I was lucky enough to be involved at a Library Day at the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne yesterday. Thanks to the good offices of the President Paul Gailiunas and the Librarian Kay Easson I was able to get access to the archives. Paul showed me the recently discovered recommendation book, which covers the period 1794-1801. Prior to looking at this book, I had thought that women were only allowed in the society from 1799, and then only as reading members, but it shows that after a query by one of the members, John Clennell (see below), the committee revealed that women had always been allowed, although none had ever joined, possibly because, the exchange with Clennell implies, they had never been very enthusiastic.
Clennell from the time he joins c. 1798 is an eager recommender of books, including Mary Hays’s Appeal to the Men of Great Britain on Behalf of Women (1798) and Maria Edgeworth’s Practical Education
One imagines, then, that his query to the committee about their intention of bringing in a new category of membership stemmed from a desire to have women more fully involved. As we can see from the photograph below,
he seems to …read more