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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Congressional Collections

James Henry Hammond. Plantation manual, 1857-1858. James Henry Hammond Papers. (Container 43). Library of Congress Manuscript Division.25

Surpassed perhaps only by the division's rich presidential holdings are its more than nine hundred collections relating to members of Congress. Most of these congressional collections are identified in John J. McDonough's Members of Congress: A Checklist of Their Papers in the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Ranging in time from the first Continental Congress in 1774 to the 105th Congress in 1998, they cover the entire breadth of United States history.

Women appear throughout these collections as:

  • members of Congress
  • spouses and children of members
  • constituents, lobbyists, and members of special interest groups
  • focus of legislation aimed to restrict, protect, enhance, or define women's status in society

A separate section of this guide describes the papers of women members of Congress, and another section highlights male members whose family papers and legislative files are of particular interest to those researching women.

Additional useful reference sources available in print and online formats by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, include Women in Congress; Black Americans in Congress; Hispanic Americans in Congress; and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress. These resources provide detailed biographies, suggestions for further reading, and references to Members’ manuscript collections.

The following "Congressional" collections are highlighted in these sections of the guide:

Resources Referenced

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.


  1. A slave owner, Senator James Henry Hammond (1807-1864) of South Carolina compiled a detailed manual of instructions for the operation of his plantation, covering such diverse topics as crops, allowances, hogs, children, the overseer, and on the pages shown here, enslaved individuals who were pregnant, nursing mothers, or elderly. Undoubtedly with an eye toward protecting and controlling his property, Hammond carefully outlined the number of months enslaved women could nurse their babies, the length of time they could spend each day with their infants, the amount of work they were expected to perform, and even the body temperature they should maintain before nursing. The volume was compiled in 1857-58, around the same time that Hammond made his celebrated March 4, 1858, speech in the United States Senate arguing that “In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. . . . It constitutes the very mudsill of society.” He went on to utter the oft-repeated words, “You dare not make war on cotton—no power on earth dares make war upon it. Cotton is king.” Back to text