Guide to Women’s History Resources at the Maryland Historical Society

Guide to Women’s History Resources 

General Histories & Biographies Education WorkReligion, Charity, and Social & Moral Issues  War 
 Literature, Art & Music   Health & MedicineLaw, Marriage, Property & Women’s RightsOral HistoriesMagazines & Newspapers
Census Records City Directories  Church Records Manuscript Collections Other

Researching the lives of women often means looking in some perhaps unexpected places.  A good way to start is to determine what has already been written about women.  The Maryland Historical Society Library possesses a number of published works about specific women and women’s lives in general, and many of these can be found by browsing through subjects that begin with “women” on the Library’s on-line catalog.  The works listed include books about women and education, work, health and medicine, war, religion and charity, politics and more.

In addition to these published histories, many other sources can prove helpful in determining what women’s lives were like at various points throughout history.  Newspapers and magazines, census records, church records, directories, organizational records, and many other sources can provide insight into women’s lives in the past.  To aid in your research, we have listed below a number of the general published works on women as well as some of the less obvious resources that can sometimes yield significant information.

General Histories/Biographies

It is important to keep in mind that this type of source is often biased towards elite women, who were more likely to be educated and to record aspects of their lives.  However, they can still provide important information about women’s lives and roles in society.

  • Maryland Women (Ref. MF180.L94)
  • The Biographical Cyclopaedia of American Women (CT3260.B5)
  • Noble Deeds of American Women, 1851 (CT3260.C62)
  • Principal Women of America, being the Biographies of…: American Women Who Stand Pre-eminent in their Country (E176.P954)
  • Colonial Women of Maryland  (PAM 524)
  • Notable Maryland Women (Ref. MF180.H4N6)
  • America’s Daughters: 400 Years of American Women (HQ1410.4 1999)
  • Women as a Force in History, by Mary R. Beard (HQ1121.B36)
  • Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century (CT3260.P35)
  • Colonial Days and Dames, 1895 (E162.W55)
  • Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A biographical dictionary, 3 vols. (CT3260.N57)
  • Remember the Ladies: Women in America, 1750-1815 (HQ1418.D46)
  • Neither Heroine nor fool: Anna Ella Carroll of Maryland (MF179.C28C833)
  • Behind the Maryland Scene: Women of Influence, 1600-1800 (MF180.B393)
  • Certain Worthies and Dames of Old Maryland, c.1896 (PAM 12,317)
  • Women’s Life and Work in the Southern Colonies (F212.S77)
  • 20 Black Women: A Profile of Contemporary Black Maryland Women (MF180.M2B42)


Note that many of these works can serve as primary sources

  • A Plea for Female Education: Comprising Documents and Facts Illustrative of the Importance of the Subject, 1852 (LC142.B62)
  • Lectures on Female Education and Manners, 1811 (Rare LC1421.B9)
  • The American Lady’s Preceptor: A Compilation of Observations, Essays, and Poetical Effusions, Designed to Direct the Female Mind in a course of Pleasing and Instructive Reading, 1810 (Rare LC1461.A5 1810)
  • The Importance of Education, Particularly to Females, with Observations on the Manner of Conveying Instructions, and Other Useful Remarks, 1819 (Rare MLC1412.M16)
  • The Fireside Friend, or Female Student: being advice to young ladies on the important subject of education. With an appendix, on moral and religious education, 1840 (Rare MP3.P538F4)
  • Hours with my Pupils: Educational Addresses, etc. The Young Lady’s Guide, and Parent’s and Teacher’s Assistant, 1859 (MP3.P538H8)
  • Letters on Improvement of the mind, addressed to a young lady, 1819 (Rare MZH Bell. W.D.)
  • Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 1800 (Rare LC1421.M8)
  • Seven Lectures on Female Education, 1824 (Rare C1414.G3)
  • Catalogue of the Samuel Ready School, 1895-96 (PAM 12,328)
  • An Appeal to the Christian Public from the Society for the Liberal Education of Southern Female Children, 1867 (LC1752.A67)
  • Ingleside Seminary.. A home school for young ladies, 1845-85; prospectus (Rare MLD260.I51)
  • The Power and Passion of M. Carey Thomas (LD7062.27H67)
  • Helping Girls to Help Themselves: Dynamics of Gender at Baltimore’s Samuel Ready School for Female Orphans (PAM 10,815)


