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Digital Collections at Schlesinger Library

Digitization at Schlesinger Library

Schlesinger Library has a robust digitization program that makes manuscript collections, books, periodicals, and photographs available to researchers across the globe. In the past ten years, the Library has digitized 1,140,672 pages of material. From the papers of public intellectual Charlotte Perkins Gilman to the research files of feminist artist Judy Chicago, the library’s digital collections span two centuries of women’s history.

Digital Collections Platform

The digital collections platform for the following collections was retired on May 31, 2022. You can continue to access the digitized content at the links below.

Susan B. Anthony

Portrait of Susan B. Anthony

Please visit the Susan B. Anthony research guide for more information and access to the digitized content.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) is best known for her key role in the campaign for women’s suffrage. Anthony was first active in the temperance and anti-slavery movements. In May 1869 she organized the National Woman Suffrage Association, with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as president. From 1891 to 1900, she was the second president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In November 1872, Anthony and a group of other women were arrested for voting in a federal election. Anthony was put on trial and the judge sentenced her to pay a fine of $100, which she refused to pay.

Susan B. Anthony died in March 1906, shortly after attending the National American Woman Suffrage Association annual convention in Baltimore, Maryland, and fourteen years before the Nineteenth Amendment gave American women the legal right to vote.

The Schlesinger Library’s Susan B. Anthony collections include diaries, correspondence (with family members and with fellow suffragists, abolitionists, and temperance workers), genealogies, and speeches, as well as photographs and memorabilia, documenting Anthony’s life and work as well as the lives of other suffragists including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anna Howard Shaw, and Carrie Chapman Catt.

Beecher-Stowe Family

Group portrait of ten Beecher-Stowe family members

Please visit the Beecher-Stowe Family research guide for additional information and access to the digitized materials.

The Beecher family is considered by many as one of the most influential families among its contemporaries. The family is known for their stance on abolition, religion, education, and women’s rights. Its members had written and preached about the immorality of slavery for decades and had taken action in various ways, including purchasing and subsequently freeing slaves. When the Civil War began, they were ardent supporters. Like other abolitionist families, they sent family members into the war as soldiers, officers, chaplains and teachers: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s son, several nephews, two half-brothers, and a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law served in some capacity.

The collection housed at the Schlesinger Library consists of over 10,000 items, which includes correspondence (both business and personal), manuscripts, newspaper articles, and photographs from family members. Across the collection, there are documents related to Lyman Beecher, Catharine Beecher, Edward Beecher, Charles Beecher, Henry Ward Beecher, William Beecher, Thomas Beecher, James Beecher, Calvin Ellis Stowe, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Blackwell Family

Group portrait of 14 Blackwell family members

Please visit the Blackwell Family research guide for more information about accessing the digitized materials.

The Blackwell family papers contain correspondence, diaries, writings, financial records, drawings, organizational records, and other material that document family members' personal, professional, and public lives. For more than a century and across generations, the Blackwells offered each other advice on courtship, marriage, finances, domestic relations, health, and childrearing.

In addition to personal and family matters, these documents highlight the important issues the Blackwell family confronted: abolition; the women’s rights and woman’s suffrage movements in the United States and England; temperance; education of women and the entrance of women into the professions; public health; and Utopian movements. Notable correspondents include abolitionists Gerritt Smith, Julia Ward Howe and Samuel Howe, Horace Greeley, and William Lloyd Garrison; suffrage activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony; and English women doctors with whom Elizabeth Blackwell collaborated and worked. Records of the Woman's Journal, a weekly newspaper focused on women’s rights and suffrage issues, founded by Henry Blackwell and Lucy Stone in 1870, are included in this collection.

The digitization of the Schlesinger Library's Blackwell family papers was generously funded by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission in 2013-2015.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Portrait of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, smiling at the camera

Please see the Charlotte Perkins Gilman research guide for more information about accessing the digitized materials, including approximately 37,000 digitized pages. These items include correspondence, diaries, manuscript drafts, articles, reviews, clippings, photographs, and drawings documenting Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s extensive output as a writer as well as her romantic and family life. The digitization of this collection took place between April 2009 and June 2010, thanks to a generous gift from Cynthia Green Colin (a Radcliffe College alumna) to the Institute. As part of the Schlesinger Library’s Experimental Archives Project, funded by the Schlesinger Library Council, this project represents the first attempt to bring one of our most popular collections online.

A socialist and deist, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an independent thinker, author, and speaker who was an intellectual leader of the women's movement from the late 1890s through the mid-1920s. Often known for her short story “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” Gilman also wrote nonfiction works about the social and economic position of women. Additionally, she published a magazine called The Forerunner. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Gilman was a great-granddaughter of Lyman Beecher. She grew up mainly in Providence, Rhode Island, and in 1884 married Charles Walter Stetson, an artist. They had one daughter, Katharine Stetson Chamberlin, and were divorced in 1894. In the 1890s Gilman lived in California. After her marriage (1900) to Houghton Gilman, a lawyer, and a cousin, she lived in New York City and then in Norwich, Connecticut. She died in Pasadena.

Inex Milholland

Inez Milholland riding a horse.

Please visit the finding aid for the Inez Miholland collection (Call#: MC 308) for more information and access to the digitized content.

Inez Milholland was a lawyer specializing in criminal and divorce practice; she zealously advocated a variety of reform causes, including women's suffrage, abolition of the death penalty, and the rights of working people. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she graduated from Vassar College in 1909, and received an LL.B. degree from New York University in 1912. In July 1913, she married Eugen Jan Boissevain, a New York importer, of Dutch citizenship. The resulting change in her citizenship status threatened to exclude Milholland from law practice, and she quickly became involved in attempts to repeal the offending legislation.

