American Women's History: A Research Guide
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Historical Overviews

Bailey, Beth L. From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-century America. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, c1988. 181p.

Lystra, Karen. Searching the Heart: Women, Men, and Romantic Love in Nineteenth-century America. New York : Oxford University Press, 1989.

Rothman, Ellen K. Hands and Hearts: A History of Courtship in America. New York: Basic Books, c1984. 370p.

Primary Sources: Archival Collections

Catanese, Lynn Ann. Women's History: A Guide to Sources at Hagley Museum and Library. Greenwood Press, 1997.
See the index for coverage of "Courtship and courting rituals."

McKay, Diane, and Ginny Daley, comps. History of Sexuality: Resources in the Special Collections Library at Duke University [online]. August 1995 [cited 10 June 1997]. Available from:
This guide mentions several collections that include courtship letters.

Primary Sources: Digital Collections

Across the Generations: Exploring U.S. History Through Family Papers [online]. Northampton, MA: Sophia Smith Collection, c2002 [cited 15 February 2003]. Available from:
Three courtship letters can be found by selecting "Themes," then "Family Life."

Letter, Abraham Lincoln to Mary Owens Reflecting the Frustration of Courtship [online]. In Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years. Washington: Library of Congress, 1998. Available from:

Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Collection [online]. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Health Sciences Library, c1998-2001. Available from:
The Courtship section includes images and transcriptions of over 80 letters that Walter Reed sent to Emilie B. Lawrence in the mid-1870s.

Commercial Digital Collections

North American Women's Letters and Diaries. Alexandria, Va.: Alexander Street Press, 2001- . Overview from the publisher.
The "Personal Events" section provides quick access to documents that pertain to such topics as courtship, death of a spouse, physical illness of a spouse, or the spouse's absence.

Primary Sources: Microform Collections

The following collections include numerous examples of courtship letters.

New England Women and Their Families in the 18th and 19th Centuries: Personal Papers, Letters, and Diaries. Series A, Manuscript Collections from the American Antiquarian Society. Bethesda, Md.: University Publications of America, 1997. Reviewed in Microform & Imaging Review 27 (Spring 1998): 63-65.

Records of the Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War. Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1985- .
Detailed online guide to the collection from the publisher:

Southern Women and Their Families in the 19th Century: Papers and Diaries. Bethesda, Md.: University Publications of America, 1991- .
Detailed online guide to the collection from the publisher:

Primary Sources: Selected Books

McDowell, Sally, and John Miller. If You Love That Lady Don't Marry Her": The Courtship Letters of Sally McDowell and John Miller, 1854-1856. Edited by Thomas E. Buckley. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000.

Waxham, Ethel, et al. Lady's Choice Ethel Waxham's Journals & Letters, 1905-1910. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997.
WorldCat Record

American Women's History: A Research Guide

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