American Women Through Time
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Go to: II. RESEARCH SOURCES (Historical Overviews, Primary Sources, and Secondary Sources)


Amelia Earhart's solo Atlantic flight.
See: The George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers [online]. W. Lafayette: Purdue University Libraries, [2002- ]. Available from:
Listen to the Booknotes interview with Susan Butler, author of East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart.

As Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins becomes the first female cabinet member.
Frances Perkins (1880-1965). Draft notes of reply to F. D. Roosevelt on her nomination to the Cabinet. In Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries.

Ella Fitzgerald sings at the Apollo Theatre's amateur contest.
National Public Radio's profile of Ella Fitzgerald, highlights the audition for the contest and other key events in her career.

Mary Margaret McBride begins offering advice and conducting interviews on her highly successful radio program.
Historian Susan Ware dicussed her new book "It's One O'clock and Here is Mary Margaret McBride" [online]. Library of Congress, February 22, 2005.
Remembering Radio's Mary Margaret McBride [All Things Considered, National Public Radio, May 14, 2005]

Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott, 1935-1938 [New York Public Library]
Profile of Berenice Abbott [National Public Radio] offers a brief overview of the Changing New York exhibition at National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The National Council of Negro Women is founded by Mary McLeod Bethune.

The Social Security Act becomes law.
Social Security Pioneers: Frances Perkins [Social Security Administration] includes digital audio of the NBC Radio Network program America's Town Meeting of the Air. Perkins explains and defends the recently passed Social Security Act. The site also includes audio clips from Perkins' speech from 1962, "The Roots of Social Security."

Clare Boothe Luce's scene description of her play The Women, ca. 1936 ["Words and Deeds in American History," Library of Congress]

Dorothea Lange's photograph, "Migrant Mother."
See Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" photographs in the Farm Security Administration Collection: An Overview [Library of Congress].

Letter, Eleanor Roosevelt to Walter White detailing the First Lady's lobbying efforts for federal action against lynchings, 19 March 1936 [Words and Deeds in American History, Library of Congress]

The World Center for Women's Archives, 1936 [New Jersey Historical Society]

Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God," is published.
Book Club of the Air: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston [Talk of the Nation, National Public Radio]

Billie Holiday first sings "Strange Fruit," a song about lynching in the South, at a New York Club in 1938. See: Margolick, David. Billie Holiday-Strange Fruit [Interview online]. Talking History, 4 February 2002. Available from:

Hendry, Donna. Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit: Using Music to Send a Message [online].

Katherine Dunham choreographs and produces her first full-length ballet, L'Ag'Ya.
Selections from the Katherine Dunham Collection at the Library of Congress

Pecan-Shellers' Strike [The Handbook of Texas Online]

Zora Neale Hurston begins working for the Florida division of the Work Projects Administration (WPA).
The Florida Memory Project offers an overview of this work, supporting documents and audio files, photos of Hurston, and lesson plans.

Marian Anderson's Lincoln Memorial concert draws an audience of 75,000.
Listen to Marian Anderson, National Public Radio's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of this concert.
Marian Anderson Collection of Photographs, 1898-1992 [University of Pennsylvania Library] includes more than 20 photographs from this event.

Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip [American Memory, Library of Congress]

Listen to Mary McLeod Bethune's speech, What Does American Democracy Mean to Me?, part of Say It Plain: A Century of Great African American Speeches from American Radio Works.


Historical Overviews

America in the 1930s


Ad* Access [online]. [Durham, NC]: Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University, c1999.
Images of over 7000 advertisements from U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. "Beauty and hygiene" is one of the five areas of concentration.

Medicine and Madison Avenue [online]. Durham, NC: Digital Scriptorium, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University, 2002 [cited 28 September 2002]. Available from:
Images of 600 health-related advertisements that appeared in newspapers and magazines from the 1910s through the 1950s.

Census Data

Historical Census Browser
Researchers can examine state and county topics for individual census years and over time, as well as generate maps of selected data.


Digital Dress Costume Collections allows researchers to search four collections simultaneously. Enter 1930-1939 to search for items from the 1930s.

Wisconsin Historical Museum Children's Clothing Collection [online]. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, updated 26 June 2001 [cited 10 December 2001]. Available from:
Tour the collection by decade (then by gender and type of clothing).

Diaries & Letters

Secondary Sources

The database America: History & Life offers a simple option for limiting a search for articles and other sources to a specific time period. If you are searching for articles that cover the 1930s, enter 1930d in the "Time Period" row of the search screen. See Searching America: History & Life by Time Period for an example using another time period.

American Women's History: A Timeline

Ken Middleton
Middle Tennessee State Univ. Library
Murfreesboro, TN 37132