Women's History

A researcher with an interest in women's history must first make a serious attempt to target his or her research. You could choose to focus on women's political or reproductive rights. You could look at the history of women within a particular social institution: women in sports, in higher education, in the armed forces, in labor unions. You could also look at the lives of famous American women: for example, Clara Barton (founder of the Red Cross), Toni Morrison (author and Nobel Prize winner), or Ada Deer (Native American author, activist and first woman to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs.) 

Try to narrow your research to a particular area. You might start by finding an entry in a good print encyclopedia or by reading a short, general book on the particular aspect of women's history that interests you. This will give you an overview of the subject and help you to refine your search. 

Check out the starting your research project page before you begin! Some possible subject areas for women's history in the U.S. include:
the development of women's basketball in the U.S.
the fight for the Nineteenth Amendment (which granted women the right to vote)
Margaret Sanger and the history of the birth control movement
the fate of the Equal Rights Amendment

We can't fit every resource about women's history on to this list! A pathfinder is just the beginning of building your bibliography. Also, this topic guide is only for resources on U.S. women's history.

Reference materials

This is the place to start any research project. Reference books offer short, authoritative information on every topic. These books must be used in the library. Most contain bibliographies of important books on your topic. A good first stop would be any of the standard print encyclopedias in the Beaver collection: Encyclopedia Americana, World Book or Britannica.


Christensen, Karen, ed. (2001). International encyclopedia of women and sports . REF 796 In8 2001
Derks, Scott. (2005). Working Americans, 1880-2005. REF 305.5 D44 2002 A 6 volume set with purple bindings. All have relevant information; vol. 6 is devoted to women at work.
Kort, Carol. (2002). A to Z of American women in the visual arts. REF 704.042 K84 2002
Roth, John. (1997). Encyclopedia of social issues. REF 306.097 En1 1997 Look here for short essays on the feminist movement, reproductive rights, abortion, sexuality, fair pay, Supreme Court battles, etc.


Britannica Online Great for pre-search and primary sources, including speeches, essays, biographies, court decisions, editorials and photos.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
General Reference Center Gold
World Book Online (on-campus use only)


Books about women's history will usually be found at 305.4. Biographies can be found at 921, listed alphabetically by the subject's last name (for example, a biography of Gloria Steinem could carry the call number 921 Steinem.)

Blau DuPlessis, Rachel, ed. (1998). The feminist memoir project : voices of women's liberation. 305.4209 F34 1998 531 pages. Primary sources!
Cooney, Robert. (2005). Winning the vote : the triumph of the American woman suffrage movement. 305.42 C78 2005 479 pages.
Dash, Joan. (1996). We shall not be moved : the women's factory strike of 1909. 331.4792 D26 1996 165 pages.
Smith, Karen. (1994). New paths to power: American women, 1890-1920. 305.4 Smi4 1994 This is the last of a 7 volume series on American women's history from colonial times to the 20th century.
Steen, Sandra. (2003). Take it to the hoop : 100 years of women's basketball. 796.323 St3 2003 143 pages.


For these Gale Group Resources, use the subject guide search tab (upper left) to tailor a search. For example, for information on the suffrage movement, use United States Constitution. 19th Amendment. For information on the history of the abortion rights movement, use Pro-Choice Movement -- history. Talk to one of the librarians for help with search terms.
Academic OneFile
Biography Resource Center For information on famous people associated with women's history in the U.S. Search by the person's last name.
Expanded Academic ASAP
General OneFile
Student Edition
Issues and Controversies in American History
SIRS Use the Subject Heading Search to create a term to reflect your research goals.

Internet sites

American women through time An extensive timeline of U.S. women's history with links to primary and secondary sources.
Internet Women's History Sourcebook This Fordham University site is a great source for general women's history topics. Hard-to-find primary sources on women's history anywhere in the world, during the ancient or modern eras. If you want U.S. history, scroll to the section on North America.
Library of Congress Link to primary sources on women's history in the American Memory collection.
National Women's Hall of Fame
National Women's History Museum Visit the museums CyberExhibits! Interesting stories on women spies, women in the Progressive Era, the women of Jamestown and Chinese American women, to name just a few current exhibits.

BPL: Electronic Resources

History Study Center This resource was designed just for students! Start here to learn more about women's history, see a timeline of important events, learn about key people and places. An excellent starting point for your research.
History Resource Center: U.S.. A good starting point for pre-search and fact-checking as well as more advanced searches. Use the subject search. This site will also let you limit your searches to reference, biographies, periodicals, news, primary sources or maps and multi-media.
America: History and Life. This database indexes scholarly and popular articles on American history. You can limit your search to full text if you want articles instead of citations.
Archive of Americana. Search for primary sources: pamphlets, newspapers and government publications.

Updated, 9-09