Prominent Women In Bethel Library’s Early History

Maria Parloa:

  • Maria Parloa willed $2000 and her own personal library to found a free public library for the town of Bethel in 1909.
  • She was the founder of the science of Home Economics. She lectured on sick-room cookery at Harvard Medical School, and taught at the Boston Cooking School (before Fanny Farmer) and numerous other places.
  • She was honored with a weeklong session at Appledore Island, Maine this summer for her contributions to Home Economics and the history of the island. Bethel Public Library contributed a copy of our photograph of Maria Parloa for this event. Appledore Island was known for its artist’s salon that thrived there in the late 1800s, before the advent of artists’ colonies as we know them today. Celia Thaxter reigned over an impressive group of friends, one of whom was Maria Parloa. Others included the leading artists, musicians, and writers of the day such as Edward MacDowell and his wife; American pianist William Mason, son of Lowell Mason, who played the grand piano in her salon daily; and John Knowles Paine, America’s first serious composer of note. Childe Hassam painted Celia’s magnificent garden in a style similar to Monet’s Giverney paintings. This rarefied atmosphere ended with Thaxter’s death in 1894 and the hotel burned in the early 1900s, bringing down the final curtain on this heyday in American arts. (This is from the Wikipedia article on Appledore Island). However, sessions such as the one honoring Maria Parloa, who was part of this group, continue every summer.
  • Books in the Bethel Library by Maria Parloa:

The Ladies Library Auxiliary:

  • In 1909 all the directors of the Bethel Library were men; however, it was voted to form a Ladies Library Auxiliary.
  • The first meeting was Friday, December 10, 1909. Over 20 ladies attended. They decided to canvass their neighborhoods asking for donations of books for the Library.
  • A book of newspaper clippings from 1909 to 1934 was donated by the Ladies Auxiliary to the Library. More clippings were added in later years.

The First Librarian:

  • Miss Marie Macbeth was appointed as the first librarian.

Hannah H. Seelye:

  • On June 24, 1914, the Rev. L. Clark Seelye, Thomas Seelye and all the other legatees under the will of the late Hannah H. Seelye, have most generously offered to present to the town of Bethel, the homestead and all the land connected therewith of the late Hannah H. Seelye under conditions that the house thereon or any building erected shall be held in perpetuity for library purposes…