The Women's Library
On Feb 4, 2002, the Women's Library opens in an extraordinary new building in Aldgate East in London. The new library is a place for people to debate and explore what the future holds for women.
On February 4th, the Women’s Library opens in an extraordinary new building in Aldgate East. Designed by Wright and Wright, it retains the façade of the old wash houses formerly occupying the site, a place where women gathered and worked. Behind, a startling contemporary building rises, constructed from brick, stone, copper and oak. In 1942, the Librarian of the Fawcett Library, Vera Douie, had written ‘Though at present only in its infancy, great things are expected of this little Library, which shows every promise of a very useful future’. Since 1977 the Library has had its home in a basement at London Guildhall University, hard to find, charming but cramped. Visitors from all over the world have visited it, but so has rain and, even worse, sewage. After the third flood, the University decided the Library must be rehoused in order to survive. It successfully applied for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. In 1998 £4.2 million was awarded. The resulting magnificent new home offers the potential for much wider use of the collection. It is what many women, including Virginia Woolf, Philippa Strachey and Vera Brittain, have worked for over the last century.
The Library grew out of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage, which was founded in 1867. Its formal life started with the appointment of Vera Douie, its first librarian, in 1926, in headquarters in Marsham Street, with a café and lecture theatre.