Mary Robinson

On Wednesday (12 March 2014), the Library officially opened a new Reading Room for The Women’s Library @ LSE (watch a film of the opening here).

The Reading Room, a 40-seat research facility located on the 4th floor of the Library, was formally opened by Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation, who gave a speech to the 300 invited guests in the Library’s atrium.

Other speakers at the opening event included Professor Craig Calhoun, LSE Director; Elizabeth Chapman, Director of LSE Library Services, and Suni Harford, Co-Chair of Citi Women, who also supported the event.

LSE Student Union Feminist Society also held a march on LSE’s campus on March 12 to protest the under-representation of women in society to mark the opening, recreating the iconic image of suffragettes marching in November 1908 on what is now LSE’s campus.

LSESU Feminist Society

Speaking at the event, Mary Robinson said, ‘As a former female head of state, I am aware of the fierce efforts made by those women before me. The Women’s Library should be a constant source of knowledge and inspiration to us; allowing us to fulfil our responsibility to listen to women’s lives, in their own words and in their own time. LSE’s custodianship and plans for the Women’s Library will help in an area of study that I believe is critical to the continued advancement of human progress through the progress of women.’

The new Reading Room will support research on women’s history, with the new area playing an integral role within the wider redevelopment plans for the Lionel Robbins Building. LSE students and the wider public will be able to use the new facility to access the Library’s collections from 31 March 2014.

Professor Craig Calhoun said: ‘The new Reading Room is the first of three outstanding facilities due to open this year for the Women’s Library @ LSE, to be followed by an Exhibition Space and Teaching and Activity Room. The collection is one of the best international collections for the support of research on women’s lives and gender issues, and these facilities will be a great asset to future generations of LSE students and researchers from all over the world.’

Mary Robinson and Elizabeth Chapman

Elizabeth Chapman added, ‘The opening of the purpose-built Reading Room for The Women’s Library @ LSE is an important step in ensuring that the unique identity and integrity of the collection is protected. We look forward to welcoming LSE students and the wider public to our outstanding new research facility in 2014.’

The Women’s Library is the oldest and most extensive collection of women’s history in Europe, and a key part of the UK’s national heritage. It was founded in 1926 as the Library of the London Society for Women’s Service, a non-militant organisation led by leading suffragist Millicent Fawcett. It has evolved into Europe’s leading source of documents relating to every aspect of women’s lives, including women’s rights, suffrage, sexuality, health, education, employment, reproductive rights, the family and the home.

The print collections include over 60,000 books and pamphlets and 3,000 periodical titles. The archive and museum collections include over 500 archives and 5,000 museum objects, including photographs, posters, badges, banners, textiles and ceramics.

Mary Robinson, Elizabeth Chapman and Professor Craig Calhoun

Peter Carrol

About Peter Carrol

Peter Carrol is the Communications Officer at LSE Library.