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Women's Studies

A guide intended to aid research relating to women, both within the greater Chicago area & within the broader context of the U.S. This guide will be updated in accordance with CHM's ongoing critical cataloging work.

The material in CHM collections may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record. The Chicago History Museum has an institution-wide initiative to critically consider the language used to describe people and materials, and we invite you to read more about our related projects.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

The Chicago History Museum relies on subject headings authorized by the Library of Congress to organize its catalog records. This controlled vocabulary facilitates the uniform access and retrieval of items in libraries and archives worldwide. Researchers can search headings in CHM's online catalog ARCHIE either in the general keyword search, by limiting the "All Fields" to "Subject," or by using the Advanced Search. 

General LCSH headings that relate to women and appear in ARCHIE include:

  • Women
  • Women, [Race], e.g. Women, Black; Women, White
  • [Ethnicity] women, e.g. African American women; Asian American women; Indigenous women; Jewish women; Mexican American women; Muslim women; etc.
  • Women [profession], e.g. Women air pilots; Women authors; Women physicians; Women social workers; etc.
  • Women in [professional field], e.g. Women in agriculture; Women in medicine; Women in politics; Women in sports; etc.
  • Women -- [Geographic location], i.e. Women--Illinois--Chicago; Women--North America; etc.
  • Women -- [Subject], i.e. Women--Clothing and dress; Women--Employment; Women--Suffrage; etc.
  • Women and [subject], e.g. Women and animals; Women and peace; Women and religion; etc.
  • Women's rights
  • Feminism

If searching by All Fields, rather than by Subject, suggested general keywords include: gender, woman, women, lady, ladies, feminism, feminist(s), Latina(s), lesbian(s), mother(s), motherhood, wife, wives, sister(s), daughter(s), aunt(s), grandmother(s), grandma(s).

Note:  This list is not comprehensive, but meant instead as a suggested starting point. 

Uncovering Women's Full Names in CHM Collections

In 2021, librarians in the Chicago History Museum’s Research and Access department began efforts to identify women featured in CHM collections by their full names. This work was inspired by projects at Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Yale University’s Library.

Our search of CHM’s catalog uncovered nearly 1,800 authorized and local authorities that identified women by their husband’s name. (Roughly 85% of the 1,800 authorities were attached to bibliographic records for cabinet cards and cartes de visite.)

The ways in which women have been named in ARCHIE differ. For example, we examined headings that were formatted as:

  • “[Husband’s Name], Mrs.” (e.g., Blair, William, Mrs.) 
  • “[Husband’s Name], Mrs.” in conjunction with their full name (e.g., Baker, Ed, Mrs. (Mary Furbeck)  
  • Women’s full name in conjunction with Mrs. [Husband's Name]  (e.g. Carpenter, Harriet Isham (Mrs. George A. Carpenter) 
  • [Woman’s married name], Mrs. (e.g. Brown, Mary A., Mrs.) 

CHM librarians and interns are currently in the process of updating these records with women's full, pre-marriage names. 

Process for confirming the full name:

1. Consultation of the physical item 

In some cases, the information needed was found on or within the item itself. For example, handwritten notes on the reverse side of a photograph have offered biographical information about the subject(s). One carte de visite catalog record was titled “Brown, Mrs. William H., portrait photograph,” with the heading, “Brown, William H., Mrs., 1807-1883.” When consulting the photograph, we found a handwritten note on the backside that read, "Harriet Seward Brown, Mrs. Wm H. Brown, born April 22 1807, died Sept. 1883, taken 1867." After consulting genealogical sources (e.g. Find a Grave) to confirm this information, we were able to confidently create a new local name authority, changing “Brown, William H., Mrs., 1807-1883” to “Brown, Harriet Seward, 1807-1883.”

2. Research via outside sources

Of course, we did not always find detailed information on or in the item itself. More often, further research was required. In those instances, these sources were cited:

  • Library of Congress Name Authority Files (LCNAF) -  If the person had an authorized heading, we were often able to locate full name information via the authority record. 
  • - A public online database of cemetery records. The site’s memorials, which sometimes include photos of family, grave markers, and obituaries, proved especially helpful. 
  • Historic newspapers - We referred to ProQuest’s historical Chicago Tribune database and the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections to access marriage announcements, obituaries, and other miscellaneous articles that mentioned women by their first and/or maiden names. 
  • Heritage Quest - This ProQuest database provides genealogical and historical sources and was used to access U.S. census records.
  • Wikipedia - For more prominent subjects, we turned to biographical articles, which frequently include the name(s) of spouse(s) as well as birth and death dates. 

