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American Women: Resources from the General Collections

Memorial Volumes

Title Page from "Memoir of Ann Elizabeth Pierce" and Frontispiece Engraving of a Dying Girl Lying in Bed Surrounded by her Family. 1833. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The General Collections hold about one hundred purportedly true accounts of the brief but exemplary lives and pious deaths of precocious children, and about eighty of these works describe girls. Written by parents, ministers, or friends, these stories present views on sin in children, stress the importance of early religious education, highlight the proper behavior of girls (with frequent emphasis on cleanliness and neatness), and describe how parents should approach the deaths of their children. Many were published by Sunday School societies in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Library has digitized more than thirty memorial volumes (see the "Digitized Volumes" tab for the complete list).

Women (and more frequently men) were memorialized in a similar fashion. Relatives or friends published biographies, often with excerpts from diaries, letters, poems, and funeral sermons.The volumes were meant to show how a life should be lived. As one author explained in writing of her grandmother, she hoped “that the example of her pure and lovely life might have its effect upon her great-grandchildren, as well as upon my own generation.” These biographies, usually brief, provide rare glimpses into the lives of lesser-known women.

Topics often covered include:

  • religious practices
  • marital relationships
  • childbearing
  • health
  • travels
  • how the women were perceived by friends and family

Using Subject Headings, Call Numbers and Bibliographies

As a rule, the only subject heading for memorial volumes is the name of the child or woman, so they must be searched by call number or through bibliographies. For the most part, memorial volumes can be found in BR1714 - BR1715 (for children), or CT275 (for women and men).. Other books on women have call numbers for specific occupations, such as nurses (some in RT37) or teachers (some in LA2317).  Other similar volumes may be found in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room and in Microform Reader Services

The following titles have been digitized by the Library of Congress. From the catalog record, you can select either PDF or "Page view" to read the full text of the item.