1897) were both born on the same plot of land a century apart. Phoebe was an artist, teacher, and card player who loved to dance and play with kids. After she died, her daughter Josephine donated the land and funds to build the library in her honor. Phoebe's birthday is still celebrated by the library every year with cake and children's activities.
Photos via oldlyme-ct.gov and foursquare.com
Phoebe Apperson Hearst Library
315 W. Main St. • Lead, SD
The second Phoebe on our list was born in 1842 in Missouri to a pair of poor farmers. At 18 years old she married mining magnate George Hearst, and began a new life as millionaire, socialite, and philanthropist. Despite receiving minimal formal schooling herself, Phoebe recognized the value of education and built libraries (including this one) and schools near her husband's mines in South Dakota. She also helped found the National Parent Teacher Association and the Y.W.C.A., and her support -- both monetary and advisory -- was crucial in the establishment of the University of California at Berkeley. When Phoebe died in 1919, her son, publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst, hired one of his mother's favorite architects, Julia Morgan, to design and build Hearst Castle in her honor.
Photo via sdln.net
Rachel Kohl Community Library
687 Smithbridge Rd. • Glen Mills, PA
Rachel Kohl was all-in on libraries. After earning her degree in library science, she moved to Glen Mills in 1950 and said*, "What? This town has NO library? What is wrong with you people?!?!" Then she proceeded to establish the first town library, start a library at her church, become a member of the Church and Synagogue Library Association, and volunteer at the Honey Brook Library. In 1989, a benefactor agreed to help pay for a new building as long as it was named after Rachel.
*Well, she didn't say it as much as think it. Probably. Maybe.
Photos via facebook and delcolibraries.org
Rice Public Library
8 Wentworth St. • Kittery, ME
Not only is this library named after a woman, two rooms within the building are also dedicated to local women. Starting at the top, Arabella Rice was the founder of the library, donating $30,000 to the town in 1872 for its construction. With an Italian marble fireplace, vaulted ceiling, and stained glass windows, this beautiful building was added to the National Historic Register in 1979. In 1991, Sarah Almyra Roberts left $100,000 to the library for renovations, and the children's room was named in her honor. The periodicals room, located in the former basement, is named for Katherine F. Howells.
Photo via wikipedia
Ruth L. Rockwood Memorial Library
10 Robert Harp Dr. • Livingston, NJ
Like most of the entries on this list, this gorgeous library wouldn't exist if it weren't for a group of determined women. The Alpha Club, a group of six ladies from Livingston, NJ, opened the first lending library in town around 1913 in the closet of a local hall. In 1957, by which time the library had grown into a two-story building, Ruth Rockwood became director, overseeing not one but two relocations into brand new buildings -- 1960 and 1977 -- and an addition in 1979. Ruth retired in 1980, and the library was renamed after her death ten years later.
Photo via patch.com
Sallie Logan Public Library
1808 Walnut St. • Murphysboro, IL
Sarah "Sallie" Logan, a direct descendant of John Hancock (yes, that one), was a teacher until her husband died in 1907, at which point she took over his job as director of the local electric utility and phone company. Which is Awesome in and of itself. She also acted as both company treasurer and secretary, and became well respected for her business acumen and philanthropy. When she died in 1925, she donated her house and four other parcels of land to the town for a library, which served the community until the seventies when the current facility was built.
Photo via wmix94.com
49 East Derry Rd. • East Derry, NH
And the award for most New Englandy library goes to... Taylor Library! Included on the National Register of Historic Places, this quaint library was made possible by a bequest from two sisters, Emma and Harriet Taylor, and has been in continuous operation since its founding 140 years ago. I couldn't find any info on Harriet, but Emma was principal of Adams Female Seminary in East Derry, and also donated $1,000 to help fund the creation of the Derry Civil War Monument, a 27-foot-high statue that still stands today.
Photo via taylorlibrary.org
Welles-Turner Memorial Library
2407 Main St. • Glastonbury, CT
This library sits on land donated by Harriet Welles Turner Burnham, who actually lived on the site until her death in 1931. Her will left $350,000 ($6.2 million in today's dollars) to the town to build a library on her land. Her existing house was actually moved down the street and still exists today as a museum.
Photo via librarything.com
Whelden Memorial Library
2401 Meetinghouse Way • West Barnstable, MA
The first "public library" in West Barnstable, MA was started in the 1880s and consisted of two bookshelves at the local school. The shelves were donated by a local woman who had been impressed by one of the teachers, Martha Lee Whelden, and her commitment to student literacy. It took twenty years for a separate building to be constructed, and almost another twenty after that for it to be renamed in honor of Martha and her sisters, who left a large sum of money to the library in their wills. Interesting side note: all eight directors of the library have been women.
Photo via facebook
(The final two entries on our list are technically named after both women and men, but the stories are too interesting and the libraries too enticing to ignore. Besides, men can be Awesome too, sometimes.)
Wilkinson Public Library
100 W. Pacific Ave. • Telluride, CO
Before Betty Wilkinson and her husband Larry moved to Telluride, CO in the mid-sixties, the only books available to the public were in a bookmobile. The Wilkinsons opened a part-time library that consisted entirely of donations and books discarded by other libraries. As the library grew, it moved into an old jail -- which was renovated by the Wilkinsons, of course! -- for more than 20 years, until a proper library was built in 2000. Betty has since passed on, but Larry, now in his nineties, still visits his library, so you might even run into him if you stop by!
Photo via shawconstruction.net
Wright Memorial Public Library
1776 Far Hills Ave. • Oakwood, OH
Although she'll live forever in the shadow of her famous brothers Wilbur and Orville, Katharine Wright was no subservient sister. The only one of the Wright children to earn a college degree, Katharine graduated from Oberlin College and became a high school teacher, on top of managing the family bicycle shop while her brothers were away conducting their experiments. After her brothers succeeded, she appointed herself their executive secretary, fielding phone calls from eager businesses, giving interviews, and making travel arrangements. In 1937, eight years after her death, the Oakwood Library Board of Trustees (of which Orville was a member) put forward a proposal to build a new library and name it after Katharine, but someone from the local garden club countered with the idea of naming it after all three, which was successful. Oh well. The inventors of human flight deserve a library too. I suppose.
Photos via wrightlibrary.org and nps.gov