Libraries and Centers at Rutgers: Special Collections and University Archives: Manuscripts:

Women's History Sources: A Guide


Emily Warren Roebling
(Roebling family)
Women's History Sources: A Guide to
Manuscripts and Archival Collections


Overview and Introduction

This indexed, online guide describes over 270 manuscript collections and approximately 30 bodies of Rutgers University records and related collections which pertain to New Jersey and American women and their status, concerns and activities from the late eighteenth century through the twentieth century. This wealth of source material is held by the Rutgers University Libraries in Special Collections and University Archives, a library unit which collects, preserves and makes available primary sources of a rare, unique or specialized nature to support advanced study and research.

That Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, possesses a separate, detailed guide to its archival collections of women's history sources is particularly appropriate, as the university is a leader in the new scholarship about women. As noted in a 1998 report, Building on Excellence: Strategic Plan for Rutgers New Brunswick, "a wealth of courses, research achievements, and public programs and a unique group of centers has earned the university a reputation for leadership and excellence in this interdisciplinary area." On the New Brunswick campus, the units most visible in this field are the graduate Women's and Gender History Program, the Blanche, Edith, and Irving Laurie New Jersey Chair in Women's Studies and the consortial membership of the Institute for Women's Leadership: the Center for American Women and Politics, The Center for Women and Work, the Center for Women's Global Leadership, Douglass College, the Institute for Research on Women and the Women's and Gender Studies Department. Another unit at the university dedicated to women is the recently-established Margery Somers Foster Center of the Rutgers University Libraries, administered by Dr. Ferris Olin. The Foster Center, a digital resource center on women, scholarship and leadership, serves as a partner with Special Collections and University Archives in collection development activities for manuscript collections that pertain to women and has also provided financial assistance in support of the preparation of this online finding aid under the auspices of a 1999-2000 Rutgers University Strategic Resources Opportunities Award.


Scope and Subject Matter: Special Collections

Described in the Special Collections portion of the guide are manuscripts that were created by and/or pertain to women of all age groups, social classes and marital statuses. These manuscripts are in the form of diaries, travel journals, literary works, correspondence, minutes and subject files (among many other document types) that are present in the repository in their original form or, less frequently, as reproductions or transcripts. Included are papers of individuals (such as Millicent Fenwick, Mary Norton and Mary Roebling), as well as records of local organizations (such as the Woman's Club of Woodbury), state organizations (such as the League of Women Voters of New Jersey and the New Jersey Division of the American Association of University Women) and national organizations (such as the Women's Caucus for Art, the National Women's Education Fund and Sisters in Crime). Not listed in the guide are commercially-distributed microfilms of additional collections of relevant papers and records, copies of which are available either at the Douglass Library or elsewhere in the Rutgers University Libraries system.

From the diaries of homemakers on farms to the organizational records of second wave feminist organizations, the manuscripts represented in the present guide reflect the expanding roles and concerns of women throughout American history. Occupations featured in the personal papers described encompass authors (including authors of children's books), art critics, athletes, bankers, businesswomen, charitable workers, clerks, college students, compulsory sterilization advocates, congresswomen, consumer advocates, corrections officials, dieticians, homemakers, human rights advocates, midwives, missionaries, nurses, peace activists, poets, professors, public officials, Red Cross workers, scholars, seamstresses, social workers, students, teachers and translators. The organizational records included pertain to art education, child welfare, church and missionary work, community improvement, consumerism (including the monitoring of workplace conditions), education, feminism and feminist theory, higher education, home economics, journal publishing, lesbian and gay rights, library workers, migrant workers, mystery writers, nutrition, organized labor, patriotism, political activity, reading, religion, scholarship about women, social activity, social welfare, suffrage, temperance, voter education, women artists and their artwork, women's history and women's rights. Among additional topics represented in the papers and records are African Americans, aging, the environmental movement, the Equal Rights Amendment, farming, gardening, girls, household workers, Jewish women, Latin America, the legal status of women, leisure travel, music, personal and family finances, protective legislation, relationships and wartime experiences.


Scope and Subject Matter: University Archives

The extensive collections of the Rutgers University Archives document the diversity of Rutgers University, its environs and the State of New Jersey. They also broadly document higher education in New Jersey, as well as in the United States as a whole. The collections demonstrate that the activities of the university community–study, teaching, research and public service–extend well beyond its ivy walls. Because Rutgers University is so diverse, with a rich and extensive history, evidence of the activities of women as members of the university community appear throughout the University Archives collections and are not isolated in a few collections, nor are they limited only to Douglass College for the period prior to 1969. However, in the preparation of this guide to women's history sources in Special Collections and University Archives, the University Archives has focused on approximately 30 collections with particular relevance to women's history in the context of higher education and the history of Rutgers University in general. Of special interest are the records of Douglass College (founded in 1918) which, to date, is the only all-women's college at Rutgers University. Throughout the records of the University President's Office, and of other administrative offices, are records relating to women students, faculty and staff, as well as records pertaining to academic departments and student organizations. Within these general administrative records of the university exists documentation of the founding and operations of Douglass College, the transition to co-education at Rutgers College and the founding of Livingston College as a co-educational unit of the university. Other issues related to women students, faculty, staff and women's activism on campus are represented in the collections in the University Archives section of the guide, including political activism, gay and lesbian civil rights, research in psychology and student life.


