In April 2015, the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired one of the largest and most significant private collections of women's history, documenting the work and intellectual contributions of women from the Renaissance to the modern era.
Carefully assembled over forty-five years by noted bibliophile, activist, and collector Lisa Unger Baskin, the collection includes more than 10,000 rare books and thousands of manuscripts, journals, items of ephemera, and artifacts. Among the works are many exemplars of women's history and literature, as well as lesser-known works produced by female scholars, printers, publishers, scientists, artists, and political activists. In Baskin's own words, the unifying thread binding everything together is that "women have always been productive and working people, and this history essentially has been hidden."
Early materials range from the first collection of women's biographies ever published (1497) to the first book ever written by a midwife (1642), and from an illustrated book of hours created by a female artist (1546) to a letter by the painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1630). Other highlights include correspondence by legendary American and English suffragists and abolitionists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Lucretia Mott; first editions of founding American poets Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley; Harriet Beecher Stowe's publicity blurb for the Narrative of Sojourner Truth, written in Stowe's own hand; and Virginia Woolf's writing desk, which the author designed herself.
Noteworthy acquisitions like the Baskin Collection facilitate archival research, attract visiting scholars and top faculty, and open students' eyes to first-hand historical realities. "I am delighted that my collection will be available to students, scholars, and the community at Duke University, a great teaching and research institution," Baskin says. "Because of Duke's powerful commitment to the central role of libraries and to digitization in teaching, it is clear to me that my collection will be an integral part of the university in the coming years and long into the future."
The work to process this extraordinary collection has begun and will take several years to complete. Materials will become available as soon as they have been cataloged. We welcome additional gifts to support cataloging, conservation, and other work that will expand access to the collection.
Learn More: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection