The Children's Book Guild of Washington became a reality in March of 1945, at a meeting in the YWCA, then located at Seventeenth and K Streets, Northwest. The new organization was an outgrowth of an informal workshop which Catherine Cate Coblentz, Eloise Lownsbery, and Alberta Powell Graham had started two years earlier. The three, who shared adjacent desks in the Library of Congress Reading Room, where they were researching children's books, had found that discussing their work over a weekly luncheon in the Library cafeteria was a stimulating and rewarding experience, so much so that they began to invite other writers to join them there. However, it was not long before their numbers became too great and the cafeteria could not accommodate them.
When that happened, to quote an early member, "the group had no name, no form, no officers, no specified purposes." More importantly, perhaps, it had no base, no place to gather, eat, talk, listen, and exchange ideas. Meetings continued, somewhat sporadically--occasionally in someone's home, occasionally in a restaurant--but it was difficult keeping to a schedule and, not surprisingly, attendance began to dwindle.
At this point it became evident that something had to be done if they were to hold together, and a decisive meeting was called for March 24th, at the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. There, Mrs. Coblentz presented a proposal which she and others concerned for the group's survival had drawn up for the consideration of those in attendance:
"..to establish a permanent association which would include writers, artists, librarians, teachers, editors, publishers, and distributors dedicated to the production and dissemination of high-quality books for young people."
There was total and enthusiastic approval from everyone present. Several ad hoc chairs were appointed and instructed to prepare an agenda for discussion on April 27th.
At that meeting Mrs. Coblentz became president, with Barbara Nolen, editor of Story Parade, a popular juvenile magazine of the time, named program chairman, and Alberta Powell Graham, secretary. It was voted that meetings would be held on the last Friday of the month throughout the year, in a private dining room on the second floor of the Seventeenth Street YWCA (now nonexistent, torn down and replaced by an office building). However, after 1949 the July and August meetings were canceled, and at some later point meeting-day was changed to the fourth Thursday of the month, September through June.
The declared purposes of the Guild were three:
1. To hold and stimulate higher standards of writing and illustrating for children
2. To increase knowledge of, and use of, better books for children in the community
3. To cooperate with other groups having similar purposes.
There was a fourth, unwritten, but understood: "to share our experience and our friendship." After forty years they still stand.
Active membership in the Children's Book Guild of Washington is limited to area authors and illustrators who have had at least two children's books published by recognized houses, and to area editors and specialists in children's literature. Active institutional members represent associations, school and library systems, book stores, and other groups concerned with children's reading. Inactive and nonresident members are former active members who continue to pay dues and to receive the monthly newsletter.
Throughout the years Guild members have written hundreds of books. They have received Newbery Awards, National Book Awards, the Edison, Golden Kite, and Child Study Awards, among others. Also, they have been selected by the American Library Association for its catalog of Notable Books and by the Junior Literary Guild for national distribution.
Continue to II. Founders Three