White supremacy and patriarchy have acted upon and through the white female body, which has implications for library and information science (LIS), a white- and female-dominated field. Insisting that we investigate librarianship through a lens that does not consider gender alone, this paper draws upon whiteness, critical race, and feminist theories to explore the formation and persistence of a particular mode of whiteness in LIS. Calling on the Lady Bountiful archetype, this paper interrogates the ways in which patriarchy, white supremacy, and notions of ideal femininity have worked together to craft a subject fit to perform the work of colonialism in its variegated and feminized forms. By exploring how the white woman was deemed an appropriate agent for the racial, missionary, and “civilizing” projects of early libraries, one can better locate her legacy in contemporary pedagogies, practices, and representations. This paper concludes with suggestions for addressing this undertheorized yet prevalent archetype in both LIS scholarship and teaching.
Copyright 2016 The Board of Trustees, University of Illinois. This article first appeared in Library Trends, Vol. 64, No. 4, Spring 2016 (“Reconfiguring Race, Gender, and Sexuality,” edited by Emily Drabinski and Patrick Keilty), pp. 667–686.
Schlesselman-Tarango, Gina, "The Legacy of Lady Bountiful: White Women in the Library" (2016). Library Faculty Publications. 34.