Editor’s Note: This is the first of eight stories that will appear in the next eight days on the members of the 2017 Class of the Outstanding Women of Clinton County.
Born in 1866, this nominee to the Outstanding Women of Clinton County class of 2017 was committed to the goal of making reading material accessible to her community, while exemplifying through her own life the expanding role of women in public affairs.
Minnie Farren not only helped create the Wilmington Public Library, she served as its principle librarian longer than anyone else in the library’s history — from its inception in 1899 until her retirement in 1942. Generations of Clinton County library-goers have much to thank her for.
As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Farren was a driving force in that organization’s establishment of the Wilmington Library Association in 1899. This was a two-room “subscription library” located in the old First National Bank building on East Main Street, and she was hired as its first librarian.
Tickets for use of the library and reading room could be purchased for $1. A leading member of the Library Aid Society (formed in 1900), Farren worked to increase the library’s initial book collection by holding successful “book showers” and by facilitating the loan of books from the State Library of Ohio on a rotating basis.
A founding member of Wilmington’s Six and Twenty Book Club — to which she belonged for 44 years — she saw to it that club-circulated books were donated to the library.
In 1903, under Farren’s leadership, and with the assistance of DAR, the library applied for and received a $10,000 Andrew Carnegie donation for a new building, which opened in 1904.
During her long career, she provided a model for the operation of small county libraries throughout the state, managing countless funding changes while ever devoted to the library’s growth and success.
Wilmington’s library was not her only civic passion. Farren was also influential in the Wilmington community through her membership in DAR, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, the Wilmington College Auxiliary, and the Women’s Guild of the Presbyterian Church. She was also listed in the Public Schools Common Report as an instructor/lecturer in Clinton County schools.
Upon her death in 1945, she left an endowment to the Hale Hospital to help pay for the care of the poor. The bequest was subsequently transferred to Clinton Memorial Hospital and then, after the sale of the hospital, to a foundation serving the healthcare needs of Clinton County.
Farren lived a quiet, private life as a single woman, but she was engaging and well known for her sense of humor — though, we are told, her discipline could be “very strict.” In May of 1966, the Wilmington News Journal commented that “Patrons went to the library to talk to [Minnie Farren] as much as to get a book.”
The Wilmington Public Library will soon acquire an Ohio Historical Marker identifying it as one of the few Carnegie libraries that have preserved some of the characteristic original architecture.
What finer tribute to the legacy of a woman who was so dedicated to creating a strong public institution in the service of all members of her community — and of a culture that values the presence and services of such an institution?
Tickets for the March 4 Outstanding Women of Clinton County luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Roberts Centre are $25 (cash or check accepted). Reservations can be made at the Wilmington News Journal, 761 S. Nelson Ave., Wilmington, OH 45177. The News Journal’s office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. If you have any questions, please call 937-382-2574. Reservations will be accepted through March 1.