Research guide for Women’s History

If you’re looking for sources for a women’s history research guide for college or graduate students take a look:

19th Century American Woman’s Suffrage Research Guide

Archival and Primary Sources

Beecher Family Papers. Mount Holyoke College. Archives and Special Collections. South Hadley, MA.
Online finding aid
• This archival collection offers users an excellent starting off point for researching a nineteenth- century social movement. This collection includes correspondence, speeches and publications. Beecher family members were involved in abolition and temperance organizations. Leading suffrage figures adapted and emulated many of the strategies from those movements.

Davis, Paulina Wright. A History of the National Woman’s Rights Movement, for Twenty Years. New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1971.
• This primary source dates the origins of the nineteenth- century suffrage movement from the first national woman’s rights convention in 1850, not the Seneca Falls convention of 1848. Davis’s collection of materials offers the user a suffrage agenda that was racially inclusive.

Garrison Family Papers. Sophia Smith Collection. Smith College. Northampton, MA.
Online finding aid
• Martha Coffin Wright’s materials in this large collection include correspondence with central figures in the suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony. Her work on behalf of the movement illustrates and represents the types of activities suffragists participated in and led.

Gordan, Ann D. ed. The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: In the School of Anti-Slavery, 1840- 1866. Vol. I. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997.
• In each volume of correspondence, editor Ann Gordan provides useful historical context for Stanton’s and Anthony’s actions on behalf of the woman’s rights movement. This volume focuses on their relationship as leaders during the antebellum period, during which time they focused on building a membership base for the movement based in part on the successful strategies of the abolition cause.

Gordan, Ann D. ed. The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: Against an aristocracy of sex, 1866-1873. Vol. II. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997.
• The letters from this volume detail the Reconstruction Era phase of the suffrage movement, during which time Stanton and Anthony chose to fight for woman’s right to vote and not all people’s right to the franchise. This volume offers the user primary sources that detail the eventual split of the movement between those who supported black men’s right to vote, before white women.

Gordan, Ann D. ed. The Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: National Protection of National Citizens, 1873- 1880. Vol. III. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997.
• This volume chronicles the moment after the Fifteenth Amendment passes and black men become enfranchised. The woman’s suffrage movement split into two different organizations. Stanton and Anthony’s correspondence from this period focus on a national effort to rally support around another Constitutional Amendment granting white women the right to vote.

<a href=""The Historic New York Times. ProQuest Historical Newspapers, 2010.
• This newspaper database includes full text articles from the earliest years of the New York Times. By executing either a basic or advanced search, the user can find what if any coverage suffrage events received in the mainstream press. By utilizing the full page feature of the database, the user can also see where on the page and in the edition the article appeared, which can help to place both the event and coverage in historical context.

McClymer, John F. ed. This High and Holy Moment: The First National Woman’s Rights Convention, Worcester, 1850. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.
• In addition to Paulina Wright Davis’s history of the movement, this edited source also includes primary materials that focus on the first national woman’s rights convention of 1850. The source includes newspaper articles that both deride and offer support for the movement, speeches activists made at the convention, as well as letters of support from noted abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, et al. eds. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. I. Salem: Ayer Company, 1985.
• The first edited volume, originally published in 1880 includes Stanton and other key figures’ accounts of the first phase of the woman’s rights movement. The volume includes convention proceedings, speeches and articles from leading suffragists. This source is the only comprehensive primary account of the suffrage movement and therefore, twentieth- century historians rely heavily on it for their analysis of this period.

Suffrage Collection. Sophia Smith Collection. Smith College. Northampton, MA.
Call Number: MS 447, Online finding aid
• This archival collections includes letters, speeches, newspaper articles, buttons, photographs, fliers and posters that chronicle the national push for woman’s suffrage. The finding aid for this collection also points the user to other archival collections in the Sophia Smith Collection that include sources about suffrage.

Secondary Sources

Cott, Nancy F. The Bonds of Womanhood: “Woman’s Sphere” in New England, 1780- 1835. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.
• This source provides users with critical background analysis of gender division of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By studying this work, the user will better understand concepts like “separation of spheres” which suffragists fought against in their campaigns.

Davis, Angela Y. Women, Race & Class. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.
• Written by a militant black Marxist feminist, this text offers a somewhat unique perspective on the predominantly white nineteenth- century suffrage movement. Davis’s critique of Stanton and Anthony’s strategies offer an important jumping off point for analyzing the successes and failures of the suffrage movement.

Dubois, Ellen Carol. Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women’s Movement in America, 1848-1869. New York: Cornell University Press, 1999.
• Focused on the first phase of the woman’s rights movement beginning with the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, DuBois presents her history with the argument that although women did not win the right to vote during this period their movement cannot be considered a failure.

Flexner, Eleanor. Century of Struggle: The Woman’s Rights Movement in the United States. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996.
• In the historiography of the nineteenth- century suffrage movement, Flexner’s book was the first to consider this period worthy of study. She presents an analytical discussion of the movement beginning with the 1848 Seneca Falls convention.

Isenberg, Nancy. Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
• The concept of citizenship changed dramatically in the early nineteenth- century. Isenberg’s book emphasizes the methods in which women actively participated in the political or public sphere despite their disenfranchisement. As other sources in this research guide analyze, once black men won the right to vote, recognized political participation become limited to those with voting rights. By examining this source users can better understand this history of the franchise and women’s positions within the political realm.

Matthews, Jean V. Women’s Struggle for Equality: The First Phase, 1828- 1876. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1997.
• In her analysis of the antebellum phase of the suffrage movement, Matthews is the only historian that offers a discussion of the first national woman’s rights convention of 1850. This convention stressed the possibilities of racial inclusivity. Unfortunately for users, Matthews does not include footnotes for her citations, making it all but impossible to conduct further research based on her sources. However, her important discussion and analysis of the 1850 meeting makes this source a critical addition to any suffrage research guide.

Welter, Barbara. “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820- 1860.” American Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 2, Part 1. (Summer, 1966) Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966, 151-174.
Can be accessed through JSTOR.
• One of the earliest articles that analyzed society’s expectations of white women’s behavior in the nineteenth- century, Welter’s article ignited a body of literature devoted to this important topic. In order to understand the challenges suffragists faced when confronting societal expectations, users must first understand what was considered the “norm.”

Zaeske, Susan. Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, & Women’s Political Identity. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
• Similar to Isenberg’s book, this source provides important background information that will help users understand what it meant in the nineteenth- century to be politically active. In addition, this source traces women’s political involvement back further than the 1848 Seneca Falls convention to include early petitions for suffrage and actions to grant women the right to speak in public.


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