The Book Collection of Josephine Louise Newcomb

Josephine Louise Newcomb added her personal books to the College in 1891. The value of the collection lies in the insight it can give us into the hopes of the woman who owned it, and also into life in the late 1800s, for it is a typical personal library of that time. There are books in the collection given JLN by her own mother, as well as gifts from Sophie, books Sophie read, and marginalia added by JLN. We learn from the books of her continuing relationship with godchildren and others in her life.

As one dean of the College, Susan Wittig, wrote, the collection reveals much about attitudes toward women of that time, and also these women’s attitudes about themselves. In JLN’s books: “We see the early interest of a young unmarried woman in the drama and the Romantic novel; the wife’s interest in travel books, and the practical business of housewifery, the mother’s sad fascination for the poetry of death and loss during the time when she mourned intensely the death of her daughter;and the older woman’s emerging interest in the issues of women’s rights, particularly in the right to vote and the right to an equal education. As we read the book’s Mrs. Newcomb read, we feel closer to her, and we begin to understand more fully who she was and what she believed.”

For more information, visit the Newcomb Archives and read, S. Wittig, “Reflections of Sorrow and Hope,” Newcomb News 5 (1981:1), 2-11.