Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Library's Women in History

Lora Hussey as a young woman
The Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library in Zionsville, Indiana has a rich history through its 50 years of existence and claims two women as its founding matriarchs:  Lora Hussey, whose generosity helped create the Library and Lora’s cousin, Olive Hoffman, who helped make Lora’s dream become a reality.  A third woman, Mary Mayfield, was a longtime Friend of the Library and contributed not only with her time and talent, but also provided treasure upon her death.

Lora Hussey, the only child of Milton and Ella Hoffman Hussey, was born in 1888.  Lora graduated from Zionsville High School and Butler University in Indianapolis and began her teaching career in Johnson County, IN; she taught in various schools and colleges, culminating in her final position in New York City.  Lora never married and retired to the family home in Zionsville, IN at the time of her father’s death.
The Hussey family home, which served as the Library for 31 years
She inherited her parents’ home, which included a house and 4 adjacent pieces of property as well as the family farm in Hamilton County, IN, upon her mother’s death. 

Lora passed away in 1957, and her lifelong love of learning and children dictated the direction of her will which stated, “ [I] bequeath to the town of Zionsville in Boone County, Indiana, our home and place of residence on Hawthorne Street in the town of Zionsville on condition that the town of Zionsville, will appoint a library board and equip said residence property as a public library and maintain the same as a library for the use of the public.  Such library is to be known as the HUSSEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY.”

Lora Hussey late in life
Some Hoffman relatives contested Lora’s will and Olive Hoffman, Lora’s first cousin, and a staunch supporter of Lora’s dream for her family home, fought off the relatives. Eventually, after two years in the courts, the lawsuit was settled and Lora’s dream for a public library in her home could proceed.  It took more than five years from Lora’s death in April 1957 for the Hussey Memorial Library to open in the Hussey home on August 5, 1962.  Olive, while never a member of the Library Board, was heavily involved in making sure that the plans for “Lora’s Library” stayed on track.  Most of Lora’s personal library, in addition to other donations, was cataloged and placed on the shelves for opening day.
Olive Hoffman

Olive wrote newsy “dittoed” letters to friends and family each of the first six years the privately-endowed Hussey Memorial Library was open, reporting on the Library’s activities, its circulation, card holder numbers, programs, involvement and support by volunteers, etc.   Olive, who also never married, continued to stay interested and supportive of “Lora’s Library” until her death in February 1993; she gave the bulk of her estate to the Library upon her death. 

By this time, the Hussey Memorial Library, in its need for more funding to support a growing community, had become a “true” public tax--supported library in 1989  and was renamed the Hussey Memorial Public Library.

We would be remiss if we did not mention a third woman who contributed both monetarily and actively as a Friend of the Library.  Mary Mayfield was one of the first Friends of the Hussey Memorial Library, a group formed in 1978, and her husband, Jim Mayfield, approached the Library Board in 1990 with the desire to give a substantial sum of money to the Library in memory of his wife, Mary, who had passed away. 


Mary Mayfield
The Library Board voted to accept this generous gift and to add the Mayfield name to the Library’s name.    Using the generous donations of these three matriarchs, the Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library Foundation, Inc. was created in the 1990s and today provides funding for the Library’s needs above and beyond those provided in the operating budget.

The Library is no longer housed in the 1400 sq. ft. Hussey home on Hawthorne Street.  A new 25,000 sq. ft. building on three floors was built about eight blocks away on Fifth Street and opened in 1994. An expansion was added in 2006, bringing the current total square footage to over 53,000.  

Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library in 2012

Without the generosity and foresight of our benefactors, our Library would not be the success that it is today.  Lora Hussey, Olive Hoffman and Mary Mayfield would be proud of the legacy they have left the residents of Zionsville, Indiana.

1 comment:

  1. Mary, that was very interesting. I knew this information in general, but didn't know of the struggle that Olive Hoffman had to make her cousin's dream a reality. Thanks for filling in the background.


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