Edith Guerrier (1870-1958) was born into an American era that witnessed the emergence of thousands of “new women”—women destined to forgo traditional female roles in their pursuit of financial independence and educational opportunity. In simple yet eloquent prose, Guerrier relates her experiences working in Boston’s immigrant settlement houses, and her subsequent role in the development of reading and social clubs (such as “The Saturday Evening Girls” club) that would help in the Americanization of young female immigrants of European ancestry. Her interest in these clubs led to a lifelong career in librarianship—at that time a field newly available to women. With Edith Brown, her beloved companion of forty years, she went on to establish the Paul Revere Pottery—its goal to provide “a means of creating useful employment” for the clubs’ many young women. Interestingly, Boston’s Paul Revere Ware is considered today to be collectible, and a fine example of the American Arts and Crafts Movement.
As a personal narrative, Guerrier’s words invite one to read between the lines—and to consider the feelings of a motherless child shuttled between doting New England relatives and a loving but irresponsible father; to understand the loneliness of a young girl struggling to keep a home for her widowed father in a rough and dusty Kansas prairie town; to experience the Vermont college years that opened doors in a young woman’s mind and heart; and to understand the independence and freedom of spirit that were ultimately realized in Guerrier’s successful merging of personal happiness with her life’s work.
AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN is an important addition to the growing genre of books concerning women’s life-studies. Edith Guerrier’s story will touch the reader on many levels.