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HIS 2210: History of Women in the U.S.: Primary sources

Information resources to support independent research for the Castleton University course, "United States Women's History"

Documentary sources in books

Search libraries' catalogs for specific kinds of primary source materials. Try keywords such as

  • personal narrative 
  • correspondence
  • letters
  • diary
  • interview
  • oral
  • eyewitness
  • document/documentary
This is an example of a keyword search that includes terms that are likely to be used to describe primary sources in an online catalog:

(personal narrative$ or corresponden$ or diar$ or interview$ or oral or eyewitness or letter$ or document$)
and civil war and Vermont

(The $ substitutes for whatever letters that might come next, so that the search includes any words that start with what's typed but might end differently.  For example, diar$ catches diary and diaries and diarist.  Different catalogs use different symbols for this.)

Here are some examples in the CU library:


Online resources for primary sources on women in history

Featured resources:

Discovering American Women's History Online

"Provides access to digital collections of primary sources (photos, letters, diaries, artifacts, etc.) that document the history of women in the United States." 


Women in World History
From The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University
. "An online curriculum resource center to help high-school and college world history teachers and their students locate, analyze, and learn from primary sources dealing with women and gender in world history."

American Women:  A Guide to Library of Congress Resources for the Study of Women's History and Culture in the United States

Documents from the Women's Liberation Movement
"An online archival collection"

Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University

Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College

Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College
A repository of manuscripts, photographs, periodicals and other primary sources in women's history,

Vermont Women's History Project

Women in World History: Primary SourcesBrowse or search more than 200 primary sources by region.  From the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University

Women Working, 1800-1930
"A digital exploration of women's impact on the economic life of the United States between 1800 and the Great Depression. Working conditions, workplace regulations, home life, costs of living, commerce, recreation, health and hygiene, and social issues are among the issues documented in this online research collection from Harvard University."

Women's History Sourcebook from Fordham University
Scroll down for North America


Chronicling America from the Library of Congress, a project to enhance access to America's historic newspapers.

Vermont Newspapers Index
Offers a searchable index to the Burlington Free Press and the Rutland Herald from 1984 to the present.The library has both newspapers on microfilm, covering these dates: 

Burlington Free Press:  1986-2009
Rutland Herald:  1853-present

Union List of Vermont Newspapers
VT 071.43 Un313 and online
This is a searchable index to the newspaper holdings of close to 100 newspaper repositories in Vermont.

Union catalogs

Search union catalogs of archival material

is a cooperative catalog describing archival and manuscript collections held by various Vermont institutions.

What are primary sources?

Helpful resources for learning about primary sources,
what they are and how to find them:

Research Tools: Finding Primary Sources
from American Women's History: A Research Guide


Research Using Primary Sources
from the University of Maryland Libraries

Primary Sources at Yale:  What are Primary Sources
(describes different kinds of primary sources)

Library Research: Finding Primary Sources
from UC Berkeley's library

Primary Sources on the Web
from the American Library Association

These guides and tutorials are targeted at students from those universities, so some of the resources described will not be available to you.  However, there is a lot of useful information in each about primary sources in general.

Online access to archives and more

Digital Archives from (an online reference guide to African American history)

In the First Person
"A free, high quality, professionally published, in-depth index of close to 4,000 collections of personal narratives in English from around the world."

Making of America

New York Heritage Digital Collections

Opening History: U.S. History Resources from Libraries, Museums, and Archives

U. S. National Archives

The Valley of the Shadow (Civil War documents)

Sources of audiovisual primary sources

AdViews: A Digital Archive of Vintage Television Commercials
A digital archive of thousands of vintage television commercials dating from the 1950s to the 1980s from Duke University Libraries.

The Suffrage Movement

Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less from Newseum Digital Classroom
"One of the largest online collections of primary sources and historical periodicals about the women’s suffrage movement. This collection investigates the suffragists’ pioneering use of the free press and the other First Amendment freedoms."

Worldcat is a very large union catalog that includes the holdings of most U.S. academic libraries. For primary sources, in “Advanced Search,” you can limit “Format” to “archival material.”


Gifts of Speech is "a non-profit project, sponsored by Sweet Briar College, dedicated to preserving and creating access to speeches by inspirational, influential and contemporary, women from around the world"