  • The Sphere and Duties of Woman: A Course of Lectures, 1851, by George W. Burnap (MP3.B964S 1851)
  • Alternative Professions: Goucher College Graduates and Social Reform: 1892-1910 (LC1651.R42)
  • Treasury Women, 1795-1795: from Sarah to Anita (JK856.G4)
  • Waterwomen (PAM 5,253)
  • Women of the Sea (VK149.S674)
  • Mistress of Riversdale: the Plantation Letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert, 1795-1821  (MF187.C6C35)
  • Notes on Women Printers in Colonial America and the United States, 1639-1975 (Z231.B37)
  • Early American Women Printers and Publishers (Z231.H83)
  •  “Needles and Pins and the Cult of True Womenhood” in Maryland Humanities, Sept/Oct. 1994 (MAS911.M394)

Religion, Charity, and Social & Moral Issues

  • Laborers Together With God: 22 Great Women in Baptist Life (BX6207.A42A425)
  • A Lecture on the historical destiny of women, 1842 (PAM 1994)
  • Characteristics of Women, 1833 (Rare PR2991.J3)
  • Women (La Femme), 1860; social and moral questions (MP3.P174.W)
  • Seventh Annual Report of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, 1840 (Sp. Col. PAM S-236)
  • Eastern Shore Society of Baltimore City List of Members, 1926 (PAM 5,813)
  • Women’s Civic League, 1924 (history) (PAM 5,979)
  • The Charter, By-Laws, Rules and Regulations of the Female House of Refuge for Female Juvenile Delinqents, 1892 (PAM 4041)


  • Women Patriots of the American Revolution (E276.C5)
  • The Women of the American Revolution, 3 vols. (E206.E45)
  • Camp Women of the American Revolution (E276.B55)
  • Bonnet Brigades; Civil War E628.M3)
  • Women at Gettysburg, 1863, by E.F. Conklin (E475.53.C57 1993)
  • Confederate Women (E467.W48)
  • The Women of the South in War Times (E487.A56)
  • The Women of the Confederacy (E628.S58)
  • The Women of the Confederacy, in which is presented the heroism of the women of the Confederacy with accounts of their trials during the war and the period of reconstruction, with their ultimate triumph over adversity…, 1906 (E487.U56)
  • Confederate Women of Arkansas in the Civil War, 1861-65 (E487.U58)
  • “Our Women in the War”: the lives they lived; the deaths they died, 1855, Charleston, SC (E628.N55)
  • The Women of the Debatable Land (E581.H94)
  • Our Women in the War: An Address by Capt. Francis W. Dawson, Delivered February 22, 1887, at the Fifth annual reunion of the Association of the Maryland line… (PAM 3737)
  • Women of the War: their Heroism and Self-Sacrifice (E628.M81)
  • Three Stories in One: The Statesman; The Confederate Soldier, the Ideal Soldier of the World; The South’s Peerless Women of the World (E467.1D26M9)

Literature, Art and Music

  • Women Artists in America: 18th Century to the Present (1790-1980)  (N6536.C532 1980)
  • Across My Path, by La Salle Corbell Pickett (women authors) (CT3260.P58)
  • A Colonial Woman’s Bookshelf (Z1039.W65H38)
  • Music Angels: A Thousand Years of Patronage, by Lubov Keefer (XM82.K43)
  • Alice Pike Barney: Her Life and Art, by Jean L. King (N6537.B222.K58)
  • Women Artists: Recognition and Reappraisal from the Early Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century (N40.P45)
  • A Study of the Role of Women in the Transformation of the Curriculum at the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of Mechanic Arts from 1825-1875, by Gena Debra Glickman (MN330.M4G559)
  • Frederick’s Legacy: The Art of Helen L. Smith (N44.S54 1998)
  • Women Artists of America, 1707-1964: The Neward Museum, April 2-May 16, 1965 [exhibition catalog] (N6505.N48)
  • Sarah M. Peale: America’s First Woman Artist, by Joan King (PS3561.K6)
  • Women of the South Distinguished in Literature, 1861 (F208.F8)

