San Francisco’s venerable Mechanics' Institute Library, located at 57 Post Street in the Financial District, will host a reading, slide program, and discussion with author Michael Helquist about his new biography, Marie Equi, Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions. The event is scheduled for Thursday, July 21, at 6pm. Members and public welcome.
Marie Equi was an early woman physician on the West Coast, a publicly known lesbian, and a fiercely independent activist unafraid to take risks or stand by her principles. She had many links with the Bay Area: including self-studying her way into a local medical school, pursuing post-graduate work, becoming a heroine of 1906 earthquake relief, and enduring imprisonment at San Quentin prison for protesting World War I.
Helquist will also focus on the centennial of San Francisco’s 1916 Preparedness Day Parade in which 10 people were killed and scores wounded after an explosion disrupted the public gathering in support of readiness for World War I. The Mechanics Institute building on Post Street was completed ten years earlier and was situated near the parade route. The notorious incident became one of many witnessed by the 152-year-old organization.
In 1854 San Francisco’s population skyrocketed after the Gold Rush, and the city struggled with little infrastructure or support for its settlers. A small group of civic leaders gathered to organize a Mechanics' Institute, a skills and learning center for working people that was popular in Europe and other US cities. Boasting an expansive library, a chess room, and social space, the Mechanics' Institute Library foreshadowed by more than 100 years the transformation currently underway in US libraries to broaden learning services, skill-building opportunities, and to offer robust community interactions.
The nine-story Mechanics' Institute building now houses a vibrant library with more than 160,000 volumes, a world-renowned chess room, and an expansive events program. Members may participate free in all programs. Admission for visitors is $15. Free library and chess room tours are conducted every Wednesday at noon for new or prospective members.
Link to Mechanics' Institute: http://www.milibrary.org/
Author Historian Activist