American Women's History: An Online Research Guide


[under development]

The purpose of this research guide is to increase access to print and online reference and primary sources in the field of American women's history. Researchers need to be aware of the advantages and limitations of both types of sources.


The research guide is divided into two main sections. The first section, "Research Tools and General Reference Sources," covers resources that anyone interested in American women's history should know about. The second section, "Reference/Primary Sources in Specialized Fields," includes coverage of about 20 subtopics (e.g., "African-American Women," "Education," etc.).

Links to three special sections are provided in the yellow bar on the main page. Multimedia Sampler provides annotated links to the growing number of fascinating online exhibits that are being offered by archives and libraries. The Online Reference Center organizes the most important online links on a single page. Finally, the Thesis Checklist offers students advice on the steps they should take when conducting research for a master's thesis or dissertation.


American Women's History has been designed to assist serious researchers, such as history faculty, independent scholars, graduate students, and possibly upper-division undergraduate students. Librarians who assist these researchers may also want to become familiar with this guide. Students at all levels, as well as the general public, should enjoy the online exhibits featured in the Multimedia Sampler.

Reference Sources Covered

Bibliographies offer a convenient way to determine what has been published about a specific topic, and online bibliographies have become one of the more useful resources on the Internet for historians.

Biographical sources

Encyclopedias and Historical Overviews clarify specific terms or concepts, and provide an overall perspective about a field of study.

Electronic discussion lists offer unprecedented access to the knowledge of hundreds of scholars, most of whom are more than willing to share their knowledge with others on the list.

Primary Sources

While many students find searching library catalogs and periodical databases relatively easy, they often have much more difficulty locating appropriate primary sources. One reason for this is that primary sources can come in a variety of formats (e.g., original manuscripts, books, microfilm, and online). Note that, with the exception of microform and large online collections, I have not made an effort to list specific collections.

Original Manuscripts, Records, Photographs, and Other Materials Locating and using original documents remains the most time-consuming and challenging aspects of research. Print and electronic directories and guides are listed in the "Finding Primary Sources" section, as well as in each of the "Specialized Fields" sections.

Online Exhibits Digitized versions of archival collections have reached a point where they have to be considered an important primary source. Although some lack the breadth to be of research interest, others, such as the various projects at the Library of Congress, show considerable promise as research sources. Multimedia Sampler offers links to some of the more interesting exhibits. In addition, each of the "Specialized Fields" sections will eventually include a "Featured Exhibit." If you would like one of your collections to be featured, please use the Suggestion Box.

Microform Research Collections remain underutilized. Therefore, a special effort has been made not only to include references to reviews of specific microform collections, but also to provide links to online descriptions that are provided by microform publishers.

Primary Sources in Books It would be very difficult to cite all primary sources found in books for each of the "specialized fields." However, the larger, edited collections have been cited, and tips for locating primary sources in books are provided in the Primary Sources in Books section.

Request for Input

New Internet sources appear daily, and the volume of printed reference works in women's history seems to increase each year. Therefore, I am sure that I have missed some important sources. Please fill out the Suggestion Box if you know of a book, microform collection, online site, etc. that I have missed. I would also appreciate any suggestions for the improvement of the design of this site.

American Women's History: An Online Research Guide
Ken Middleton
Todd Library, Middle Tennessee State University