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History: Natchez Women's Book Society
Wives and Daughters

History of Book Societies

The Natchez Women's Book Society was started in 1997 and has continued uninterrupted since then. The Society models itself on older book societies, such as the one described in this passage from Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, published in 1866.

"She was going to Grinstead's, the bookseller of Hollingford; who, in addition to his regular business, was the agent for the Hollingford Book Society, received their subscriptions, kept their accounts, ordered their books from London, and, on payments of a small salary, allowed the Society to keep their volumes on shelves in his shop. It was the centre of news and gossip, the club, as it were, of the little town. Everybody who pretended to gentility in the place belonged to it. It was a test of gentility, indeed, rather than of education or a love of literature. No shopkeeper would have thought of offering himself as a member, however great his general intelligence and love of reading; while it boasted upon the list of subscribers most of the county families in the neighbourhood, some of whom subscribed to the Hollingford Book Society as a sort of duty belonging to their station, without often using their privilege of reading the books: while there were residents in the little town, such as Mrs Goodenough, who privately thought reading a great waste of time, that might be much better employed in sewing, and knitting, and pastry-making, but who nevertheless belonged to it as a mark of station, just as these good, motherly women would have thought it a terrible come-down in the world if they had not had a pretty young servant maid to fetch them home from the tea parties at night.”

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