Health and Medicine

  • The Female Medical Repository (MZB Hunter & Robinson)
  • The Ovarian Hormones: Safety of the Pill, Babies After Fifty (RG103.W47)

Law, Marriage, Property, & Women’s Rights

  • The History of Women’s Rights in Maryland (PAM 10,148)
  • A Compilation of Maryland Laws of Interest to Women (MHQ1257.M35H6)
  • Women, Property, and Authority in Colonial Baltimore County, Maryland: evidence from probate records (ME195.C748)
  • Married Women in Maryland: Property and Contractual Rights (MHQ1239.B61)
  • The Report on the acts of Assembly Relating to Femme Coverts (PAM 2,350)
  • Love, Woman, and Marriage in relation to Law and Literature: Address Delivered at the Commencement Exercises of the University of Baltimore to the law and other graduates, Saturday, June 10th, 1933, by Judge Eugene O’Dunne (PAM 3584)

Oral Histories

  • The reference book Guide to the Research Collection of the Maryland Historical Society (Ref.MZ6621.M393) includes an index and description of the historical, genealogical, and oral history interviews in the Library’s collection.  Oral histories touch on topics such as women in politics, in art and music, education, civil rights, missionary work, women’s clubs, and many others.

Magazines and Newspapers

  • The National Magazine, Or Lady’s Emporium, 1830-31 [microform] (Micro); Edited and published by Mrs. Mary Barney, the National Magazine was directed to ladies and was to be generally literary and occasionally political. In addition to short stories and poetry, it published play reviews, biography, and original and selected pieces on a variety of topics--science, history, education, novel writing, railroads, travel, and people and customs of foreign lands.
  • Newspapers can reveal some of women’s participation in the public sphere and help ascertain their roles in society. Did women write letters or articles or place ads?  Was content directed mainly toward men or toward women as well.  Examining advertisements can often help determine who were the target consumers of various products.  See our list of newspapers arranged by county or by date to find relevant issues.

Census Records

  • Census records can provide information about the number of children women were having how many actually survived childhood, and about the age at when women first married and how old they were when they bore their children.  Some censuses also contain information about occupation, disabilities or mental incapacities. Special slave schedules provide information about African Americans in the antebellum period.  There also exist special censuses that document widows of soldiers.  Census records are available on microfilm.  See Guide to Using Census Records at the Maryland Historical Society for more information.
City Directories
  • City Directories include the occupation of individuals for much of the nineteenth century.  Those listed often included women, and from these directories we can learn much about where (and sometimes with whom) many women lived and what they did for a living.  Baltimore City Directories from 1796-1935 are available on microfiche and microfilm.


Church Records

  • Church registries and minutes can provide information about women’s participation in church and general religious affiliation. 

Manuscript Collections

The McIlvain Special Collections Reading Room at the Maryland Historical Society has many collections that include information relevant to women’s history.  Letters, diaries, cookbooks, household accounts, and other papers can provide much information about women’s lives in the past.  Manuscript collections are included in the Library catalog, and several guides exist to further aid researchers in finding relevant material.  One guide to the manuscript collections at the Maryland Historical Society can be accessed on-line here, and similar information can be found in two published books (Ref. MZ6621.M393 and Ref. MZ6621.M3914).  A finding aid specific to women’s history manuscript resources is available in the McIlvain Special Collections Reading Room.  One part of this aid divides those resources on women into categories such as artists, authors, education, housekeeping, marriage, motherhood, organizations, travel, and war work.  These guides can provide a more detailed and comprehensive list of women’s history resources at the Maryland Historical Society, but the collections listed below (in general chronological order) provide examples of the types of manuscripts available.

