Monday, February 12, 2007

Memorial celebration of Miss Ruth Brown, Bartlesville’s famous librarian


FROM: Women’s Network, Bartlesville, OK

Joan Dreisker, Chair, Women’s Network Miss Ruth Brown Memorial Project

918-336-3288 dbionnet [at]

WHAT: Memorial celebration of the life and work of Miss Ruth Brown, Bartlesville’s famous librarian -- in conjunction with Women’s History Month and the Oklahoma Centennial Year.

WHEN: Major event: Sunday, March 11, 2007, 2 p.m. - Unveiling of the bronze bust of Miss Brown.

Five other events (see page 2) will be held at 7 p.m. in the preceding week: March 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

WHERE: Bartlesville Public Library, 600 S. Johnstone, Bartlesville, OK

WHY: Miss Ruth Brown was Bartlesville’s librarian for over 30 years, from 1919 to 1950, when she was fired for allegedly being a Communist. This was during the McCarthy era when the fear of Communism caused a backlash of censorship and repression and the Jim Crow segregation laws that denied blacks equal access were still in force. In reality Miss Brown lost her job because of her determination to promote equal rights for blacks, not only at the library but also at churches and businesses. Fearless champion of intellectual freedom in a fearful world, she was ahead of her time in her quest for truth and justice.

As a librarian, she believed in universal access to the wisdom—and the foolishness—of the ages. As an activist for civil rights, she relentlessly challenged the racial taboos and legal inequities of her time, stating that she “simply wanted to live as a Christian in a democracy.”

She and her friends established the Committee on the Practice of Democracy in Bartlesville in 1946. This was the first CORE affiliate group—the Congress of Racial Equality—south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Miss Ruth Brown is nationally recognized as the first librarian in the U.S for whom the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the American Library Association requested a field investigation—carried out by other brave Oklahoma librarians.

We honor her spirit. Her actions here helped changed minds and laws and reshape the future. Miss Ruth Brown was a righteous woman.

The memorial celebration at the Bartlesville Public Library features a week-long series of informative events, culminating on Sunday, March 11, 2 p.m., with the unveiling of a bronze bust of Miss Brown by local Native American sculptor Janice Albro. The bust was made possible by the donations of more than 200 “Friends of Miss Brown” who wished to bring her back to the library. A special lobby display designed by Cindy Bray of Barking Dog Design Group of Dewey, OK will highlight Miss Brown’s life and work. In addition, Miss Brown’s 1948 Chevy, which is being restored by Duke Epperson of Duke’s Accessories (also in Dewey) will be on hand. The unveiling ceremony on Sunday afternoon will feature music by members of Bartlesville’s Greater First Baptist Church choir. This celebration is partially funded by a grant from the Allied Arts and Humanities Council of Bartlesville.

This memorial event is the Oklahoma Centennial Year contribution of Women’s Network, in collaboration with the Bartlesville Public Library, to celebrate Women’s History Month. This project began over a year ago, and to date more than $25,000 has been contributed by those who wished to honor the life and work of our famous librarian, Ruth Winifred Brown, whose name is known and respected in library schools across the nation. Funds contributed beyond the cost of the bust—and future contributions—are being used to endow a scholarship for Bartlesville Public Library employees who wish to pursue a master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences. The first recipient will be named at the unveiling ceremony.

A series of programs to honor Miss Brown will take place at the Bartlesville Public Library during the week before the March 11th unveiling, as follows:

1. Tuesday, March 6, 7 p.m.

The Johnstone Irregulars reading group: Discussion of The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown: Civil Rights, Censorship and the American Library, written by Dr. Louise S. Robbins, Director, School of Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin. Robbins did extensive research in Bartlesville for the book, which was published in 2000 by the University of Oklahoma Press. Odie McReynolds, an original member of Miss Brown’s 1946 Committee on the Practice of Democracy, will lead the discussion.

2. Wednesday, March 7, 7 p.m.

Movie: Storm Center, starring Bette Davis. This 1956 film is very loosely based on the McCarthyism aspects of the Ruth Brown story, but don’t expect to see anything familiar. The “Ruth Brown episode according to Hollywood” is not set in Oklahoma, the librarian is married with a family, and none of the civil rights issues are addressed at all. However, the inspiration for the film, according to the screenwriter, came directly from Bartlesville, thanks to a letter to the editor published in The Saturday Review, written by a member of the ousted library board about the situation here.

3. Thursday, March 8, 7 p.m.

“Telling the Story of Miss Brown”: Bartlesville's international storyteller Fran Stallings brings to life Miss Ruth Brown's years in Bartlesville, her tumultuous dismissal and its aftermath in a vivid narrative based on oral history interviews and Louise Robbins' book.

4. Friday, March 9, 7 p.m.

“The Legal Aspects of the Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown”: Retired District Judge Janice P. Dreiling will review Robbins’ book with a focus on Bartlesville in 1950 and also the lawsuit Ruth Brown filed against the City of Bartlesville which went all the way to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

5. Saturday, March 10, 7 p.m.

“Responses to the Resurrection of Miss Ruth Brown”: Author Dr. Louise Robbins will discuss what she has learned since the publication of her book. Robbins began her library career in Oklahoma, starting out in 1981 as a school library media specialist at Byng School, just north of Ada, where she lived for 24 years. Robbins has lectured widely in the United States and abroad, and her historical research, focusing on libraries and intellectual freedom during the McCarthy period, has won numerous awards and has even won her a spot on an Oklahoma Library Association centennial list of 100 Oklahoma Library Legends.

All of these programs are free and open to the public and will be held at 7 p.m. at the Bartlesville Public Library.

For more information, please contact:

Joan Dreisker, Chair, Women’s Network Miss Ruth Brown Memorial Project 918-336-3288 dbionnet [at] or

Joan Singleton, Director, Bartlesville [Oklahoma] Public Library

918-337-5353 jsinglet [at]

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