"Save Us From the Mischiefs and Scandals of an Uncultivated Offspring!"

"Save Us From the Mischiefs and Scandals of an Uncultivated Offspring!"
Abigail Fillmore: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One to two class periods


One of the things that sets Abigail Fillmore apart from other First Ladies is that she was responsible for establishing the first library in the White House.  Libraries, then as now, were important educating institutions, and she saw a real need to stock a respectable number of different kinds of books in the “President’s house.”


Students who participate in this activity will acquire some knowledge of the growth of libraries in the United States, as well as experience in doing historical research and comparing life then, with life now.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Books or other materials about libraries Access to census data, if not on the Internet


1.  Explore the web site called “Save Us from the Mischiefs and Scandals of Uncultivated Offspring," at
http://www.assumption.edu/users/lknoles/librarians/default.html, paying particular attention to “Teachers and Librarians as Cultural Conservators…,”
 “The Role of Libraries and Schools in Puritan America,”  (http://www.assumption.edu/users/lknoles/librarians/puritanbooks.html), and “The 19th Century Democratization of Information,” at http://www.assumption.edu/users/lknoles/librarians/selfculture.html
3.  Using this information, and research using any other sources (print or web-based), write a paper that answers the following questions:
  • Why did the Puritans devote energy and other resources to developing schools and libraries?
  • Why did they want schools and libraries to provide “mediated access”?  How is that different from the access people have today to information and knowledge?
  • How and why did libraries enhance the “democratization of information?”
  • In what ways did libraries both preserve culture and support change?
  • Why did libraries flourish more rapidly in some areas of the country than in others?
  • How has technology changed the role of the library?
  • What do you think will be the role of libraries in the future?


Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended by asking students to design a “Library for the 21st Century;” have students involve their school library/media personnel as “sounding boards” for designing a library for the future.

Sources & Resources:

This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.