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Feminist Studies: Subject Guide: Primary sources

Resources for your feminist studies research in the Smith Library Center and on the Web

Select primary sources in the SLC

Searching for primary sources

In WorldCat Local and many other databases, you can do a Keyword search combining your subject with words typical of primary sources, such as:

  • sources
  • speech
  • letter
  • document
  • charter
  • correspondence
  • diary
  • early works
  • interview
  • manuscript
  • painting
  • pamphlet
  • personal narrative
  • photograph
  • score

    More about primary sources

    About primary sources

    In academic research, some sources are referred to as “primary” and some are “secondary.” All are important and may be needed for particular assignments.

    Primary Sources

    Primary sources are generally the work of a creator, participant in, or direct observer of an historical event, research effort, or a work of art. Examples are photographs, books or articles published during a time under study, recorded or transcribed interviews with participants, government documents, films, letters, diaries, works of visual art, novels or poems, musical scores, and reports of experiments conducted by scientists or social scientists.

    Primary sources do not have to be used in their original form - they may be reproduced electronically, printed or published later and still be considered primary sources.

    Secondary Sources

    On the other hand, secondary sources include interpretation or analysis of events by an author who was not present. Secondary sources are a step removed from the event, work, or time period under study and may analyze or interpret the original. Secondary sources can include books and articles, documentary films, reference books, and textbooks.

    Select primary sources online

    Many collections of primary sources are available freely on the Web.  Some are listed in the History Links box on the Web Resources tab above. 

    These additional collections of primary sources are available only to Southwestern University users:

    Salem History  To limit your search to primary sources, first search for your topic using keywords, then click on the "Primary Source" tab.

    Women in the National Archives Includes a searchable collection of over 5,000 pages of manuscript documents relating to women's suffrage in Britain 1903-1928, and the granting of women's suffrage in the British Empire, 1930-1962.

    Women Writers Online A fully searchable full text database of pre-Victorian women's writing in English.

    Women's and Gender Studies: A Research Guide from the New York Public Library; scroll down for a list of primary sources.

    Special Collections at SU

    In the library's Special Collections, you can use rare and unique books and manuscripts applicable to your research topic. Special Collections materials cannot be checked out; instead, the John G. Tower Library reading room provides an elegant and comfortable space to read and study these materials. Look over the Special Collections hours, policies, and procedures for more information.

    You can find Special Collections materials by searching for your topic in WorldCat Local and limiting the results to Special Collections, or by asking a librarian for assistance. 

    Select primary sources in the SU Special Collections


    Jessie Daniel Ames Collection

    Ames was a well-known suffragist and anti-lynching activist. This small collection reflects her retirement interests and activities and primarily contains clippings, articles, and cartoons related to politics and social issues. She placed many of these into scrapbooks on specific subjects, such as "The Negro and the Schools, 1954-1956" and "Foreign Policy and Foreign Relations, 1954-1958." One document case contains personal notes and correspondence, most of which is with family members, especially her daughter, Lulu. Ames, a Southwestern University alumna (1902), also donated a large portion of her library to the University.

    Bertha McKee Dobie Collection

    The Bertha McKee Dobie Collection reflects her life and work as an author, editor, naturalist, and wife of author J. Frank Dobie.  The collection contains correspondence, memorabilia, manuscripts, personal documents, and books from her personal library. She graduated from Southwestern in 1910 and was given Southwestern’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1973.

    John G. Tower Papers

    Senator Tower, a Southwestern alumnus, represented Texas in the United States Senate from 1961 through 1984. His papers provide insight into the events of the 1960s through the 1980s, including the Vietnam War, civil rights, the rise of the Republican Party in Texas and the South, women's issues, and abortion. The collection contains papers and manuscripts, printed materials, videotapes, audiocassettes, films, photographs, memorabilia and artifacts, microfilm, and a few electronic recordsAlthough Tower was well-known for his conservative values, he veered from the party stance on key issues related to women: he supported abortion rights and he voted for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).