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American Women: Resources from the General Collections

Biographical Sources

[Julia Catherine Stimson, half-length portrait, in uniform, seated, facing left]. c1920. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Readers frequently come to the Library of Congress looking for biographical facts about women. Often they know little more than a name.

One scholar arrived with a reference to five Stimson sisters, whom she knew were active in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century.

After searching through a combination of sources—family histories and genealogies, the Library's catalogs, biographical dictionaries, periodical indexes, and college yearbooks—she had uncovered the outlines of these women's lives.

Details included that one played college basketball and another served as dean of Goucher College. All of the women supported women's suffrage, and four published books on topics ranging from cookery and the Army Nurse Corps to bone fractures and the history of science.

Further digging yielded additional information. This example of a search for biographical information proved relatively straightforward as the Stimsons were educated, middle-class white women of some note.

Often you will be trying to trace lesser-known, less well documented women. The approach is similar; the results may be sparser. 

Please see details below for search strategies using Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Research in other reading rooms at the Library may provide further particulars, especially on more prominent women:

Sample Library of Congress Subject Headings

The subject subdivision “Biography” is not used after individual personal names; it is added to classes of people, ethnic groups, and occupational headings, such as: