Adozinda Goes to the Feminine Reading Room: a Segregated Space for Women in a Portuguese Public Library under a Fascist State

Sequeiros, Paula and Passos, Sónia . Adozinda Goes to the Feminine Reading Room: a Segregated Space for Women in a Portuguese Public Library under a Fascist State., 2013 In: Narratives and social memory: theoretical and methodological approaches. University of Minho, pp. 327-343. [Book chapter]

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English abstract

The public event of the inauguration of a Feminine Reading Room in the Municipal Public Library of Porto, held on the 24th November 1945, sets the motto for the construction of a historically and sociologically based analysis of the modes of usage of public and semi-public space – namely libraries – used by women and their meanings in those days. Within the framework of a qualitative approach, sources such as literature, photography and personal interviews are added to documentary data from institutional archives. A fictional narrative, built from historical data, is inserted to sustain our analysis, where Adozinda is the character embodying a woman reader who crosses the city to visit the recently inaugurated Feminine Reading Room. Two female figures punctuate this narrative, Virgínia de Castro e Almeida, the person after whom this room was named, and Tília Dulce Machado Martins, the main legator of the collection it holds. Using this fictional narrative, we aimed at reconstructing a holistic context for the facts as they might have happened through a pleasurable reading of a plausible text. These women’s diverse histories are also inserted in that context. Fiction is a resource used to inscribe data on the social, economic, and political situation in the city and in the country at that time, with an emphasis on women and their uses of public space. As to the theoretical framing of public and semi-public use of the space, the theory of gendered spaces, as opposed to separate spheres, is evoked and confirmed to account for the presence of women in public space, according to gender and social class roles, a presence which is however socially invisibilised. We conclude that the Room’s space, initially segregated for moral reasons, was later transformed through an appropriation which went from separatism to integration, as a response to ethical claims gaining ground in society. This separatism was, therefore, an intermediate step towards a more equalitarian use of space.

Item type: Book chapter
Keywords: public libraries; Porto (city); public space; gendered space; segregated space; research methodology; women; Portugal; bibliotecas públicas; mulheres; espaços segregados; espaço público; metodologia da pesquisa;
Subjects: C. Users, literacy and reading. > CB. User studies.
C. Users, literacy and reading. > CC. User categories: children, young people, social groups.
D. Libraries as physical collections. > DC. Public libraries.
Depositing user: Ana Paula Sequeiros
Date deposited: 15 Sep 2013 12:13
Last modified: 02 Oct 2014 12:27
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10760/20132

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