In honor of former State Librarian, Annie Diggs' birthday... February 22, 1853...
Annie Diggs: Confidence in Advocacy
(Part 1 of a 3 part series of blogs and newspaper clippings on Kansas State Librarian, Annie L. Diggs) By Donna Casement
Annie Diggs left her mark on social reform and politics during a robust political period in Kansas history. Diggs was fearless in the public forum and her tenacity as State Librarian resulted in two significant chapters in the access and support of Kansas public libraries. Diggs also left her mark on the grandeur of a State Library that continues to be relevant and functional in the 21st century.
Diggs was instrumental in organizing the Kansas Traveling Library Commission in 1899. The Traveling Library was a collection of selected books that traveled to small towns, libraries, and schools providing, in some cases, the only reading material available to the public.
An article in The Topeka Daily Capital summarized the effectiveness of the Traveling Library program. “When the library was authorized by the Legislature, it consisted of 2,000 volumes and 34 cases which were transferred to the State Library and became part of it. There are now 5,565 books in the library.” In 1900, 117 cases served 104 libraries. Each case contained 50 books of varying subjects. The Traveling Library Commission decommissioned on July 1, 1963, having served the people of Kansas for 64 years. (#25-The Topeka Daily Capital, December 21, 1900)
In June of 1900, Diggs formed plans for the organization of nearly 1,000 libraries throughout Kansas. “The plan for the organization of a Kansas association of librarians (https://kslibassoc.org/History) which originated with Mrs. Annie L. Diggs, state librarian, will be consummated by the completion of the organization in this city in December.” That organization became the Kansas Library Association (KLA). Today the KLA is a professional organization that supports the needs and opportunities for professional development in the Kansas library community. (#22-The Topeka State Journal, June 2, 1900)
Annie Le Porte Diggs was born, February 22, 1853 in London, Ontario, Canada. She and her family moved back to New Jersey when she was two years old. Diggs moved to Lawrence at the age of 19, worked in a music store, and in 1873 married Alvin S. Diggs, a postal clerk. They had three children, Fred L., Mabel and Esther. (https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/annie-diggs/12035)
In the late 1870s, Diggs became interested in political activism and the temperance movement. In 1881, she helped form the Kansas Liberal Union and then became vice president of the Free Religious Association while on a visit to Boston. In 1882, she and her husband published the newspaper The Kansas Liberal from their home. Diggs wrote a column for the Lawrence Journal, and became associate editor of the Alliance Advocate. (https://academic.eb.com/levels/collegiate/article/Annie-LePorte-Diggs/125464)
In 1887, Diggs became the first woman to register for the Lawrence municipal elections. “Mr. and Mrs. A. S. Diggs quietly walked into the city clerk's office and both registered as duly qualified voters for the ensuing election. It only took a few seconds, scarcely a moment, but the results will probably be powerful. The right of municipal suffrage which has been given to women, on trial, as it were, is now to be exercised. The result is considered by many as problematical, but is looked forward to with hope. (The Lawrence Weekly Journal, February 24, 1887)
Diggs was involved with organizing the first woman’s press club. “A number of ladies representing different parts of the state met in the parlors of the Copeland, Topeka, Tuesday morning, Sept. 16, for the purpose of organizing a woman’s press club.” Diggs was elected as their secretary. “The secretary, Mrs. Diggs of Lawrence, is one of the editors of The Topeka Advocate, and a prominent member of the W.C. T. U., She is a very successful public speaker, and as an advocate of alliance principles she wins the hearts and minds of her listeners.” (#27-The Western Advocate, Mankato, September 25, 1890)
In the 1890s, Annie Diggs began to expand her involvement as a public reformer and politician.
View the collection of newspaper clippings at the State Library of Kansas' KGI Online Library here:
Check out the two State Library of Kansas Biennial Reports published during Annie Diggs' tenure as State Librarian here:
(Coming up: Part 2 in the series: Annie Diggs: Reformer and Advocate 1890 to 1898 )