Proclaiming herself a Socialist, Milholland joined the Women's Trade Union League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Fabian Society of England. In 1915, as a war correspondent in Italy, she wrote a series of pacifist articles and as a result was expelled by the Italian government late that summer. In 1916, Milholland took part in a garment workers' strike and was instrumental in securing a last-minute reprieve for Charles Stielow, a West Shelby, New York farmer accused of murder and sentenced to be executed in the electric chair. Concurrently, Milholland was becoming increasingly active in the women's suffrage movement. She joined the Congressional Union, and, though suffering from pernicious anemia, undertook a speaking tour of the West in support of suffrage.

Alice Paul

ScreenshAlice Paul takling into a phone.

Please visit the finding aid for the Alice Paul collection (Call#: MC 399) for more information and access to the digitized content.

A social worker in New York City, 1905-1907, Paul also studied economics and sociology at the universities of London and Birmingham and worked at a number of British social settlements (1907-1910). While in England she was active in the Women's Social and Political Union and was arrested and jailed repeatedly as a participant in the campaign for women's rights led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia.

Returning to the United States in 1910, Paul was appointed chair of the Congressional Committee of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1912. In June 1916, the National Woman's Party was organized, its nucleus composed of Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage members and its sole plank a resolution calling for immediate passage of the federal amendment guaranteeing the enfranchisement of women (the "Susan B. Anthony Amendment"). Following its reorganization in 1921, after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in August 1920, the National Woman's Party began a long battle to end all legal discrimination against women in the United States and to raise the legal, social, and economic status of women around the world. As written in 1923 by Paul, the Equal Rights Amendment (known also as the "Lucretia Mott Amendment") was first introduced in Congress in December of that year. For almost fifty years, the National Woman's Party had this or later versions of the ERA introduced in every session of Congress; it was passed in the House and Senate in 1971 and 1972, respectively but, with a 1982 deadline, failed to secure the votes necessary for ratification. Almost all of Paul's life was devoted to her work in the National Woman's Party and World Woman's Party, and for the ERA, and her papers reflect this devotion.

Dorothy West

Portrait of Dorothy West

Please visit the finding aid for the Dorothy West collection (Call#: MC 676) for more information and access to the digitized content.

Dorothy West, an African American writer best known for her 1948 novel The Living Is Easy, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 2, 1907. In 1926, West and her cousin, the poet Helene Johnson, moved to New York City, where West enrolled in classes at Columbia University's Extension Division. The two young writers became involved in the artistic and intellectual movement known as the Harlem Renaissance; West's friends included such prominent figures as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, and Claude McKay. West was one of a group of 22 African American writers invited to the Soviet Union in 1932 to make a film about black life in the United States. After the group arrived, the film was cancelled, but West stayed on in the Soviet Union for several months until she got word in early 1933 that her father had died. After returning to New York, West decided to edit and publish a magazine of contemporary African American writing, Challenge.

Beginning in 1940, West's short stories were often published in the New York Daily News. Her first novel, The Living Is Easy, about upper class African Americans in Boston, was published in 1948. Aside from the Daily News, little of her work was published until the late 1960s, when she began to publish autobiographical pieces and stories in the Vineyard Gazette, where she worked as a billing clerk. West wrote a weekly "Oak Bluffs" column for the Vineyard Gazette from 1973 to 1993, and continued to publish longer pieces in the paper. Several collections of her writings have been published posthumously: The Dorothy West Martha's Vineyard (2001), Where the Wild Grape Grows: Selected Writings, 1930-1950 (2005), and The Last Leaf of Harlem (2001).

In great demand by researchers, the Dorothy West Collection began to show the effects of constant use, becoming more and more fragile. In 2011, with support from the Pine Tree Foundation, the collection received a thorough conservation treatment and was digitized. With over 7,000 digitized items documenting the life and writings of Dorothy West, this collection includes drafts, revisions, and documentation of West's travel to Russia. The collection also contains extensive correspondence, including letters from Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Fannie Hurst, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Weldon Johnson.

Catching the Wave: Photographs of the Women's Movement

Among the treasures in the Schlesinger Library are photograph collections that document the women’s liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s: images by Bettye Lane and Freda Leinwand, both of whom spent years capturing the moments, both big and small, that made up one of the most transformative times in U.S. history. While the Schlesinger began collecting these photographs in 1979, their families, upon the death of the photographers, donated the bulk of their collections just recently. In 2014, the Schlesinger Library was awarded a Hidden Collections grant by the Harvard Library. The grant allowed us to select, catalog and digitize images that depict the women's movement, approximately 4,000 of the total 40,000 images, including prints, negatives and slides, in the two collections. Both collections came with donor-supplied metadata that we repurposed and transcribed to create the catalog records. The Catching the Wave site acts as a curated view into these wonderful images.

College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education

Note: This resource ceased to be available on November 1, 2023.
College Women is a searchable collection of diaries, letters, scrapbooks, and photographs from the archives of a select group of the earliest women’s colleges in the United States, the Seven Sisters. The intention of the site is to open new avenues for research in American women’s history by making the dispersed writings, images and documents of women students easily accessible through a single search. When brought together, the collections will enable new studies in political reform and women’s rights, sexuality and body image, religion, race and class, as well as major domestic and international events.

Schlesinger Library contributed material about the history of Radcliffe College to this project.

Judy Chicago Portal

The Judy Chicago Portal bridges collections housed in three institutions: Penn State University, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Schlesinger Library. The collaboration among a public university library, a private institutional library, and a museum gives each repository the opportunity to consider and embrace new audiences and to highlight their collective interest in Judy Chicago’s oeuvre and overall impact.