Reprise: Books of Interest and Consolation to Spinsters

Cover page of Spinsters pamphlet. Courtesy State Library of Ohio. Via Ohio Memory.

As we near the end of Women’s History Month, we’d like to share a classic Ohio Memory Blog post from 2014, highlighting a wonderful pamphlet from the State Library of Ohio: Books of Interest and Consolation to Spinsters. Enjoy!

In 1904, Miss L.E. Stearns “ compiled a small pamphlet, Books of Interest and Consolation to Spinsters. In it, she listed dozens of titles of…well, interest and consolation to spinsters, apparently, dedicating it to Miss Myrtle Stearns, “Spinster Pro Tem.” Later, this pamphlet was presented to Alice Boardman, a long-time employee of the State Library of Ohio who, according to the inscription, held the title “Spinster Exemplaire.”

Final page of Spinsters pamphlet. Courtesy State Library of Ohio. Via Ohio Memory.

This small pamphlet is a hoot. It is meant to be. In a time when women were still labeled “old maids” if not married by the time they turned thirty, these women were thumbing their noses at tradition. They laughed in the faces of those who might have felt pity with statements like “I’d rather not be married and sorry I wasn’t, than be married and be sorry I was.” It’s a sentiment that most of us today can understand but, frankly, was a brave stance to take at the turn of the 20th century. Yet take the stance they did, and they did it with humor.

Grey Cat [approximately 1990] photograph. Courtesy Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Via Ohio Memory.
Many of the titles included in the pamphlet, though not available in Ohio Memory, can be found in full-text via various internet sources. Some titles, such as Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, are familiar to readers. But many are not:

And my two favorites:

We hope you’ll enjoy browsing this pamphlet and will laugh along with its compiler. We also hope that, while you’re observing Women’s History Month this month, you’ll pause to remember women like Myrtle Stearns, Alice Boardman, Lutie Eugenia Stearns, and all of the women throughout history who bucked tradition and loved it.


Thank you to Shannon Kupfer-Trausch, Digital Initiatives Librarian at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!

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