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Arts & Life

Kalamazoo’s first public library was built for women, by women

Kalamazoo Ladies Library reading room
Courtesy of the Kalamazoo Ladies Library
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The Kalamazoo Ladies Library Association has been promoting literacy and women's empowerment from this historic site since 1879.

The nation's oldest documented structure built for women, by women, was a lending library right here in Michigan. 

The Kalamazoo Ladies Library Association (LLA), loosely formed in 1852, has been holding meetings in its historic red brick Venetian Gothic style building since 1879.

Marge Kars, a former president of the organization, joined Stateside to talk about its history as the city’s first lending library.

At a time when unmarried women and women’s associations were not allowed to own property, the Kalamazoo Ladies Library Association members petitioned Michigan lawmakers to change the law. With a new space, the organization was able to expand its commitment to literacy and women’s empowerment in Kalamazoo.

Listen above for the full conversation with Marge Kars.

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Gabrielle Horton.

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