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Women's History Month
Women's and Gender Studies: A Research Guide
March is Women's History Month. This year, the theme of Women's History Month is Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This blog post will explore how one can conduct research in women's and gender studies and history.
The research collections of The New York Public Library are one of the most important resource centers for Women's Studies in the United States. The collections consist of vast retrospective holdings relating to women, including manuscripts and archival materials, as well as a broad range of current Women's Studies materials reflecting new trends and thoughts on feminist theory and scholarship.
In the United States, Women’s Studies is an interdisciplinary academic field which explores politics, history, and society from women's perspectives. Gender Studies is also an interdisciplinary field, but it incorporates race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and location within the study as well.
During the 1960s, the study itself was bolstered by the efforts of several political movements, such as the women’s liberation movement and second wave feminism. In the United States, San Diego State University established the first academic program in 1970 to address the patriarchal nature of society.
Because of its interdisciplinary nature, Women's Studies material is not kept together as a separate collection in NYPL, but is housed within various units of the Research Libraries. Refer to the location field in the Online Catalog to determine where your material is held. Users will need to request these materials to be brought up to them for use in the Reading Rooms.
Although this blog post focuses on relatively current resources in Women's Studies, NYPL's retrospective collections provide a wonderful and unique source for scholars in many areas. Our holdings document the progress of the women's movement in this country from its beginnings, and include manuscript materials, books, pamphlets, newsletters, and periodicals.
If there is a particular women's history or woman you are researching, the quickest way is to browse the Library's catalog. You can search via NYPL's homepage as well, using the search box at the top of the page. Be sure to type in the keyword of your search (Examples: Phyllis Schlafly Biography, Gender in Islam, or Women's Suffrage). On the left hand side, you will notice several lists of titles, topics, and subjects that can help narrow down your research. You can also narrow your search results by Availability, Format, Audience or Acquired Time on the left side of the page. If you know the exact title of the book, switch keyword to title.
For an in-depth search, consider the Classic Catalog and search under subject (you can also change collection to a Library near you) and type in "women -- United States -- history" or "women -- country of your research -- history" or "women -- history" or "women -- country of your research -- biography."
If the results are still not close to your topic, you can also browse nearby subject terms in the results to get further resources that are classified differently. The location of the item will indicate where it can be requested and viewed. If you need further assistance with your research, please contact the General Research Division >>
Selected Primary Sources
- The Microform Reading Room in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building holds historical newspapers and periodicals covering various women's movements, as well as the Herstory collection (1973), which contains over 800 journals, newsletters, and newspapers relevant to the women's movement, published between 1956 and 1974.
- There is also the History of Women collection (1975-1979), which is based largely on the holdings of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe College and the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College. This source reproduces books, periodicals, pamphlets, manuscripts, and photographs. Although less international than Gerritsen, it is an excellent source for research in U.S. women's history.
- Gerritsen women's history (1975-1977) is another notable collection of over 4,000 books, pamphlets, and periodicals from the 16th to early 20th centuries. The collection, noted for its coverage of foreign material, includes titles in 17 languages. An excellent printed guide is available, with indexes by author, title, subject, date, and language.
- To find out how to research historical newspapers at NYPL, consult this blog entry: Researching and Finding Historical Newspapers.
- The Manuscript and Archives collections throughout the research libraries have original archival materials on various social movements. Learn more about accessing the Library's special collections >>
- For LGBT research in women's and gender studies, the Manuscript and Archives Division in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building has an extensive LGBT activism collection. Learn more >>
- The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of four major research collections that houses and collects papers and primary resources from Black Women Oral History Project to papers from Zora Neale Hurston, among others. Contact the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Division for more information.
- The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts also contains an extensive research collection of women in theater, music, and dance. From Music by American women composers to Katharine Hepburn's papers, the Library for the Performing Arts is the place to conduct research of women in the performing arts.
- The Dorot Jewish Division in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building stores important oral history collections pertaining to Jewish women in history.
