Skip to main content

American Women: Resources from the Serial & Government Publications Collections

Part of the American Women series, this guide highlights the Library's collections of current and retrospective newspapers, current periodicals, government publications, and several special holdings of a serial nature, such as comic books.

Introduction

Round the world with Nellie Bly--The Worlds globe circler. 1890. Library of Congress Serial and Government Publications Division.
Board game about journalist Nellie Bly's trip around the world in 1889-1890. Game shows squares for each of the 73 days of her journey arranged in a circular pattern, flanked with images of Bly, Jules Verne, a steam ship and a train.

The Serial and Government Publications Division at the Library of Congress has custody of one of the world's largest collections of current and retrospective newspapers, current periodicals, government publications, and several special holdings of a serial nature, such as comic books. Although no single collection in the division focuses on women in American history and culture, all its collections are rich sources for primary and secondary material about women.

As sources for the study of women's history, newspapers document the place of women in society and acknowledge society's recognition of women as audience and as contributors. Although underestimated by many, both the role and the influence of women as producers of the news are important aspects of American women's history. A researcher using the Library's newspaper collection can trace the presence of women both in the newspaper industry and in the news itself. Periodicals, too, form part of the journalistic history of America. Both the interests of contemporary American women and their current involvement in the magazine industry are well represented in the Library's immense periodical collection.

Government documents collected by the Library contain U.S. federal publications, arranged by document classification, Federal Advisory Committee documents, as well as United Nations materials and select other government publications. International publications of the United Nations and other international organizations include information about Americans and American interests. Data about women found in government publications include a broad spectrum of statistical, analytical, descriptive, historical, and popular information. Many U.S. government publications can also be found in the General Collections and in the Law Library.

Special collections offer more popular, if stereotypic, views of women. Wish fulfillment, idealism, and extremism of all genres are represented in the comic book collection and pulp fiction covers. These collections offer unique opportunities to consider how women were and are portrayed in some of America's most popular media. They also provide a record of the changing nature of women artists, editors, publishers, and writers in a historically male dominated field.