  • Griffith-Staats Cookbooks: handwritten recipes and clippings of household hints (MS 1765)
  • Mary Katharine Goddard Papers, 1779-90: printer and first woman postmaster in the colonies (MS 1517)
  • John Gilman D’Arcy Paul Collection, 1788-1970: includes 2 cookbooks with recipes and home remedies (MS 1920)
  • Martha Ogle Forman Diaries, 1814-54: diaries of life at “Rose Hill” in Cecil County (MS 1779)
  • Male Free School and Colvin Institute for Girls Records, 1828-868: various receipts of the Baltimore school for the education of poor children (MS 2427)
  • Mrs. John D’Arcy Account Book, 1831-35: accounts of household expenses of the wife of a Baltimore merchant (MS 2327)
  • Account of a 14-year old slave girl, 1834: her execution for murder (Vertical File)
  • Mrs. M.S. Duncan to John H. B. Latrobe, 1843: letter on subject of the Ladies’ Society for Promotion of Education in Africa (Vertical File)
  • Eliza Thomas Dall Commonplace Book, 1844-49: kept while a student at Patapsco Female Institute (MS 2779)
  • Anna M. Carrer Diary, 1845-1917 (MS 2113)
  • Leonora Jackson (McKim) Papers, 1852-58, 1890-1931: scrapbooks, diaries, letters, and clippings relating to life an career of American violinist (MS 1780)
  • Anna Ella Carroll Papers, 1854-90: author, alleged military strategist (MS 1224); more papers by Carroll in Crodock and Walker Families Papers, 1750-1939 (MS 196)
  • Margaret Smith Preston Diaries, 1862-64 (MS 1861)
  • Elizabeth Phoebe Key Howard Papers, 1862-97 (MS 1839)
  • Rebecca D. Davis Diary, 1863-4: young woman from Brookeville, Montgomery County’s comments on family life (MS 2111)
  • Mary Lewis Diary, 1870-77 (MS 2112)
  • Female House of Refuge Papers, 1878-87, 1912-16; personal information about inmates (MS 2876)
  • Florence Mackubin Diary, 1885-86: travels of portrait and miniature painter to Europe (MS 2114)
  • Anna Melissa Graves Papers, 1889-1961: world traveler, writer, and speaker on political causes (MS 2031)
  • Women’s Literary Club of Baltimore, 1890-1918; programs, minutes, scrapbooks, etc. (MS 988)
  • Lizette Woodworth Reese Collection, 1891-1955: literary women (MS 2084)
  • The Treva Walkling Collection, 1893-1998 (MS 2979) 
  • Marie A. W. Martin Blake Papers, 1893-196, 1944: Papers of Maryland teacher (MS 1977)
  • Grace H. Turnbull Papers, 1914-61: papers of Baltimore sculptor and author (MS 1797); autobiographical sketch and other papers (MS 2017)
  • Florence May Cooper Diary, 1915-16: American Red Cross nurse (MS 2545)
  • Elizabeth Duval Papers, 1917-18: first woman wireless operator in the US doing sea service (MS 2412)
  • Eleanor Whitely Papers, 1918-20: canteen worker during WWI (MS 2116)
  • Helen Elizabeth Brown Collection, 1918-23: papers of feminists and newspaper person with Baltimore Post (MS2484)
  • National League of American Pen Women, 1921-72; minute books, scrapbooks, etc. of Baltimore branch (MS 1892)
  • Claudia Old McKittrick, 1923-37: Diary of world traveler (MS 2115)
  • Women ‘s Eastern Shore Society Records, 1926-1986 (MS 2864)
  • Lydia Howard De Roth Papers: WWII (MS 1906)
  • Mary E.W. Risteau Collection, 1945-1978: personal and political papers of first woman elected to Maryland House of Delegates (1921) and the State Senate (1935) (MS 2456)
  • Florence Ring Kahn Papers, 1950-53, 1964: scrapbooks and miscellaneous material of Baltimore playwright and poet (MS 1518)
  • Other possible sources include pension applications; legislative petitions; letters to government officials, organization records (e.g. of charities, orphanages, reform associations, civic leagues); local records such as probate, vital, and court records; and personal papers, including letters, journals, accounts, etc.
  • See our Guides to Maryland County/Regional Resources for more information about local records.



Download PDF version of source guide