Skip to Main Content

American Women: Resources from the Prints & Photographs Collections

U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection

1957 photograph of Three African American women at a polling place, one looking at a book of registered voters on November 5, 1957, in New York City or Newark, New Jersey
Thomas O'Halloran, photographer. Three African American women at a polling place, one looking at a book of registered voters on November 5, 1957, in New York City or Newark, New Jersey. 1957 Nov. 5. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection (USNWR) (1,000,000 photographic negatives and 45,000 contact sheets, 1952-86) offers researchers visual documentation for more recent American history that is not comprehensively covered in other Prints and Photographs Division holdings. Images cover:

  • political events and figures, including civil rights and women's rights marches and demonstrations
  • social and economic trends such as school desegregation, urban and industrial expansion, consumerism, and tourism
  • some popular culture developments, including the incorporation of television into American family life

As a sample of the range of ways in which women appear in the collection, browsing the files for the months of January and February 1962 yields images of:

  • a Women's National Press Club dinner for Congress
  • a woman in rather brief costume modeling with a convertible at an auto show
  • African American singer Grace Bumbry rehearsing for her performance at the White House
  • women (and men) attending a Young Republican Leadership training school
  • women working in the booming aerospace industry in Florida, and shopping or attending high school in the rapidly developing surrounding area
  • a young woman being admitted to George Washington University
  • a woman walking on a dark Washington, D.C., street

The last set of images (LC-U9-7491) demonstrates the research that is sometimes necessary to understand the content and context of images from photojournalism archives, where written documentation is frequently sparse. The caption on the contact sheet folder merely notes that the photographs were made for a “Washington crime story,” but it does not indicate whether the woman represented a victim or a perpetrator. The neighboring folder (LC-U9-7490), containing photos from the same assignment, provides little added illumination, as it is captioned simply, “Washington, D.C. after Dark.” The published volumes of U.S. News & World Report that are accessible in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room enable the researcher to place the image in the context of the accompanying story, which compared crime rates in different cities. The image of the woman appeared as an allusion to citizens' vulnerability to crime, alongside text discussing the capital city's high crime rate at the time. Correspondingly, the images in the U.S. News & World Report Collection offer a different kind of context. As with Look Magazine Collection photographs, the substantial body of unpublished images offers clues to the editorial selection practices of the magazine.

There is known to be at least one woman who worked as a photographer for U.S. News & World Report for the period covered by the collection: a few photographs from the 1950s were taken by Mary Dean

Searching the Collection

A selection of photographs from each year is being digitized to show the breadth and strengths of the collection and those images can be searched in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog using the collection name, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection (or the negative series code u9) in combination with names or subjects.

For comprehensive searching an on-site visit is needed. The collection is housed in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room, where patrons serve themselves after a brief orientation.

  • The collection is organized by “job” number, which provides a rough form of chronological access to the images reproduced in contact sheets (photographic prints that reproduce multiple negatives or 35-millimeter negative strips on a single sheet).
  • Subject access to the collection is provided by a card index developed by U.S. News & World Report staff. Entries in the index include:
    • proper names
    • geographic places (states and most cities in the United States are found under U.S. —[state])
    • somewhat variable topical terms such as “People—Families” or “Negroes—Segregation”

There are few listings in the index directly under “Women,” so researchers must be creative in determining the settings and situations in which they might see women depicted.

Sample Images