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


1920 The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives women the right to vote.

The Constitution: The 19th Amendment is one of the Featured Documents on the National Archives web site.
The Volunteer Voices database includes Political cartoons, correspondence, photographs and other items that document Tennessee's pivotal role in passage of 19th Amendment.

The Sewall-Belmont House and Museum Catalog offers images related to the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, including a photo of members of the Tennessee legislature who supported suffrage. The Catt Collection of Suffrage Photographs includes more than 800 photographs of suffrage leaders and events.

1921 Amelia Earhart takes her first flying lesson from Neta Snook.
Chat with the Curator: Amelia Earhart and Neta Snook (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

1921 The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers is established.
John Thomas McGuire's review of Karyn L. Hollis' Liberating Voices: Writing at the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004) appears in Women and Social Movements (June 2005).

1921 Margaret Sanger founds the American Birth Control League, the precursor to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Margaret Sanger [Women Working, 1800-1930, Harvard University Library] offers a biographical profile of Sanger and a variety of relevant digital editions, including What We Stand For: Principles and Aims of the American Birth Control League.

1923 Bessie Smith records "Down Hearted Blues" for Columbia Records.
Jazz Profiles from NPR: Bessie Smith. This profile covers Smith's rise to fame, difficulties during the Great Depression, and her influence on contemporary blues singers.

1923 Edna St. Vincent Millay becomes the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
Nancy Milford In this Library of Congress webcast, Milford discussed her book, Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

1923 The Equal Rights Amendment, drafted by Alice Paul, is introduced in the United States Congress.
Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party [Library of Congress]
This site offers a number of relevant photographs, including National Woman's Party members standing in front of the Capitol. They are about to ask congressmen from their states to vote for Equal Rights Amendment.

1924 Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson opens the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles.
Listen to Aimee Semple McPherson -- An Oral Mystery, part of National Public Radio's Lost & Found Sound series.
American Experience: Sister Aimee [PBS] includes an overview of the film, a program transcript, a small gallery, and a teacher's guide.

1925 Florence Sabin becomes the first female member of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Library of Medicine offers documents from The Florence R. Sabin Papers as part of its Profiles in Science site.

1925 Mary Breckinridge organizes the Frontier Nursing Service to provide health care to remote areas of Eastern Kentucky. See Frontier Nursing Service Oral History Project for transcriptions of interviews.

1925 Nellie Tayloe Ross is inaugurated as the thirteenth governor of Wyoming, thus becoming the first woman governor of a state in the United States.
The Nellie Tayloe Ross Papers [American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming] documents her work as governor and as director of the U.S. Mint.
Preview Teva J. Scheer's Governor Lady: The Life and Times of Nellie Tayloe Ross (University of Missouri Press, 2005).

1925 Zora Neale Hurston registers her play Meet the Mama for copyright.
The Zora Neale Hurston Plays at the Library of Congress
This site includes the text of ten Hurston plays that were deposited in the U.S. Copyright Office between 1925 and 1944.
In Zora Neale Hurston [Audio; 6 min., 49 sec.], NPR's Annie Wu reports on the discovery of these ten plays.

1926 Bertha K. Landes is elected mayor of Seattle.
University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections include more than 20 images of Landes.

1927 In Buck v. Bell, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Virginia's eugenic sterilization law.
Eugenics: Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Virginia, Eugenics & Buck v. Bell [Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia] includes an overview of the case.

1927 The Carter Family records songs during the Bristol Sessions.
Country Music's First Family includes an interview with Mark Zwonitzer, coauthor of Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music, and audio recordings of several Carter Family songs. Also see the companion site to the PBS film, The Carter Family: Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

1927 Dorothy Arzner directs her first film, Fashions for Women.
Preview Judith Mayne's book, Directed by Dorothy Arzner (Indiana University Press, 1994).

1928 Lydia Mendoza makes first recording as a member of Cuarteto Carta Blanca.
YouTube includes a video of Mendoza performing "Malhombre".
Frontera Collection of Mexican American Music [UCLA Library]
Lydia Mendoza, Queen of Tejano [National Public Radio]
Lydia Mendoza's Life in Music / La Historia de Lydia Mendoza [Google Book Search] includes the author's interview with Mendoza in English translation, followed by the Spanish original.

1928 Margaret Mead publishes Coming of Age in Samoa.
Margaret Mead: Human Nature and the Power of Culture [Library of Congress] includes letters to and from Mead, an example of her field notes in Somoa, and photographs.

1929 In a 1975 oral history interview, Dorothy Height recalls the musicians and actors she met when she moved to Harlem in 1929.

1929 Gerty and Carl Cori develop the "Cori cycle" theory, their explanation for the movement of energy in the body. They will win the Nobel Prize for this theory in 1947.
Glories of the Human Mind (1951), Cori's essay that formed the basis for her contribution to Edward R. Murrow's radio series,"This I Believe." Gerty Cori is featured in Changing the Face of Medicine from the National Library of Medicine.

1929 Mildred Wirt contracts to write the first three Nancy Drew mystery novels.
The Mildred Wirt Benson Collection [University of Iowa Libraries] This digitial collection includes more than 250 items (e.g., correspondence, cover gallery, photographs] that document the career of this prolific writer.



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.

Advice Literature

Peterson, Kelsy. The Glory of Woman: Prescriptive Literature in the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture [online]. Durham, NC: Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture, Duke University, 2003 [cited 21 November 2005]. Available from:
Researchers can browse this extensive, annotated bibliography by date.

Women Working, 1800-1930 [online]. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Library Open Collections Program, 2004- [cited 21 November 2005]. Available from:
Select "Browse the Collection," then "Conduct of Life" to retrieve digital editions of books published from 1800 to 1930. Results display in reverse chronological order.


Digital Dress Costume Collections allows researchers to search four collections simultaneously. Enter 1920-1929 to search for items from the 1920s.

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).

See the Clothing section of American Women's History: A Research Guide for additional digital collections and related sources.

Historical Statistics

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.

Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1975.
Also available online in two parts: Part 1 and Part II.

Statistical Abstract of the United States [online]. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1879- .
A valuable online tool for locating historical statistics for a given year.

First-Person Accounts

Josephine Sherwood Hull (1877-1957) [online]. In Women Working, 1800-1930. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Library, 2005.
This site includes brief biographical information about actress Josephine Sherwood Hull, a portrait, and Hull's diary from 1920 to 1924. Diary entries cover her activities in New York City, including her work as an actress, acting teacher, and membership in the Actor's Equity Association.


Utah Digital Newspapers [online]. Salt Lake City: Marriott Library, University of Utah, 2002 [cited 12 February 2003]. Available from:
Several papers in this collection cover the 1920s. See the Collections Titles and Dates.


Browse the Quilt Index by time period (e.g., "1901-1929")

The Quilts section of American Women's History: A Research Guide includes additional links to digital collections.

Explore Further

America: History & Life [online]. Santa Barbara, CA : ABC-Clio, Inc., 1998- .
This database offers a simple option for limiting a search for articles and other sources to a specific time period.

Brown, Dorothy M. Setting a Course: American Women in the 1920s. Boston: Twayne, 1987.

American Women Through Time

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