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09/24/2020 - 5:29pm

Just when you thought 2020 could not get any worse, more bad news arrives. The recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves an enormous void in both the legal profession and in our hearts. The second woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, Ginsburg was a champion for restrained justice. Early in her law career, she overcame many obstacles, including discrimination based on her gender. In 1972, she founded the...

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09/24/2020 - 4:36pm

In 1918, the world was changing, especially for women. Many men were fighting in World War I, and the Spanish Flu epidemic was raging, while women worked and studied in non-traditional roles outside the home. Mechanics’ Institute hired Mary Carmody, who would become our first woman Head Librarian.

Mary was born (1882) and raised in Minnesota where she attended the University of Minnesota.  In 1906, she married Frank E. Carmody and they moved to San Francisco just 4 mont...

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09/23/2020 - 9:57am

In September 2020, MI hosted John Lumea of the Emperor Norton Trust for the talk Emperor Norton in Black San Francisco: Empire Day Notes on SF's Monarch of the Marginalized. This talk was MI’s kickoff event to the annual history festival in the City, San Fra...

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09/22/2020 - 11:40am

On my best days, working as an archivist is akin to being a treasure hunter. Recently, I  discovered an unexpected treasure in the Mechanics’ Institute archives. In doing some routine work to confirm the accuracy of the Container Listing written by an intern, I found the Mercantile Library’s Visitor's Register (1853-1863). Artifacts such as the register are rare, as so many historical documents were destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake. As I carefully turned the pages, I felt a thrill at fin...

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09/17/2020 - 4:03pm

It's that time of year when pumpkins, spiced lattes, and apples appear. Seasonal changes mean it's time to treat yourself to a reading list full of titles guaranteed to put you in an autumnal state of mind. Here in San Francisco, September ushered in with a heat wave and smoky horizons. So as the days grow shorter and the air grows healthier, it seems fitting to swap out beach reads for titles as comforting as a warm...

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09/14/2020 - 3:53pm


Elin Hilderbrand 28 summers : a novel  
Brigitte Benkemoun Finding Dora Maar : an artist, an address book, a life  
Ernest Hemingway In Our Time  
Marie-Helene Bertino...

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09/10/2020 - 11:34am

Dr. Judit Sztaray contributed to this post.  

On August 15, Mechanics' Institute (MI) wrapped up a highly successful Blitz Tournament of the Americas on Organized by MI in partnership with KmadaChess and...

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09/03/2020 - 9:14am

This Labor Day 2020 will be a temporary break from tradition. Outdoor activities around crowds remain risky, while staying indoors with the windows closed is looking better all the time. Between the poor air quality from myriad Northern California fires and an ongoing pandemic, why not just stay home? Not ideal but quite safe. There's an alternative way to celebrate labor by watching films featuring a diverse cast of...

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09/01/2020 - 3:54pm

In the small hours of the morning on March 15, 1924 something started to smolder within the salesroom of the A. Lietz Manufacturing Company at 61 Post Street. Perhaps it was an employee’s abandoned cigarette or something more combustible. But within minutes the plate glass windows shattered, sending tinkling glass out onto the sidewalk. The explosion sent “the menace of the fire roaring into the street.” Immediately, a thr...

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08/28/2020 - 9:52am

Few families have been left untouched by disease, whether it's COVID-19 or a pandemic in the past. At 32, my own grandmother perished during the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Stories of how she left six young children behind, including my mother, remain cautionary tales to this day. Undoubtedly, many families have stories such as these.

Aside from oral histories, pandemics leave an educational opportunity i...

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