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Flash Exhibits in Library Special Collections

The UCLA Library Special Collections Flash Exhibit Program features in-house exhibits that are typically on display for less than two weeks.

GENDERED EDUCATION by Devin Fitzgerald - On exhibit until 8/17/2019


Tia Blassingame, I am. Claremont, CA: Primrose Press, 2018. [LSC * N7433.4.B5588 I2 2018]

In this artist’s book, Tia Blassingame engages with society’s hegemonic gaze and the creation of labels. Composed in response to US police violence and profiling, it forces the viewer to consider the violent collision of subjectivity and objectivity she has experienced as a black woman. As she notes, “Being black means I am a baby. I am a child. I am a teenager. I am an adult. I am a woman. I am a person. Too often suspect…” Tia Blassingame is currently Assistant Professor of Book Arts at Scripps.


Liu Xiang (77-6BC), A New Edition of Biographies of Virtuous Women (Xin Kan Gu Lie Nü zhuan 新刊古列女傳). Yangzhou, China: Ruan family, 1825.

This late reprint of the first collection of biographies of women in China was one of the most important texts for outlining the moral and familial duties of Chinese women. The story above describes how the mother of Mencius moved three times in order to find the right environment to raise the future philosopher. This became a model for the efforts women should make in order to guarantee the success of their sons.


Cristóbal Acosta (d. 1592), A Tract in Praise of Women (Tratado en loor de las mugeres y dela castidad, onestidad, constancia, silencio y iusticia…). Venice: Presso Giacomo Cornetti, 1592.

Considered progressive for his time, Doctor Cristóbal Acosta argued in this text that women are entitled to equality in marriage. This equality, however, was not modern, but rather asserted that women in their proper places (married, chaste), should be venerated and respected. Their roles were thus clearly defined, but they were roles which Acosta controversially asserted to be as important as the roles performed by men.


Anon. The Young Lady's book : a manual of elegant recreations, exercies, and pursuits.
London : Vizetelly, Branston, and Co., Fleet Street, 1829.

During the Victorian period, perfect womanhood became the subject of a wide-range of novels and textbooks. Women were expected to sing, dance, paint, and have diverse interests, all while being subservient to the men in their lives. As Barbara Welter has noted, the standards of true womanhood “…could be divided into four cardinal virtues: piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity. Put them all together and they spelled mother, daughter, sister, wife...” With increasing educational opportunities came new ways of narrowly determining gender roles. 



Gibson Rich, Firegirl. Old Westbury, N.Y. : Feminist Press, [1972]

Firegirl, published by the famous Feminist Press (see typescript letter), illustrates the centrality of children’s books to encourage female-positive development. As Bell Hooks famously noted, "Children's literature is one of the most crucial sites for feminist education for critical consciousness precisely because beliefs and identities are still being formed."


Eliza Fenwick, Presents for Good Girls. N.Y.: Wm. B. Gilley, 1814.

The educator Eliza Fenwick wrote a large number of graduated stories to aid in teaching reading to children. While her works come across as moralistic, Fenwick has been labeled as an early feminist by several scholars. In the 1790s, as part of Mary Wollstonecraft’s circle, she wrote controversial essays. After she left her abusive spouse, she wrote children’s literature to support her family. Fenwick later moved Barbados and became a critic of slavery in the British Colonies.