Elgin: A Women’s City

E.C. Alft's latest book, Elgin: A Women's City is funded by A Tapestry of Freedom, the City of Elgin's Heritage Commission and the Elgin Area Historical Society. Attendees of Women's History programs at the library will receive a free copy of the book.

You may also download this book.


“Women of Elgin, young and old, rich and poor, married or single, come let us reason together, and lend a hand in the world’s great work.”

-Call to Action by the Woman's Club, June 1887


“Elgin is a city that has been greatly influenced by women. Their contributions to its development have extended far beyond the traditional roles of mother, housewife, church volunteer, nurse, and teacher….In 1909 women accounted for 39.2 percent of Elgin’s industrial wage earners—a higher proportion than any other city in Illinois and more than twice the ratio in the state as a whole. Many were married, giving their families two paychecks. This led to a relatively prosperous and middle class aura in the city, not always associated with factory towns.

“Early leaders in the movement for women’s rights found an audience in Elgin. Susan B. Anthony came to lecture on women’s right to vote in 1876, Frances E. Willard advocated a life of temperance in 1874, and Jane Addams discussed the relation of women to trade unionism in 1899. Carrie Nation in 1907 told them how to wage war against the demon rum.”

-E.C. Alft, Elgin: A Women's City


Special Exhibits Through March

  • Jane Addams’ personal items on loan from the Cedarville Area Historical Society
  • Early 20th century ladies’ hats on loan from Sharon Gilbert
  • Elgin American compacts on loan from Rachel Campbell
  • Photo gallery of the 140 YWCA Leadership Award winners


Share Your Experiences & More...

Visit our interactive community discussions to share your own experience through text or other media. View books and websites suggested by our librarians and add your recommendations to the list. See what others in your community are contributing to the Tapestry!


Women’s History Links

The National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921 consists of 167 books, pamphlets and other artifacts documenting the suffrage campaign.

19th-Century Girls' Series
Long before Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Sweet Valley High, the Babysitters' Club, or Magic Tree House, series books provided a source of enjoyable fiction for children. The first children's fiction series appeared in the United States in the 1830s, and by the 1860s the genre was well-established and earning both praise and censure.

Elgin Area Historical Society & Museum

Cedarville Area Historical Society and Museum

American Association of University Women - Elgin Area branch


Women's History Quiz

Take our interactive Women's History Quiz. Answers can also be found in the library’s second floor exhibit.


Tapestry of Freedom

Funding for this grant was awarded by the Illinois State Library (ISL), a Division of the Office of Secretary of State, using funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), under the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under the Creative Commons Copyright.

Gail Borden Public Library District, 270 North Grove Avenue, Elgin, Illinois 60120
Phone: 847-742-2411 | Fax: 847-742-0485 | To Renew: 847-742-3210