GWS 120: History of American Women

Primary Resources

The library has created a guide to searching for primary sources in Oskicat, including the best search terms you can use.

This is a list of a few of the many primary source databases in US History, in addition to Oskicat. more

  • Historical Newspapers (ProQuest)
    Indexes articles from Chicago Defender (1905-1975), Chicago Tribune (1849-1986), Los Angeles Times (1881-1986), New York Times (1851-2004), San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922), Wall Street Journal (1889-1990), and Washington Post (1877-1991).
  • ProQuest Congressional
    One stop shopping for U.S. congressional publications. Provides index and abstracts of congressional publications back to 1789, including full text Congressional Hearings from 1824-present, full text Committee Prints from 1830-present, full text Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports from 1916-present, full text United States Congressional Serial Set from 1789-1969, and legislative histories from 1970-present. For more information on how to find hearings, consult the Congressional Tutorials homepage
  • AP Images
    Includes Associated Press's current-year photo report and a selection from a 50-million image print and negative library dating from 1844-present. Currently contains about 700,000 photos, most of which are contemporary images made since late 1995.
  • Readers' Guide Retrospective
    Covers more than 500 leading American magazines and journals from 1890 to 1982.
  • Nation Digital Archive
    Full text access to The Nation, a weekly news magazine covering U.S. politics and society since 1865.
  • Digital National Security Archive (DNSA)
    Indexes over 35,000 declassified documents spanning fifty years of US national security policy. Also includes a chronology, glossary of names, events, special terms, and a bibliography for each collection developed around a specific event, controversy, or policy decision.
  • DDRS (Declassified Documents Reference System)
    Over 75,000 documents and almost 500,000 pages of materials declassified via the Freedom of Information Act and regular declassification requests, making broad-based and highly targeted investigation of government documents possible. Nearly every major foreign and domestic event of these years is covered.

Primary Source Databases

Go to the Library web site for a more extensive list of primary source databases for American History and for the complete list of primary source databases, follow this path:  Library home > Electronic Resources > Electronic resources types A-Z > Archival Collections and Primary Source Databases.

Some examples

  • HarpWeek
    Full-image reproductions of Harper's Weekly from its beginning in 1857 to 1912. Provides access to information about 19th and early 20th century advertising, illustrations, culture, history, literature, and notable figures.
  • Making of America (Cornell University)
    Access to 267 monograph volumes and over 100,000 journal articles from 22 journals with 19th century imprints. The collection is particularly strong in the areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. Making of America is a collaboration between the libraries of Cornell University and the University of Michigan to document American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction by drawing upon the primary materials at these two institutions. The Michigan site is available at: http://www.hti.umich.edu/m/moagrp/
  • Making of America (University of Michigan)
    Access to 9,500 books and almost 2500 digitized issues of 12 journals published in the 19th century. The collection is particularly strong in the areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. Making of America is a collaboration between the libraries of Cornell University and the University of Michigan to document American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction by drawing upon unique primary materials held at each institution. The Cornell site is available at: http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/index.html
  • Everyday Life and Women in America
    Providing access to primary source material from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History, Duke University and The New York Public Library. It comprises thousands of fully searchable images (alongside transcriptions) of monographs, pamphlets, periodicals and broadsides addressing 19th and early 20th century political, social and gender issues, religion, race, education, employment, marriage, sexuality, home and family life, health, and pastimes.
  • Readers' Guide Retrospective
    Covers more than 500 leading American magazines and journals from 1890 to 1982.
  • North American Women's Letters and Diaries
    Include approximately 150,000 pages of published letters and diaries by more than 1000 women. Represented are all age groups and life stages, all ethnicities, many geographical regions. Also includes biographies and an extensive annotated bibliography.

Pre-1877 US publications

Early American Imprints is a major digital collection of American publications, 1639-1800.  You can search by subject words, or browse by genre, subject, author, place of publication, or language.

American State Papers A collection of more than 6,000 government publications including congressional and Executive Department materials. These papers cover the following broad subject areas: foreign relations, Indian affairs, commerce and navigation, military and naval affairs, the post-office department, and more.

American Periodical Series Online Contains digitized images of more than 1,100 periodicals. Includes special interest and general magazines, literary and professional journals, children's and women's magazines and many other historically significant magazines.

Harper's Weekly [aka Harpweek] Full-image reproductions of Harper's Weekly from its beginning in 1857 to 1912. Provides access to information about 19th and early 20th century advertising, illustrations, culture, history, literature, and notable figures.

Historical Annual Reports [of US businesses]

Of course, the library itself is full of pre-1877 US publications that you can find in Oskicat.

Primary Source Searching - Names

One of the most powerful ways to find primary sources in the Library is to use the names of people.  An essential part of your background reading should be to note down names of people involved in your topics.

Names can be searched in the catalogs [Oskicat and Melvyl] in specialized ways: as authors or as subjects.  Even people you do not consider authors in the conventional sense may be listed as authors, if:

  • their correspondence is available
  • their manuscripts are available
  • interviews with them are available
  • their diaries are available
  • published versions of these are available

When searching for primary sources, it's a good idea always to search those names as authors, as well as keywords.  Works where the person is listed as an author will always be primary sources.

Newspapers on Microfilm

Because of their fragility as they age, newspapers have traditionally been preserved by microfilming them.

Microfilm must be read on microfilm reader/printers.  The Newspaper and Microfilm Room in 40 Doe Library has them.  So does Bancroft Library. Newspaper films are arranged geographically within the News|Micro collection [floorplan.pdf]

Reader/printers allow you to read the films and those in News|Micro allow you to save pages to flash drives in .jpg and .pdf format.

Most newspapers do not have indexes.  How do you find articles by subject? By knowing the approximate date of the event you are studying.  If you don't know the date, you can use the index to a different newspaper as a way to find out.

Newspaper indexes you might want to use:

There are others.  Ask the Newspaper Microfilm staff for help.

Oral Histories- Suffragists

The Bancroft Library's Regional Oral History Office [ROHO] interviewed early suffrage activitists at the ends of their lives.  The full text of some transcripts is available from the ROHO site. suffragists
Of course, these are all considered to be primary sources.

Last Update: December 20, 2012 12:06