American Women's History: A Research Guide
Biographical Sources
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General Tips

  1. Unless the individual is well known, begin with an index to biographical reference works. Biography and Genealogy Master Index and Women in Particular: An Index to American Women, are two such indexes.
  2. Many women who were important at the state and local levels may not be included in the general biographical dictionaries cited on this page. Many of the publications cited in the State and Regional History section either contain biographical profiles or references to biographical sources.
  3. Post a request for biographical information to an appropriate Electronic Discussion List.



Indexes to Biographical Dictionaries

Baillie, Laureen, ed. American Biographical Index. New York and London: K.G. Saur, 1993.
ABI serves as an index to 368 biographical dictionaries, most of which were published in the 19th century. It thus provides a useful supplement to Biography and Genealogy Master Index, which indexes recent biographical dictionaries. The publisher also offers the American Biographical Archive (ABA), which provides the full text of the titles indexed in ABI on microfiche. Note that while most libraries will have Biography and Genealogy Master Index, only large research libraries are likely to purchase ABI and ABA. See World Biographical Index below.

Herbert, Miranda C., and Barbara McNeil, eds. Biography and Genealogy Master Index. 2d ed. Detroit: Gale, 1980. 8 vols.
------. Supplement. Detroit: Gale, 1982- . Annual.
------. Cumulation. Detroit: Gale, 1985- . Published at five-year intervals.
This extremely valuable set indicates which biographical reference works contain information about specific individuals.

Herman, Kali. Women in Particular: An Index to American Women. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1984. 740p.

World Biographical Index [online]. Munich: K.G. Saur, 1998 [cited 21 October 1998]. Available from: http://www.biblio.tu-bs.de/acwww25u/wbi_en/.


Printed Biographical Dictionaries

Adamson, Lynda G. Notable Women in American History: A Guide to Recommended Biographies and Autobiographies. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Garraty, John A., and Mark C. Carnes, eds. American National Biography. 24 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Many libraries offer access to the online edition: http://www.anb.org.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607-1950. 3 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.
This invaluable set includes biographies of 1359 women; the biographical sketches, which range in length from 400 to 7,000 words, are followed by helpful bibliographies.

McGill, Frank N. Great Lives from History: American Women Series. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 1995. 5 vols.
Each of the 409 profiles includes a useful annotated bibliography.

Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green, eds. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1980.

Who's Who of American Women: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living American Women. 1st ed. (1958/59)- . Chicago: Marquis, 1958- . Biennial.


Bibliographies of Biographical Sources

Adamson, Lynda G. Notable Women in American History: A Guide to Recommended Biographies and Autobiographies. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1999. 450p.

Addis, Patricia K. Through a Woman's I: An Annotated Bibliography of American Women's Autobiographical Writings, 1946-1976. Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press, 1983. 607p.

Biography Index. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1946- . Quarterly with annual cumulations. Also available online and in a CD-ROM format.

Byrne, Pamela R., and Susan K. Kinnell, eds. Women in North America: Summaries of Biographical Articles in History Journals. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1988.

Goodfriend, Joyce D. The Published Diaries and Letters of American Women: An Annotated Bibliography. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1987.

Lunt, Boo, comp. Biographical Reference Books on Women Bibliography [online]. [Cambridge, Mass]: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, June 1993, updated by Anne Hartmere, October 1997 [cited 16 August 1998]. Available from: http://www.radcliffe.edu/schles/libcolls/bksper/bibs/bio.htm.

Sweeney, Patricia E. Biographies of American Women: An Annotated Bibliography. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 1990. 290p.


Manuscript Collections of Individual Women

See the Archival Collections section for additional information sources.

Index to Personal Names in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, 1959-1984. Alexandria, Va.: Chadwyck-Healey, 1988.

Vorst, Karen. Locations of Papers of Prominent Women in History [online]. Available from: http://h-net2.msu.edu/~women/manuscripts/resource-location.html


Online Biographical Sources

Biography [online]. [New York]: A & E Television Networks, 1997- [cited 6 March 1998]. Available from: http://www.biography/find/find.html.

The Women of the Hall [online]. Seneca Falls, NY: National Women's Hall of Fame, c1998 [cited 21 October 1998]. Available from: http://www.greatwomen.org/women.php.




American Women's History: A Research Guide
Ken Middleton kmiddlet@frank.mtsu.edu
Todd Library, Middle Tennessee State University