Women and Social Movements Library | Alexander Street
Go inside the woman suffrage movement with Elisabeth Freeman … view the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights with Minerva Bernardino … explore the foundations for the modern LGBTQ movement in The Ladder, published by the Daughters of Bilitis … and read the words of Justina, who joined the armed struggle against the American-sponsored regime in Guatemala in the 1980s.
Women and Social Movements Library focuses on women’s public activism globally, from 1600 to the present. Created through a collaboration with leading historians, the collection contains nearly 400,000 pages of primary source documents and more than 200 related scholarly essays interpreting these sources.
The powerful online content in Women and Social Movements Library allows students and researchers to interpret historical materials in ways not possible in print media. Serving all levels of historical research, the Library makes often inaccessible primary sources accessible within a monographic focus that uses interpretative frameworks to contribute to historical knowledge.

Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000

Launched in 1997, Women and Social Movements in the United States is an online journal devoted to advancing scholarly debates and understanding about U.S. history and
U.S. women’s history at all levels. More than 2,700 authors have written and curated 170,000+ pages of innovative scholarship, primary documents, books, images, essays, book and website reviews, teaching tools, and more. The project combines the analytic power of a database with the new scholarly insights of a peer-reviewed journal. Published twice a year since 2004, the database/journal is edited by Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin of the State University of New York at Binghamton, with an editorial board of leading scholars from around the country.

Document Projects

The collection is organized through 123 document projects. Each is a scholarly work that links an interpretive essay to 30 or more related primary documents. Through these materials, students and researchers are led from discovery to contextual understanding. Four new document projects are added every year. Recent examples include:
  • "Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners! A Transnational Campaign  for Liberation”
  • “How Did Female Protestant Missionaries Respond to  the Japanese American Incarceration Experience during World War II?”
  • “How and Why Did Women in SNCC (the Student Non- Violent Coordinating Committee) Author a Pathbreaking Feminist Manifesto, 1964–1965?”
Each semiannual issue adds 2,500 pages of carefully curated and deeply indexed primary materials drawn from hundreds of archives and libraries. These include:
  • Virtually all publications by State and Local Commissions on the Status of Women, 1963-2000.
  • 16,000 pages of writings by and about Black Woman Suffragists, 1830-1960
  • Proceedings of the National Women’s Anti-Slavery Conventions in the 1830s.
  • Proceedings of Women’s Rights Conventions (1848–1869).
  • Proceedings of the National Conventions of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (1874–1898).
  • Publications of the League of Women Voters (1920–2000).
  • More than 50 state reports addressing gender bias in the courts.

Women and Social Movements, International1840-Present

Women and Social Movements, International 1840-Present provides an unparalleled survey of how women’s struggles against gender inequalities promoted their engagement with other issues across time and cultures. Backed by a global editorial board of 130 scholars, Women and Social Movements, International is a landmark collection of primary materials drawn from 300 repositories. Assembled and cross-searchable for the first time, these resources illuminate the writings of women activists, their personal letters and diaries, and the proceedings of conferences at which pivotal decisions were made. The collection lets researchers see how activism of the past shaped events and values that live on today, with deep insight into peace, human trafficking, poverty, child labor, literacy, and global inequality. More than 150,000 pages of primary source documents include a central core of 60,000 pages of the proceedings of more than 400 international women’s conferences. Users will find coverage of topics including:
  • The 1840 World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London.
  • The “Beijing + 15” agenda, which reviewed implementation of the 1995 Beijing Platform.
  • The Casablanca Dream conference of 2007, which united women from the Global South.
  • Cruicial meetings of the League of Nations, the  International Abolitionist Federation, the Inter-American Commission on Women, the African American Institute, the International Council of Jewish Women, and others.
About seventy-five percent of the works in Women and Social Movements, International 1840-Present are in copyright, with materials licensed directly from key women’s organizations and leading publishers. Approximately seven percent of materials appear in original languages other than English.

Additional key content includes:

  • 25 original essays by leading scholars of women’s international activism.
  • 90,000 pages of journals, manuscripts, letters, photographs, diaries, and ephemera.
  • Video slideshows of the NGO forums at the UN women’s conferences, 1975-1995.
  • Reports from many different committees of women’s international organizations, ideal for comparison of multiple perspectives.
  • A dictionary of women’s international organizations, which details the historical impact of the groups and their leaders.
  • Links to 25,000 additional pages of valuable primary resources online.

Women and Social Movements in Modern Empires since 1820

As the agents of empire, women acted as missionaries, educators, healthcare professionals, and women’s rights advocates. As opponents of empire, women were part of nationalist, resistance, and reform movements, and served as conservators of culture.
Through more than 70,000 pages of curated documents, plus new video and audio recordings, Women and Social Movements in Modern Empires since 1820 explores prominent themes related to conquest, colonization, settlement, resistance, and post-coloniality, as told through women’s voices. This archival database includes documents related to the Habsburg, Ottoman, British, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Japanese, and United States empires, and to settler societies in the United States and South Africa. A large, innovative section focuses on the voices of Native Women in North  America.

Research and Teaching Applications

Its variety of sources and breadth of coverage make Women and Social Movements in Modern Empires useful for studies of women’s history, U.S. and European history, world and comparative history, history of the Global South, women’s studies, religion, social and cultural history, postcolonial studies, sociology, and political science.
Researchers will:
  • Acquire access to colonial and postcolonial sources.
  • Compare the lives of women in different empires in colonial and postcolonial contexts.
  • Study transnational issues such as prostitution, relations between colony and metropole, governance, popular culture, citizenship, employment, health and medicine, education, domestic life, intimacy and sexuality, children, and intermarriage.

Document Clusters

The database is organized around 45 document clusters, with documents selected by experts in the field; accompanying scholarly essays provide context and interpretation. Documents not in English are accompanied by English abstracts. Sources are drawn from archives worldwide, including the Archivo Nacional de la República de Cuba, Habana, Cuba; the Burke Library Special Collections, Columbia University; Harvard Divinity School Library; Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes; Diliman Library, University of the Philippines; the National Archives Repository, Pretoria; Yale University Library; and many others. Virtually all the content is available online for the first time.

Just Published Online

Looking toward the 2020 centennial of the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment through which women gained the right to vote nationally, we are preparing an Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States, which is freely available upon completion. The first installment of this resource is accessible at https://documents.alexanderstreet.com/VOTESforWOMEN and we will be adding more sketches regularly through early 2021, when the Dictionary should be complete. 

For this project, we are soliciting biographical sketches of Black Woman Suffragists and supporters of the National Woman’s Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. This work is expected to yield names of more than 3,000 activists not previously identified in biographical dictionaries. Library colleagues are invited to contribute biographical sketches or supervise the work of students. If you are interested in participating, email editor Thomas Dublin.