You can view our current list of updated headings here: Staff will add to this list as more full name information is found. 

Featured CHM Collections - Archives and Manuscripts

Black Women in the Middle West Project collection [manuscript], ca. 1924-1985.

Correspondence, lists, publicity materials, and other records of the Black Women in the Middle West (BWMW) Project, a grant-funded project to document the lives of African American women and organizations in Illinois and Indiana and to encourage the donation of their historical records to research repositories.

Chicago Area Women's Sports Association records [manuscript], 1979-1996.

Meeting minutes, reports, financial records, membership files, correspondence, brochures, newspaper clippings, newsletters, press releases, photographs, and other records of the Chicago Area Women's Sports Association (CAWSA).

Chicago Women's Liberation Union records [manuscript], 1954, 1967-1978.

Correspondence, memos, committee minutes, membership lists, announcements, position papers, newsletters, and topical files of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, which was formed in 1969 as a radical, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, feminist organization building on a multi-issue women's liberation movement. Committee work included Direct Action for Rights in Employment for equal treatment and wages for women, Abortion Counseling Service for community-based alternative services, and National Outreach to establish communications with other similar organizations throughout the United States. Additional topics include feminism, gender orientation, child care, women's health care, reproductive rights, and women's legal rights, including the Equal Rights Amendment.

Illinois League of Women Voters and Cook County League of Women Voters records [manuscript], 1921-1961.

Correspondence, minutes, financial records, and other records created and/or collected by the Illinois League of Women Voters and the Cook County League of Women Voters, both nonpartisan political organizations. Materials relate to the organizations' activities in the areas of health care, housing, social security, employment, child labor, maternity and infant care, and permanent voter registration.

National Council of Jewish Women, Chicago Section records [manuscript], 1899-1973, bulk 1920-1970.

Meeting minutes, annual reports, financial records, correspondence, periodicals, newsletters, press releases, brochures, pamphlets, directories, manuals, scripts, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and other records of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Chicago Section, a community service organization.

World's Columbian Exposition, Board of Lady Managers records [manuscript], 1890-1904, bulk 1890-1894.

Archival records of the Board of Lady Managers (BLM) of the World's Columbian Exposition, which operated the Woman's Building and the Woman's Building programs and exhibitions, at the fair. Collection includes BLM meeting minutes of its board of directors, reports, lists, etc., and extensive correspondence.

Women for Peace (Chicago, Ill.) records [manuscript], 1961-1988.

Correspondence, brochures, fliers, press releases, newsletters, reports, financial materials, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other records of Women for Peace, the Chicago chapter of the national organization: Women Strike for Peace

Featured A&M collections relating to specific women:
Juliette A. Kinzie papers [manuscript], 1833-1870

Letters to Juliette A. Kinzie and manuscripts of fiction written by her.

Lois Rosen papers [manuscript], 1963-1995

Correspondence, meeting minutes, press releases, newsletters, committee reports, legal and financial documents, newspaper clippings, fliers, and other papers of Lois Rosen, a Chicago political activist and labor union advocate, who was a leader in several civic and social service organizations from the 1960s-1990s.

Mahalia Jackson papers [manuscript], 1950-1977

Correspondence, newspaper clippings, performance programs, and awards. The materials generally pertain to Jackson's professional life as a vocalist and recording artist. 

Mary McDowell Settlement (Chicago, Ill.) records [manuscript], 1894-1970, bulk 1930-1962

Letters, speeches, etc. of Mary McDowell, head resident,1894-1936, of the University of Chicago Settlement, which later became known as the Mary McDowell Settlement, and other administrators; board minutes, reports, letters, and financial papers of the settlement. 

Thyra Edwards papers [manuscript], 1932-1953, bulk 1937-1942

Correspondence, articles, scrapbook with photographs, and other papers of Thyra Edwards, a social worker at the Abraham Lincoln Centre in Chicago, Ill. 

Note:  This list is not comprehensive, but meant instead as a suggested starting point.

Featured CHM Collections - Published Material

Note:  This list is not comprehensive, but meant instead as a suggested starting point.