My Grandmother and Signatures: a Story


Gather ’round children. Hands to yourselves. Is everyone listening? Good.

(See what a great children’s librarian I would be? Too bad that is one job I never ever want.)

So when my mother was growing up they moved a lot for my grandfather’s work. I was never exactly clear why they had to move a lot for his job, but they did. The first thing my grandmother did when they moved to a new town was to go down to the public library, usually by walking, and get a library card. My grandmother was an avid reader. If she wasn’t knitting or doing hardanger (a Swedish technique that looks kind of like lace) she was reading. She would take her five kids down to said public library regularly and they’d all get books and read happily ever after. It was one of the many qualities that made her super awesome.

But on this one occasion, she came back from the library empty handed. No library card. Why? Because when they’d handed her the card (it was an actual paper card back then with no barcode) they’d asked her to sign it. Okay. No problem. Just like every other library card she’d ever gotten. So she signed it: Lily Karolina Hutchinson. And the librarian said No. It was 1960 something and she had to sign her name: Mrs. Warren George Hutchinson. That was not her name she said, and refused to sign her name that way. So they refused to give her a library card. So she walked all the way back home steaming mad at them for thinking she should give up her identity to so completely to her husband.

She didn’t get a library card in that town. And, as far as I know, its’ the only place she’d ever lived where she didn’t have one. I’m sure she found other ways to read and make sure her kids read, but she wouldn’t compromise herself.

Good for you Grandma. Good for you.

I can only hope I’ve inherited some of your strength and fire.


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