A short history of the Bryn Mawr Book Sale in Cambridge, Inc

I am indebted to Nan Harris, one of the early organizers and later, President, for her history up to 1976 and to Pat Griffith, past treasurer and representative to the Club.

In 1959, Betty Butterfield, having moved to Cambridge from Princeton where she had helped with its book sale, persuaded members of the Bryn Mawr Club of Boston that they should try something similar. The sale was announced with a flyer, “Thousands of Books at Bargain Prices,” books that had been collected, sorted and priced in the Butterfields’ basement. This continued for 12 years, an annual 3 day sale, initially in the First Church in Cambridge and then moving to the larger space of Memorial Hall. In 1965, Nan Harris became coordinator of the growing number of alumnae who were involved, 73 across the state! However, each sale ended with cartons of unsold books and so began the search for a permanent space. A former barbershop was found in an old building on Huron Avenue and in 1970 a lease was signed for 2 years at a monthly rent of $185! However, many willing volunteers were needed to scrape, scrub and paint ceilings on rented scaffolding before the store could open. The spring of 1971 saw the incorporation of a nonprofit organization, The Bryn Mawr Book Sale in Cambridge, Inc. with its by-laws and need for annual meetings. Soon afterwards, Betty Butterfield, President, and Betsy Jackson, the Vice-President, fearing the loss of hard-earned space if the building were to be sold, bought the entire building and then decided to renovate and expand into the corner store where the entrance is today. A third part of the building is rented to the antique store, “Easy Chairs”. In 1978, the Corporation arranged to buy the property from those two generous alumnae. Betty Butterfield died soon afterwards but her leadership had taught many alumnae how to continue a successful operation.

The Book Sale began as an all-volunteer operation, then it hired help for Saturdays, then, as more alumnae had careers, part-time managers, and now a fill-time manager. However, we still have a loyal group of volunteers, alumnae and others, who enjoy books and the bookstore. Thomas Carlyle once wrote, “Blessings upon Cadmus, the Phoenicians, or whoever it was that invented books,” and people continue to read books in spite of competing media. However, at present, we are overwhelmed with donated books and would be glad both for marketing ideas and for worthy organizations which might take some of our overflow. Come and visit us at 373 Huron Ave.

Libby Atkins, President