Kate Stewart, the lead archivist at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, profiles the life of librarian Ruth Rappaport in her first biography, “A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport,” released this spring by Little A Publishing. Rappaport grew up in Nazi Germany, reading banned books. At age 15, she ran away from her parents at a Swiss train station, refusing to return to Germany. Her parents later died in concentration camps. After a journalism career in Seattle, she headed in 1948 to Palestine, where she took part in the War of Independence. In the early 1960s, Rappaport built a library system in Saigon for the U.S. military across Vietnam, dubbed “Ruthie’s Little Empire.”
“I first heard about Ruth Rappaport while I was working at the Library of Congress and my coworker, Peter Bartis, invited me to Ruth’s estate sale after she died. Peter had been a very close friend of Ruth, who also had worked at the Library of Congress for many years. Peter told me many stories about her, which captivated me and I felt that I had to seek out the answers to the questions I had, including, how did she survive through all of these wars, which were undoubtedly traumatic? What did her work as a librarian mean to her after growing up under severe censorship in Nazi Germany? I spent many years sifting through archival documents she left behind and in other collections from archives around the world to piece together and make sense of the extraordinary life she led.”
Stewart, a third-generation librarian and native Oklahoman, holds a bachelor of arts in history and women’s studies from Vassar College and a master’s in history and library science from the University of Iowa. Previously, she was a librarian and archivist for ProQuest, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Senate in Washington, DC.
She joins her mother, Alice LaViolette, a librarian at the Salem Public Library in Oregon, to discuss the book Thursday, May 30, at the Dusenberry-River Library, 5605 E. River Road, #105. For more information, call 594-5345.