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Companions of Minds and Books with Kim Bancroft

August 14, 2023 | 5:30 pm

Kim Bancroft will discuss the legacy of her great-great-grandparents, H.H. Bancroft, historian of the West and founder of The Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley, and his second wife, Matilda Bancroft, a writer and historian in her own right.

After marrying H.H. in 1859, Emily wrote voluminous letters from San Francisco to her family in Buffalo in the 1860s. Seven years after Emily died in 1869, H.H. married Matilda, who composed volumes of diaries and letters from 1876-1910, along with oral histories.

Kim Bancroft’s book Writing Themselves into History: Emily and Matilda Bancroft in Journals and Letters highlights piquant details from these women’s writing, noting political and cultural changes during those years, as well as race, class, and gender differences underlying Emily and Matilda’s social observations. These women also captured the private life of a man who would become a very public figure through his writing and library.

In particular, Matilda relished her ability to participate in her husband’s book-making efforts. With him, she traveled to collect documents and stories regarding those who had settled the West and its multitudes of commerce, cultures, and government. Matilda learned how to edit her husband’s writing. Her work also found its way into his books, with both her own writings and the oral histories she took.

In her presentation, Kim Bancroft will focus on this remarkable couple’s companionship of shared ideals and ambitions in telling the story of the West, though from very different perspectives, one a public man, the other a private woman. How these two writers of different natures contributed to literary life in California and beyond—with plentiful challenges and controversies—makes for an engaging story.

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About the Speaker

Kim Bancroft

Kim Bancroft

Longtime teacher turned editor and writer, Kim Bancroft earned a B.A. in English from Stanford, an M.A. in English and a teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and a doctorate in education from UC Berkeley. She has taught at high schools and community colleges in the Bay Area, at the Universidad de Guanajuato in Mexico, and at Sacramento State. In 2014 Kim edited H.H.B.'s 1890 autobiography, Literary Industries, published by Heyday Books. She also wrote a biography of the founder of Heyday Books, called The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher. Of many other memoirs that Kim has recently helped create, she has edited two of Native friends in the Willits area where she now lives in a cabin in the woods. Kim is also seeking to publish a book she wrote with a former classmate, David Waddell, called Same School, Different Class: A Dual Memoir of School Integration.


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