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Honoring Our Past

Do you remember Women’s Lib in the 1970s? One of the great ladies of librarianship is Gertrude L. Annan.* She gave her opinion of this time in a letter to the editor of the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (BMLA) in 1972. Miss Annan (one did not call her by her first name) challenged MLA to listen to women. She stated that there were women who were jockeys, women who drove taxicabs, and women who served in many professions and trades that once were open only to men. She declared, “Even such sanctums as McSorley’s Old Ale House in New York and the famous Morey’s in New Haven have been invaded by militant females.”

She continues with this statement: “Strange is it not that the very opposite is true in medical libraries. Once a woman’s world, we find that since salaries have improved there has been a male invasion, and the tables are turned.”

I love this sentence from the letter: “With the many capable and attractive young women in medical libraries today, the old label scornfully applied by the prejudiced (superior male) cannot be used. The little old ladies with buns on their heads are caricatures from a long ago past, and bright young women of the seventies must not be so categorized and passed over.”

Miss Annan was a most proper woman, and female librarians were delighted with her statement. She ended her letter with these words: “This is a day of protest, of airing the results of inequities and prejudice. Should the Medical Library Association be silent?” [1].


  1. Annan GL. Women’s lib—librarians’ lib [communication to the editor]. Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1972 Jul;60(3):492.

* Note: Gertrude L. Annan died on December 2, 1993. Her obituary appeared in the BMLA in 1994 [Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1994 Oct;82(4):458–61].


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