Exhibit: Reproducing Women

September 2019—The exhibit "Reproducing Women: The Evolution of Women in Rare Books" creatively illuminates European and American women’s relationship to the written word over the past four centuries.

In this Raynor Memorial Libraries exhibit, a distinct selection of rare books sheds light on the changing representations of women from the late medieval period to the 20th century in Europe and North America. The early examples in the exhibit were published in the 16th-19th centuries, a time when education and social influence were not readily available to women—and a time when books written by and about women were rare. They include guidebooks aimed at instructing women on seemly behavior as well as biographies of virtuous women whose lives would set good examples.

In contrast, the exhibit's books from the 20th century offer evidence of the expanding social influence and independence of women, as well as widening access to the public sphere. These books were written by women, about women. Moreover, they were intended not to model ideal behavior but to account for the lived experiences and views of their authors. 

What emerges from all these examples are fascinating historical clues to the nature of the power of authorship, the interplay between publishing, the public sphere, and social status, and the development of European and American feminism. 

Curated by Raynor Memorial Libraries' Department of Special Collections and University Archives, "Reproducing Women" is free and open to the public. It will be on display through fall 2019 in the library's Prucha Reading Room, Raynor Library, 3rd Floor.