The little lady who had the wisdom of the owls she loved to collect, as well as a heart full of the love of books, and readers of all ages…
I just got back from the San Francisco Writers Conference and once again, a treasured memory resurfaced and gave me a chance to pause and smile. 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 personally 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.” The first book she owned, The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, launched her love of reading and planted the seeds of her career as a children’s librarian and children’s advocate.
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 The collection was created as a research collection of outdated or out-of-print books deemed important to children’s literature and books containing ethnic stereotypes.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 WNBA-SF’s 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 participates 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.