The Huddersfield Female Educational Institute claimed to be the first in England established for working-class women. It had close ties to the men’s Mechanics’ Institute, and its origins lie in that nineteenth-century movement for British working-class education. The article adds to existing research on gender and library use by examining the factors that shaped working-class women’s education in the 1850s. Using the Female Institute’s library records from 1856 and 1857, the authors analyze the borrowing habits of its members. They compare the origins of the Female Institute with its male equivalent and demonstrate how middle-class definitions of working-class masculinity and femininity shaped education.