The little lady who had the wisdom of the owls she loved to collect, as well as a heart full of love of books, and readers of all ages…
In honor of Black History Month, I’d like to share the story of my history with a woman who cast a giant shadow, but barely stood less than five feet tall. I proudly called her my teacher as well as my friend. She was also the reason this Minnesota born Scandinavian had the privilege to give testimony at a Baptist gathering. And the first woman of color who had such a significant influence on me.
Effie Lee Morris was a visionary, advocate, author, San Francisco leader, and honored as a Living Legend by the California Library Association. “I am proudest to have been a librarian,” she said, “a librarian who has made a difference.” Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, launched not only her love of reading but also her career as a children’s librarian and children’s advocate.
Work as a part-time library assistant in the Cleveland Public Library led to her first degree from Mather College in 1945 and her masters in library science in 1956. She was the first children’s specialist at the Library for the Blind in the New York Public Library. She was the first children’s librarian and first African American president of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association. She was the first coordinator of children’s services in the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL).
Ms. Morris’s awards are numerous, but two that she was particularly proud of are the Silver Spur Award for Dedication to Enhancing the Quality of Life and Economic Vitality of San Francisco, and the Women’s National Book Association’s Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the World of Books.
The annual Effie Lee Morris Lecture Series lecture was created to salute Ms. Morris for her outstanding contributions to the San Francisco Public Library and the children of San Francisco by the WNBA-SF in 1996. The Children’s Historical and Research Collection was established in 1964 by Morris and officially renamed the Effie Lee Morris Historical and Research Collection of Children’s Literature in 1981. The collection was created as a research collection of out dated or out-of-print books deemed important to children’s literature and books containing ethnic stereotypes.
Little did I know as I sat taking notes at that WNBA-SF planning meeting which organized the first lecture in the series, that one day I’d be receiving phone calls from Effie Lee congratulating me on doing such a great job as president, or passing along a suggestion about our next chapter meeting.
She passed away in 2009. She was our cheerleader, shining star and an amazing example to live life to the fullest every day. Her spirit continues to shine brightly with all of us who were touched by her deep abiding love of the written word and enthusiasm for everyone who participate in the passionate pursuit of just the right combination to create an engaging story.
Do you long to get started writing or sharing their love of books? Consider getting involved at your local library, or joining such organizations at Women’s National Book Assn-San Francisco Chapter (WNBA-SF) or the California Writers Club (CWC)who offer speakers and programs to help you unleash the writer in you.
By the way, I’ll be speaking on “The 15-Minute Fix” at the CWC Peninsula Branch on March 21 at 10 a.m. at the Belmont Library. If you’ve ever struggled with a blank page or felt mocked by a blinking cursor, you don’t want to miss this!