What’s Up With That? The Kelly Collection


The law school diploma of Agnes Kelly, the first woman to graduate with one in the state of Ohio. | Photo: Courtesy

Lucy Govoni

Every day hundreds of students pass through the library, however few know of the Kelly Collection of books. Near the beanbag chairs and in the upstairs corner of the library, students can find the Kelly Collection of books. The Kelly Collection boasts an array of literature focused on women from all walks of life.  It is literature by women and about women.  Yet, BHS students seldom reach for this collection, and the BHS Register is asking What’s Up With That?

Agnes Kelly in her graduation robe. | Photo: Courtesy 

There is a Kelly Collection of books in nearly every Vermont high school and some Ohio high schools. These collections are dedicated to Agnes Kelly, the first woman to graduate with a law degree in Ohio.  Kelly’s family then donated books so high schools could start their own collection of women-centered books.

The Register asked library staff members for more insight into the Kelly Collection of books.

“Kelly family wanted to organize these fantastic women’s history collections for schools in Vermont and some in Ohio. There was no government imperative to make it. It was personal initiative from the Kelly family,” said Abbey Pasquence, a librarian assistant at BHS.

Pasquence told the Register that Burlington High School connected to the Kelly family through Terry Buehner, Agnes Kelly’s niece, and a retired BHS history teacher.

In an email, Terry Buehner told the Register that Kelly was her aunt.

The collection was my idea.  In 1987, I won a scholarship to study Women’s History at Harvard for a summer.  When I returned I wrote up a curriculum for a Women’s US History course and it was approved,” Buehner wrote.

Sean Fleming, a librarian assistant and history teacher at BHS also has a passion for the Kelly Collection.

Terry Buehner and her students who won the first place in the Vermont history competition, pictured in an edition of the BHS yearbook. | Photo: Courtesy Terry Buehner

“Kelly Collection covers everything from women’s history, to the lives of women from around the world, women’s social movements,  the key women in the social movements and the struggle for greater rights and equality,” Fleming said.

While there is an extensive collection of books most students do not know about the collection. Junior Julie Riley feels that many students do not take books from the Kelly Collection due to the fact that it is upstairs.

“They’re in an out of the way place,“ she said.

Contrary to Riley, Fleming believes that the books are more accessible than they have ever been.

“It used to be more out of reach sequestered in the back room of the library, and that room used to be booked with meetings all the time,” he said. “Now we have a lounge and a study area and those books are more accessible than in the past.”

“What’s Up With That?” is a bi-weekly column written by Staff Writer Lucy Govoni about strange things at Burlington High School. Send your topic suggestions to [email protected]