The William B. Cairns Collection of American Women Writers 1650-1940

May 28, 2015

The travel writings of Anna Birge and her daughter Anna, known to many as Nan, are our first additions to the William B. Cairns of American Women writers, 1650-1940 digital collection. The Cairns Collection is located in UW-Madison Libraries Special Collections and was begun in 1979 with an endowment provided by the estate of William B. Cairns, a pioneer in the study and teaching of American literature on the Madison campus at the turn of the century. The collection is made up of both well known and unknown women writers. Fiction and non fiction, diaries and books, mix to offer a diverse view of social and cultural history, material culture, education, autobiography and life writing and of course women’s studies. Learn more here:

Anna Birge was from Madison and wife of the Edward A. Birge of Birge Hall (so named in 1950 replacing “Botany Hall” as the name). She and her daughter traveled through Europe in the 1908 and then 1910 and recorded their trips in 4 volumes that were privately published. The diaries include colorful descriptions of locations and people as well as give a glimpse into the lives of (wealthy) American women at the turn of the past century. Themes of motherhood, health, and leisure activities are noteworthy.