Primary Source Collections


Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 includes digitized versions of books and pamphlets related to women and social movements in the U.S., expanding the site by about 5,000 pages a year. Initially these volumes focused on one hundred years of the woman suffrage movement, 1830-1930, including the six volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage (1881-1922), edited by Stanton, Anthony, and other leaders of the woman suffrage movement, and the proceedings of the three national conventions of anti-slavery women held 1837-1839 and the woman's rights conventions held between 1848 and 1869. The site currently has 175,000 pages of additional full-text documents, accessible either as a whole or in a number of thematic subgroups. Below we describe briefly each of the subgroups in this collection; access is available through either WASM Basic or the Scholar's Edition.


The Struggle for Woman Suffrage, 1830-1930

This grouping of publications is organized around the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage (1881-1922), edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other suffrage activists.  As of March 2009, it includes another fourteen items, ranging from the proceedings of a New York Constitutional Convention in 1846 to a 1977 oral history interview with a suffrage activist.  While the total number of books in this grouping is modest, the History of Woman Suffrage actually includes almost 600 individual documents that are separately indexed in the database by author and title and may be searched on their own. 


General Histories

We publish in this section a number of general histories of women that should be of interest to those studying women and social movements in the United States. These works include a 750-page history, Daughters of America by Phebe A. Hanaford, published in 1882 and Annie (Nathan) Meyer's Woman's Work in America, published in 1891. 


Histories of Women's Organizations

The full-text sources include (as of March 2009) 32 histories of various women's organizations published between 1874 and 1955.  Half a dozen items treat the history of women's temperance organizations and nine cover the history of various groups of clubwomen.


League of Women Voters, 1920-2000

The League of Women Voters was founded in 1919, within the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).  It became an independent organization during the process that finally ratified the nineteenth amendment in August 1920, and became the successor to NAWSA in the post-suffrage period.  Since that date, it has been among the leading women's voluntary organizations promoting women's informed participation in the political process and working to educate all voters about public policy issues.

Over its first five decades the League grew steadily and in 1969 its 1,300 branches included more than 150,000 members.  At that date it almost equaled the size of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which, with 200,000 members in 1879, was the largest women's reform organization in the United States in the nineteenth century.

Between 2007 and 2009 Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 published 8,000 pages of full-text online versions of selected publications of the League of Women Voters between 1920 and 2000.  These include a substantial sampling of pamphlets and studies of state and local leagues.  The publications are extremely wide-ranging and include significant runs of League national publications, such as Bulletin (1928-1930), League News (1930-1934), Newsletter (1935-1941), Members (1940-1943), Trends (1942-1951), Action (1944-1945), and The National Voter (1951-1955 and 1975-1982).  We have also included many League studies that provided educational material for voters on a variety of public policy issues that the League addressed as well as a five-volume study of the League conducted in 1957 by the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan.  Many of these resources are extremely hard to locate in libraries and their online publication in indexed and full-text searchable format should encourage new research on this important twentieth-century women's social movement.


Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1898

Included in the full-text sources are 25 years of proceedings of the WCTU annual meetings held from its founding in 1874 to 1898, the last year that Frances Willard served as president.


Woman's Rights Conventions, 1848-1869

Among the full-text sources reproduced, indexed and fully searchable on the website are all seventeen surviving proceedings of national women's rights conventions held in the 22-year period after the first meeting at Seneca Falls, N.Y. in July 1848.


Women and Antislavery

Ten items in the database are full-text sources dealing with women and anti-slavery.  Three are proceedings of national women's antislavery conventions held in 1837, 1838, and 1839.  Most of the others are annual reports of women's local antislavery groups.


