More to explore on women in the American wilderness

The history of America is full of women who were pioneers and explorers, but often their stories were overshadowed—or even erased—by the men in their lives. Caroline Fearey Schimmel has spent 50 years working to change that by focusing her efforts on her as a book collector and bibliographer on women whose contributions went unrecognized, both as creators of fictional and artistic works and as history makers. Her generous donations of works of fiction on the wilderness theme to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries over the past several years have enabled the Libraries to shed light on these overlooked trailblazers. Recently, a new donation of items valued at more than $1M adds many fascinating works from Schimmel’s collection to the Penn Libraries for preservation, research, and study.

A page of Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium. (Image: Penn Libraries News)

Schimmel donated more than 6,000 volumes to the Penn Libraries in 2014, establishing the Caroline F. Schimmel Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness. She continued to build this collection with donations in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, the Penn Libraries hosted her exhibit, “OK, I’ll Do It Myself: Narratives of Intrepid Women in the American Wilderness,” which included 145 books, photographs, manuscripts, artworks, and memorabilia by 101 women and one man, dating from 1682 to 2015. She then donated the fiction portion of this exhibition to the collection as well.

Now, Schimmel has donated the nonfiction portion from her “OK” exhibit to the Libraries in celebration of the appointment of Sean Quimby as Director of the Jay I. Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts. The new donation is diverse, comprising books, letters, photos, and unique items such as Dale Evans’ cowgirl boots and Annie Oakley’s trunk.

“Caroline’s collecting interests are vast,” says Regan Kladstrup, director of Special Collections Processing. According to Kladstrup, Schimmel looks for minor variations among different printings of the same work, and that is reflected in this collection, which includes both popular and rare publications. The items range widely in financial value as well.

“I refer to the collection as narratives; each book or work of art needs to tell a story, whether personal experience or not, of women in American wildernesses,” Schimmel says.

Read more at Penn Libraries News.

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