Resources for Research

History Core Databases Combined Searches:

For these searches: search across the core databases selected, or select/deselect other databases listed.

US/Canadian History

General/Worldwide Search

Gender-Focused (not confined to history)

Individual Databases -- Secondary Literature (Scholarly Articles)

America: History and Life indexes and abstracts more than 1700 social science and humanities journals in the field of United States and Canadian history.

Historical Abstracts indexes and abstracts information in world history and the related social sciences and humanities, excluding the U.S. and Canada.

General Databases -- Primary Sources

There are many databases of historical newspapers and magazines that serve as primary sources to historical events and times. Browse those listed in the Databases / By Subject pick in the search area of the Libraries' homepage under the category HISTORY, sub-category History (all) or, if you are only interested in North American history, then use the sub-category History--U.S./Canada. Examples of databases in that sub-category: American Periodicals Series Online (digitized pages from magazines from the Colonial Period through 1900), 19th Century U.S. Newspapers, America's Historical Newspapers, and

These sources also include material relevant to North American women's history:

Women's History Databases and E-Books

Oxford Encyclopedia of Women and World History corresponds to a 4v. set in print, with over 650 biographies of prominent women and over 600 topical articles.

Women and Social Movements in the United States (1600s to present) is divided into document projects that interpret and present materials, many of which are not otherwise available online. Each document project poses an interpretive question and provides a collection of documents that address the question. Documents may be searched individually, cross-searched by collection, or across the entire database.

The Gerritsen Collection includes books and periodicals from around the world documenting the condition of women, the evolution of feminist consciousness, and women's rights. The more than 4,000 books and 265 periodicals in the collection are primarily in English with German, French, and Dutch-language materials strongly represented.

Everyday Life and Women in America gives fully-searchable access to rare periodicals, monographs, pamphlets, and essays which focus on the daily lives of women circa 1800-1920.

Defining Gender contains 50,000 images of original documents from five centuries of advice literature and related material, from diaries, advice and conduct books, as well as articles from medical and other journals, ballads, cartoons, and pamphlets. Much of the material is British in origin. Searching only searches the citations and indexed terms, not the fulltext of the documents.

Schlesinger History of Women in America Collection of images in the ARTstor Database. 36,000 images. Description.

North American Women's Letters and Diaries is a collection of published and unpublished women's diaries and correspondence, drawn from more than 1,000 sources.

British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries is a large collection of British and Irish women's diaries and correspondence, spanning more than 300 years, and written by some 500 women.

Twentieth Century Advice Literature offers how-to books and guides; employee manuals, sorority and fraternity pledge manuals; scouting manuals; textbooks that deal with home economics, health and hygiene, and sex education; teacher-training and course manuals; and more. Not all is specifically directed at women, but several of the texts are.

THE VOGUE ARCHIVE, 1892 to the present, in color!

Women in World History: Primary Sources (from the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University) has sections by region of the world and features a search by time period, source type, and topic.

Discovering American Women's History Online provides access to primary sources (photos, letters, diaries, artifacts, etc.) that document American women's history. This database is the creation of Ken Middleton, Middle Tennessee University Library. See also American Social History Online, which indexes digitized library collections in 19th and 20th century U.S. social history and In the First Person (indexes diaries, letters, memoirs, oral histories, and other personal narratives in English from around the world.)

Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World
This encyclopedia focuses on women's status starting approximately in the year 2000 and looks forward, defining women in the contemporary world. It includes multimedia features and is especially strong on American aspects of subjects covered and on popular culture topics in general. Categories: activism, arts, business, countries, education, environment, government, health, media, religion, science, sports, sexualities, war, and women's lives.

Feminae is a multilingual scholarly index covering journal articles from 1994 to the present from almost 400 journals, book reviews, and essays in books about women, sexuality, and gender during the Middle Ages (450 CE to 1500 CE).

ViVa is a bibliography of citations to scholarly articles about women's and gender history.

Wisconsin Women's History

Research Guides

Second Wave Feminism: Researching the Modern Women's Movement, by Phyllis Holman Weisbard, for UW-Madison campus users.

Women's History Research in Archives, by Virginia Corvid.

More Research Guides


Information on useful women's history websites can be found on our Women's History Resources page.

Hints on Searching Primary Sources

  • Use the terminology of the era you are researching, no matter how offensive those terms may be today Ex: for North American Indians, use natives, savages, aboriginies (more common in Canada), squaws, etc. as well as Indians. Try lots of synonyms.
  • Spelling may not not have been standardized in the era you are studying, although some digital editions may "correct" for spelling variants in the search protocols. One problem in particular in Colonial spellings is the use of the long S character that looks like and is interpreted as an F to optical character recognition software. Search for words with an S in them using a wildcard or an F. Ex: In a database that uses th e"?" as a wildcard symbol, search for Boston as Bo?ton or Bofton. Use the Help files within databases for more hints on spelling.
  • Try words, including euphemisms that are likely to occur in the telling of a narrative. Ex: for pregnancy and childbirth experiences, try "with child," birthing, "travail," "confinement," "lying in," "brought to bed," "took to bed," etc., as well as childbirth.
  • In looking for two or more concepts (ex: "indentured servants" AND marriage), see if the database has a way to specify that the concepts should be near each other in the document or on the page. Use the help file and look for "proximity operators." This is helpful when searching through the text of any fulltext database, not just those containing primary sources. You may need to be in an advanced search screen to find proximity searching. In databases with proximity operators, you can usually specify within how many words you would like your terms to appear, or within the same paragraph, and sometimes in what order. Proximity is also useful when you are looking for a name and you want to search for the person's first and last name, but also allow for a middle name or initial. If you have to type in the proximity statement, the format might be something like this for the name Laura Thatcher Ulrich: Laura w/3 Ulrich. Put phrases within quotation marks, too.