Entries and Indexes

Entries in this guide are alphabetically arranged in several files, including nine linked files for the Special Collections manuscripts and one file for the University Archives collections. The description of each collection, or relevant part of a larger collection, focuses on the content that relates to women. Each entry specifies the name of the material's creator and its form (or sometimes a title in lieu of both), the date range of the collection, its size and a description of the papers or records. Most entries also include background information concerning the individual, family or organization responsible for the creation of the documentation. Sometimes notes are present in the entries which provide additional details, such as indications that more information is available in the form of a finding aid, that non-English materials are included, that advance notice is required for consultation (as some materials are stored offsite), that restrictions on use apply, that publications exist which either reproduce or are based upon the materials, that associated materials exist for which the location is specified or that typed transcripts are present in addition to original handwritten documents.

An index to the guide entries is included for all of the descriptions of Special Collections manuscripts, as well as for the five descriptions of University Archives collections which do not represent official records of the university. This index is composed of three sections of alphabetically arranged hyperlinks that provide topical, name and geographic access to the guide's descriptive entries. The terms appearing in the place names index and in the personal and corporate names index derive from the cooperative name authority file which is used by most libraries, with additional terms not found there having been constructed in a compatible style. The subject headings used in the subjects and titles index derive primarily from A Women's Thesaurus (c1987) edited by Mary Ellen S. Capek; as needed, additional or substitute terms from the Library of Congress Subject Headings have been employed. While an attempt has been made to provide detailed indexing, information in the biographical or organizational history portion of an entry has ordinarily been indexed only when it is also believed to be reflected in some way in the actual papers or records which the repository holds. For example, although Millicent Fenwick was at one time the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, no term for that body appears in the personal and corporate names index, as Fenwick's papers held by the repository pertain only to her congressional career. For additional information concerning the arrangement and other details of the indexes, consult the prefatory note included with each.


History and Acknowledgments

The earliest guide to women's history sources in Special Collections and University Archives was a photocopied handout produced in 1984. It featured the repository's entries from the 1979 Women's History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States, edited by Andrea Hinding et. al., interfiled with entries from the supplemental "Gifts and Acquisitions: Women's History Sources Since 1979" (Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries, June 1984) compiled by Ruth J. Simmons. Subsequently, a revised and expanded set of relevant collection descriptions was issued in printed form. Drawn from various sources, including information gleaned from Donald A. Sinclair's 1980 A Guide to Manuscript Diaries and Journals in the Special Collections Department, Rutgers University, the printed version was entitled A Guide to the Women's History Archives at Rutgers. It was first issued in 1990 in conjunction with the eighth annual Berkshire Conference on Women's History, hosted by Douglass College, and was subsequently slightly revised–most notably through the addition of an index prepared by Fernanda H. Perrone. As a supplement to the printed guide, a brief overview of the women's collections was prepared, also by Ms. Perrone, which appeared both as a handout and as a (now superceded) web page.

The present online effort, Women's History Sources: A Guide to Manuscripts and Archival Collections, was first mounted on the web in early 2002. The text and indexes for entries describing manuscript collections were compiled by Albert C. King, Manuscripts Curator, and the text for entries describing Rutgers University Archives and related collections was prepared by Erika Gorder, Associate University Archivist. In addition to the sources already noted, the new and revised descriptions of manuscripts which appear in the online guide derive from collection summaries prepared by the manuscripts curator for other purposes; from Special Collections finding aids, including several produced by or under the direction of Fernanda H. Perrone; from analyses of diaries prepared by David Kuzma; and from a direct examination or reexamination of many of the collections by the curator.


Collection Development and Researcher Inquiries

To augment the depth and breadth of historical research about gender and women's lives that can be conducted at the Rutgers University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives actively seeks to add collections to its holdings which are similar in scope to those listed in this guide. Information about possible donations, and related questions, should be directed to Ronald L. Becker, Head, Special Collections (rbecker@rulmail.rutgers.edu), or to Erika Gorder, Associate University Archivist (gorder@rulmail.rutgers.edu). Inquiries about the contents of a collection listed in the guide, or questions concerning the acquisition of reproductions of the documents described, should be addressed to Ronald Becker (rbecker@rulmail.rutgers.edu); for further information about the repository, its location and its policies, please consult the Special Collections and University Archives web pages.