Thursday, September 2, 2010

A word about Althea

A fellow-Raveler (who happens to have a family full of Altheas herself) just asked me how my new Althea cardigan and skirt patterns got their name. Well, their namesake is third from the right in this photo--she's the determined-looking woman in the patterned frock who's looking right at ya:

For those who don't recognize her on sight, that's none other than Althea Warren, who was City Librarian of Los Angeles, CA from 1933-1947, and president of ALA from '43-'44. During her tenure, Warren led the Victory Book Campaign, a nationwide book drive that eventually directed more than 10 million volumes to those serving in the armed forces in WWII. This project was totally in keeping with her philosophy as a librarian, which was distinctly populist. "Not all of a person's reading is or should be in pursuit of information," she wrote, in an article on "The Needs of Readers." As someone who reads at both the high and low ends of the literary spectrum, I'm down with that. Of course, Althea Warren held that opinion at a time when it was still pretty radical--when many library board members still felt that libraries should be places for people to "better themselves" or address "the higher interests of society," and that putting mystery novels and penny dreadfuls on the shelves would attract an unruly class of patrons. This debate about the fundamental public role of libraries, and how that should shape their acquisitions and services, continues to this day--it's a fierce 'un!

To pay tribute to Althea Warren, then, I designed a knitted outfit that's bold in color, but entirely straightforward to knit and quite serviceable to wear. Think of her when you wear it--and while you're at it, you could even donate a book to a soldier in her memory.

(Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library's photo collection.)

1 comment:

lisagreenb said...

She would be so proud! As an avid reader of both ends of the spectrum as well (lately WAY more at the low end than high;)), I applaud you both! First Billington, then Althea. I am so going to coordinate my colors to wear together. Must. Knit. Faster.
Thank you!!