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American Women: Resources from the General Collections

Doctoral Dissertations

Udo J. Keppler. Savagery to "Civilization." 1914. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Serious researchers should look for dissertations on their topics. Dissertation subjects are extremely varied. To give just five examples:

  • Basque women in the American West
  • roles of Iroquois women
  • women art collectors
  • Latina political activism
  • history of infant feeding in Chicago

The Library of Congress is the only institution in the country to purchase microform or electronic versions of all doctoral dissertations filmed by University Microfilms, which means most U.S. dissertations. Complete dissertations since the 1940s are available on film or fiche in the Microform Reader Services and, since 1997, in full text through online subscription databases, which can be accessed on computer terminals or laptops onsite in the Library. Free open-access dissertation databases are also available. Doctoral theses contain in-depth research on an enormous variety of subjects; all have bibliographies and notes to lead to other sources.

A general search in the online dissertation indexes combining the keywords "women," "United States," and "history" yields more than two thousand dissertations; more specific searches would identify many others. Some additional dissertations, from universities that did not submit their dissertations to University Microfilms, were acquired in print form and appear in the online and card catalogs. Dissertations covering music and law, subjects usually accessed through other reading rooms, are found in the Microform Reader Services with most other dissertations. The Library only rarely collects master's theses or foreign dissertations in print or microform.

Subject access is by very broad descriptors or by keyword searches of the title and the abstract. As a researcher, diligently try all synonyms, plurals, and broader and narrower terms that might yield results.

Indexes to Doctoral Dissertations

There are several indexes to dissertations, in print and through free and subscription databases (available from the Library of Congress, or from your local public or university library):

Subscription Databases

The subscription resources marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress.  If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.