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Women's History Research in Archives : Primary Sources

How to research women's history in archival sources

Published Archival Materials

Before the online era, archives frequently reproduced papers and records in published collections. Additionally, many archives published collections of papers in order to support the development of gender and women's studies and women's history scholarship in the 1970s. Many academic libraries have books or microfilm collections of archival papers relevant to gender and women's history.

Search the library catalog for reproductions of archival papers in books or on microfilm.


Search for terms relevant to your research focus and:

  • Personal Narrative - subject term for letters and diaries
  • Sources - subject term for archival sources
  • Documentary - often included in the title of published archival sources
  • Microfilm - usually included in the title of a guide to a microfilm collection
  • Microform - the format term for a collection of microfilm

Ask your local academic librarian for assistance if you need help with these kinds of advanced searches.

Exhibits and Items Online

Many archives and special collections have digitized some of their holdings for access online.

Only a small amount of archival materials are digitized and available online but they are also selected for high research value.



Find the websites of individual archives and special collections that specialize in your research topic. Look for digital collections on their sites and look for materials related to women and gender within them.

Google the terms related to your topic and "digital collection" or "exhibit."

More on Primary Sources

See the UW-Madison libraries' guide to primary sources.