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The General Collections



Starting Places
arrow graphicBibliographies
Secondary Sources
Microform Materials
Doctoral Dissertations
Congressional Documents
Indexes to Anthologies
Biographical Sources
Women's Writings
Other Sources




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Young women studying birds. Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer. [1899?]. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-112558 (b&w film copy neg)

bibliographic record

Would a researcher ignore a readily available list of books on her topic? Would she or he insist on repeating work that someone else had already done?

This is what people do when they neglect published bibliographies. In an age of increasing reliance on computers, people forget valuable printed reference sources. Those works, often painstakingly prepared over extended periods of time, can be a boon to historians.

Someone writing on women's education, for example, can search book catalogs, periodical indexes, Dissertation Abstracts, and indexes to congressional and government documents, or she can first turn to Kay S. Wilkins's Women's Education in the United States: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research, 1979; Z7963.E2 W53 MRR Alc) [catalog record] where she will find 1,134 annotated citations to materials on her subject.

Despite the drawbacks—bibliographies are always selective, cover fixed time periods, and do not exist for all subjects—published bibliographies still provide an excellent starting place for most research projects and can save much time and effort.

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Mary Read killing her antagonist, 1842. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ6-1033 (b&w film copy neg)

bibliographic record

The important microfilm set The Bibliography of American Women (New Haven, Conn.: Research Publications, [1975?]; 47 reels; microfilm 84/320 MicRR [catalog record]) gives citations to fifty thousand books and articles, not all of which are in the Library of Congress, written by and about women from 1600 to the 1920s. The format is filmed catalog cards with minimal citations; the cards are arranged three ways: alphabetically, chronologically, and by broad topics such as “Children's Books,” “Cookbooks,” “Domestic,” “Education,” “Fiction.” This set is extremely valuable for identifying what has been written by a particular woman author, in a specific time period, or about American women.

The Bibliography of American Imprints to 1901 (92 vols.) (New York: K.G. Saur, 1993; Z1215.B47 1993 MRR Alc [catalog record]) contains a fifteen-volume subject index that leads a searcher to early works on topics ranging from women pirates and widows to religious education for children to sex in marriage. Although not all titles listed are held by the Library of Congress, most are. This set is particularly useful because it often applies modern subject headings to works cataloged by the Library before detailed specific subject headings for women's issues were developed. You can examine this bibliography with its modern subject headings and then search the Library's catalogs to locate the item. Most books and periodicals published before 1820 are part of the Early American Imprints microform collection (see “Microform Materials”); other titles can be found in the General Collections and the Rare Book or Microform Reading Rooms.

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Widow, tenant farmer. Russell Lee, photographer. 1939. Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USF34-033537-D (b&w film neg)

bibliographic record

All women, and especially women who varied from the dominant white, heterosexual, Christian, middle-class “standard,” were poorly represented in reference works before the last quarter of the twentieth century. You should consult specialized bibliographies such as:

  • Gretchen M. Bataille's American Indian Women: A Guide to Research (New York: Garland, 1991;Z1209.2.N67 B36 1991 MRR Alc) [catalog record]
  • Aviva Cantor's The Jewish Woman, 1900-1985: A Bibliography, 2nd ed. (Fresh Meadows, N.Y.: Biblio Press, 1987; Z7963.J4 C36 1987 MRR Alc, AMED-Hebr) [catalog record]; supplement, 1986-93 [catalog record]
  • Francesco Cordasco's The Immigrant Woman in North America: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected References (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985; Z7964.U49 C657 1985 MRR Alc) [catalog record]
  • Dolores J. Maggiore's Lesbianism: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide to the Literature, 1976-1991 (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1992; Z7164.S42 M34 1992 MRR Alc) [catalog record]

Monroe Nathan Work's A Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America [catalog record]2 provides references to African American women, children, and families.

Many other bibliographies exist and can be identified by using the subject headings given below.

BIBLIOGRAPHIES: To locate bibliographies on a given subject, refer to the many standard printed bibliographies of bibliographies, especially Patricia K. Ballou's Women: A Bibliography of Bibliographies, 2nd ed. (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1986; Z7961.B32 1986 MRR Alc) [catalog record]. Bibliographies of women's studies usually include sections useful to historians, and general U.S. history bibliographies contain references to materials on women.

SAMPLE LCSH: Usually the word “Bibliography” can be combined with any LC subject heading when searching the Library's catalogs. A few examples include:

Women—United States—History—Bibliography
Women's studies—United States—Bibliography
Women and religion—United States—Bibliography
African American women—Psychology—Bibliography
Women architects—California—Bibliography
Lesbian artists—Bibliography
Indian women—North America—Bibliography
Asian American women—Social conditions—Bibliography
White women—United States—History—Bibliography
Working class women—United States—Bibliography

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