- NYPL's Digital Gallery showcases a variety of digitized content, including images of women and men in political movements, as well as the social history of women in America and abroad.
- In NYPL's Articles and Databases, consider LGBT Life with Full Text, Everyday Life and Women in America, c1800-1920, or African American Experience for reports, articles, and documents about women and men in social history. See more online databases on women's studies >>
Selected Secondary Sources
- In NYPL's Articles and Databases, consider looking for scholarly articles under the following databases: JSTOR, Project Muse, and Academic Search Premier. In these databases, the keyword search might be "women's history," "gender studies," or "feminist theory," depending on your research interest. The databases will list journal articles pertaining to your search.
- Perhaps one of the most important scholarly articles pertaining to women's history is Joan Wallach Scott's article "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis" (available via JSTOR under American Historical Review). This groundbreaking article examines how "gender serves as a useful tool to 'decode meaning and to understand complex connections among various forms of human interaction.'"
- Gender Troubles: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler
- Gender and the Politics of History by Joan Wallach Scott
- Breadwinners: Working Women and Economic Independence, 1865-1920 by Lara Vapnek examines the working class women struggling for workplace equality.
- Women's Periodicals in the United States: Social and Political Issues, edited by Kathleen L. Endres and Therese L. Lueck
- Women's Studies Index is an annual publication indexing articles and book reviews from over 90 popular and scholarly periodicals.
- Encyclopedia of Women and Crime, edited by Nicole Hahn Rafter
- The Jewish woman, 1900-1985: A bibliography by Cantor Aviva
- American women prose writers to 1820, edited by Carla Mulford
- Native American Women's Writing, c. 1800-1924: An Anthology, edited by Karen L. Kilcup.
- Feminist Literary Criticism: A Bibliography of Journal Articles, 1975-1981 by Wendy Frost covers English language articles selected from 450 periodicals.
- Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Present, edited by Susie Tharu and K. Lalita
- Her Story in Sport: A Historical Anthology of Women in Sports, edited by Reet Howell, is a history of women’s sports in the U.S. and Canada.
- The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History, edited by Wilma Mankiller and others
- Chronology of Women’s History by Olsen, Kirstin
- Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945, edited by Gail Bernstein
- Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: The Qing Period, 1644 –1911, edited by Lily Xiao Hong Lee and A.D. Stefanowska
- Notable Hispanic American Women is a general biographical directory listing notable Latin American women in America.
- The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-20th Century, edited by Marilyn Ogilvie and Joy Harvey
- Interdisciplinary bibliographic guide to women's studies. This guide lists subject headings used in the area of women’s studies at the Library of Congress and The New York Public Library.
- Women in the Third World: A historical bibliography by Pamela R. Byrne
- Women, Race, and Ethnicity: A Bibliography, edited by Linda Schult and others
- For women in science, business, or law, consider NYPL's Science Industry Business Library, which has an extensive collection of biography and historical resources covering women in those fields.
- For more secondary resources, contact the General Research and Reference Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the General Research Division and Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
Selected Online Sites
- American Women’s History: A Research Guide is is an excellent website on American women’s history, with a link to digital collections of primary sources.
- Books about Women and Information Technology. Check this website for books about women and information technology.
- A Celebration of Women Writers is a noteworthy website that provides a comprehensive listing of links to biographical and bibliographical information about women writers and complete published books written by women.
- Monastic Matrix is an award-winning website that contains resources for the study of women’s religious communities.
- Wisconsin Bibliographies in Women's Studies. Consult this comprehensive and current list of bibliographies from the University of Wisconsin’s Women’s Studies Librarian’s Office.
- Victorian Women Writers Project. The Victorian Women Writers Project is working to create a full-text library of works by British women writers of the 19th century. Types of works included are anthologies, novels, political pamphlets, and volumes of poetry and verse drama.
- Women's Studies / Women's Issues Resource Sites. This is an excellent introductory website for resources and information on women’s studies.
- Explore NYPL Blogs and its Women's History Month channel >>