Historical Society Edith Beckett

The lady sitting at the desk above is Edith Beckett, the librarian at the Calais Free Library for over 20 years. Standing to her left is Stephanie Crockett, who lived at the end of Spring Street, and to her right is Edna Mae Bayliss, a Milltown girl.

Edith was one of many descendants of John G Beckett, the elder who came to Calais in 1850s. Edith was his granddaughter. She was the daughter of Christine Gerry Beckett and John G. Beckett, Jr. She was born in 1895 and lived most of her life in the family home on Union Street, the large building just across from the end of High Street. She graduated from the University of Maine at Orono in the 20s and spent a couple of years teaching in Van Buren before returning to Calais.

For many years Edith was the legal secretary and close friend of Tom Bridges, a very colorful and occasionally disbarred local lawyer. In the late 40s she became Emma Boyd’s assistant at the library and soon began 20 years or more as the “law” within the walls of the library. It would be an understatement to say she ran her ship with an iron hand.  Edith would certainly have thought Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame too soft and a pushover.

There were lots of rules at Edith’s library. Talking was a capital offense, whispering was a form of talking and the mere dropping of a ruler was enough to elicit an icy “I know you did that on purpose” glare. She also was the final arbiter on the question of “appropriate” reading material, allowing only those books she judged acceptable in the hands of the young. Carol Ann Nicholson, when caught in the stacks reading a slightly racy novel entitled The Foxes of Harrow was told by Edith “It’s a shame you don’t have the makings of a lady.” This book, by the way, was made into a movie in 1947 starring Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara, so how racy could it possibly be?

Edith retired as librarian about 1970 and for all her iron discipline is fondly remembered by most as someone who truly loved the library. She knew how important reading is to the development of young minds and devoted much of her life to the Calais Free Library.  On a personal level, when not on duty, she was kind and welcoming. Phil Beckett, her nephew, treasures to this day her cookie jar which was always full of cookies when he visited.

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