Commissions on the Status of Women (in Scholar's Edition)

In December 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Eleanor Roosevelt to chair the President's Commission on the Status of Women, a bipartisan organization whose goal was to examine discrimination against women in the United States and to study and make recommendations on policies designed to enable women to fulfill their potential in American life. When the President's Commission completed its work in 1963, it issued a series of final reports documenting, among other topics, labor policies and practices relating to women, educational opportunities available to women, and the legal status of American women. In addition, the commission recommended that states and localities establish their own commissions on the status of women to continue research and advocacy to promote the equality of women in all aspects of American social and political life. Today, there are approximately 270 state and local women's commissions around the United States.

These federal, state, and local commissions have produced a wealth of primary materials documenting conditions in the lives of American women over the last four decades of the twentieth century. Collectively, these reports and publications provide in-depth information that is unmatched by other primary materials from this time period. Not previously accessible as a collection and never before indexed, these materials are now fully searchable. Our goal with the Women's Commission Reports has been to compile in one place, for the first time, the complete text of every report on the status of women issued by these bodies during this time period. The collection provides 90,000 pages of materials documenting women's issues over more than four decades in all fifty states and territories of the United States.

Complementing the Commissions collection are scholarly essays that describe the assembling of the collection and explore the research possibilities of the publications.  As of March 2010, the following essays are accessible through the Scholar's Edition:

Thomas Dublin, "Constructing the Database of Commissions on the Status of Women."

Kathleen Laughlin, "Introduction to the Women and Social Movements State Commissions Database."

Dorothy Sue Cobble, "The Labor Feminist Origins of the U.S. Commissions on the Status of Women."

Marjorie Spruill, "The Conservative Challenge to Feminist Influence on State Commissions on the Status of Women."

Cynthia Harrison, "State Commissions and Economic Security for Women."

Carrie Baker, "How Are Issues Related to Sexuality Treated in Publications of Commissions on the Status of Women?"

Gerda Lerner, "Midwestern Leaders of the Modern Women's Movement"


Reports on Gender Bias in the Courts

With our March 2013 issue, we completed posting to the site 15,000 pages of documents related to the judicial movement in the United States examining Gender Bias in the Courts, 1983-2002. State courts and state bar associations typically sponsored the studies, more than eighty of which we have reprinted online. This initiative gained strength from the work of state commissions on the status of women, whose publications are reprinted in WASM Scholar's Edition. We are pleased now to complement that database with these additional primary sources.


Writings of Black Woman Suffragists

Beginning with our March 2014 issue, we began posting to the site 16,000 pages of the writings of Black Woman Suffragists. The noted African American scholar, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, identified these activists in the course of research on her dissertation and her subsequent book, African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 (1998). Rosalyn Terborg-Penn prepared a list of Black woman suffragists. Working from that list and expanding the numbers, we have identified more than 1,900 writings by 130 Black women suffragists which we have posted to the site as of September 2017. We continue to identify additional suffragists and will be posting the names, biographical sketches, and writings of these activists in the coming months. As of December 2017, we have identified about 230 suffragists, and we will steadily add biographical sketches and writings by or about the remaining women activists. Professor Terborg-Penn has written an introduction to this database and we have posted 18 additional essays by noted scholars of African American women to complement the women's writings. Every six months we will add more material to this collection and expect it to be complete by 2020.


National Consumers' League

Beginning with our March 2017 issue, we have begun posting to the site 3,100 pages of primary documents from the Microfilm Edition of the Papers of the National Consumers' League (NCL). The National Consumers League was chartered in 1899 by two of America's leading social reformers, Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell. Under the direction of its first general secretary, Florence Kelley, the National Consumers' league exposed child labor and other scandalous working conditions and promoted the adoption of minimum wages at the state and federal levels. When complete this collection will offer documents between 1903 and the mid-1930s.


Equal Rights

Beginning with our March 2018 issue, we will be posting a very substantial run of the journal Equal Rights, the official publication of the National Woman's Party that appeared between February 1923 and 1954. We have assembled this journal collection with the assistance of the Historic National Woman's Party with offices in the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, D.C.


Full-Text Sources was last updated January 2018.


| Document Projects and Archives | Teacher's Corner | Scholar's Edition | Primary Source Collections | About Us | Contact Us |