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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

How to Use this Guide

The breadth and depth of the Manuscript Division's holdings preclude compiling an exhaustive list of women's history sources. Instead, the pages listed in the navigator bar on the left attempt to identify the division's major collecting areas and to describe some of the significant women's papers in each category. Many collections could easily have appeared in more than one category, reflective of the many roles and interests of their creators, but such overlap was resisted in favor of highlighting the collection's main emphasis.

Collections of men's papers are also included, but since virtually every collection in the division contains at least some correspondence with women, references to men's papers are generally limited to the most relevant examples within each topic.

When the name of a collection is cited for the first time, it appears in boldface, within corresponding links to the Library of Congress Online Catalog at the end of page under the heading "Manuscript Resources Referenced". Be sure to check the catalog record to find links to additional resources, including finding aids and digital content, when available. When the name of a collection is cited an additional time(s) in the guide, a link is provided to the original page in the guide where the collection appears with a direct link or a linked “(see: [Subject])” reference.

Microfilm editions of original manuscript materials held in other repositories, many of which are now available through the subscription database ProQuest History Vault, are not always described in these topic pages. See the Related Microfilm page of this guide for information. Links to other related resources, including relevant web guides, digital exhibitions, and print material are available on the Electronic Resources page. Suggestions for how to continue a search for related material may be found in the Search Tips page.

Quick Facts about the Manuscript Division

  • The Manuscript Division's holdings of more than 70 million items, contained in approximately twelve thousand collections, account for nearly one-half of the entire Library of Congress collection.
  • They differ from the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, which principally maintains the official records of the United States government. Instead, most of the division's collections comprise the personal papers of individuals and families, along with a smattering of organizational records.
  • They generally are limited in focus to American history and culture.
  • They tend to reflect events, people, and organizations of national significance, although aspects of state and local history are invariably documented in the state files of national groups and in the letters and diaries of women and men who lived in, traveled to, or otherwise represented communities across the country.
  • Most of the division's collections were donated as gifts, although some were acquired through purchase or government transfer.
  • Collections range in size from one item to more than 2.5 million items, and they contain various types and formats of material.
  • Supplementing the division's original manuscript sources are microfilm copies of related collections in other American and foreign repositories, including, for example, some of the Spanish reproductions that form part of the records produced by the Foreign Copying Program, and in the essay “Women on the Move.” Contact Manuscript Reading Room staff for additional information about these collections.

Using Manuscript Collections

In order to make the most effective use of the Manuscript Division's collections, it is helpful before visiting to:

See Visiting the Manuscript Reading Room for information about planning a research visit.

Attention: All researchers are advised to contact the Manuscript Reading Room prior to visiting. Many collections are stored off-site, or may have access restrictions, and advance notice is needed to retrieve these items for research use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the division's collections are strongly encouraged to write the Manuscript Reading Room via the Ask a Librarian form or email at [email protected] to inquire about the status of collections of interest.