Early Women Leaders of Indianapolis
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Early Women Leaders of Indianapolis

Early Women Leaders of Indianapolis collection showcases the professional achievements of extraordinary turn-of-the-century Hoosier women, May Wright Sewall (1844-1920) and Eliza Gordon Browning (1856-1927), against the backdrop of the weekly magazine, The Indiana Woman (1895-1899), published by Earl E. Stafford. In a time when, according to The Indiana Woman's editor, women were most interested in home affairs, home society, home art and home literature, Sewall and Browning were emerging as two of our state's earliest female executives. While The Indiana Woman has historical value in its own right, its advertisements for corsets, bicycling costumes and the like also serve to amplify Sewall and Browning's role in broadening educational, professional, social and political opportunities for other women.

May Wright Sewall opened The Classical School for Girls in 1883 on Pennsylvania Street, modeling it on the Classical School for Boys earlier established by her husband. It was soon recognized as one of the leading girl's schools in the city. Although the school was short-lived, Sewall remained dedicated to the education of women and the suffrage movement.

Residence Family of the Girls' Classical School

Eliza Gordon Browning served as the Indianapolis Public Library director from 1892 to 1917. Browning convinced local leaders as well as Andrew Carnegie of the need for branch libraries to provide library services to the expanding Indianapolis population. She pushed for the construction of Central Library in 1917 as well as opening up the card catalog to the public. Browning also supported creating a children's room with story hour programming, service to schools and the establishment of station libraries. She coined the phrase "a live thing in the whole town" to describe the city's library system, reaching out and extending services to every citizen.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Indiana State Library.

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