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Bibliographical guides

American Women in the Twentieth Century: a Guide to Materials in the British Library
Jean Kemble

In the wake of the American women's movement of the 1960s, women's history became a focus for scholarly interest with a suddenness and intensity almost unprecedented in U.S. historical research.

Understandably, perhaps, given the traditional concern of historiography with the public rather than the private sphere, research initially tended to emphasise the women's suffrage movement and the lives of prominent individuals. With the rise of the new social history, however, it soon became apparent that such research failed to illuminate the history of the vast majority of American women.

As the 1970s progressed, an increasing number of historians turned instead to the experiences of these "ordinary" women. In particular, they focused upon continuity and change in women's roles and responsibilities, changes in women's status and identity, and women's relations with men and other women. They also began to examine how the dominant images and ideals of a "woman's place" had altered over time, and how women themselves had responded.

Until the mid-1980s, most research centred upon the experiences of white women in the Northeast United States. The publication of several significant works about African American women, immigrant women, and women in the American West helped to correct this bias, and this has been a vigorous and sustained trend. At the present time, both the amount and the quality of historical information that exists on every aspect of women's lives - from the colonial period to the recent past - is remarkable and the interest of students, academics and the general public continues unabated.

This guide is intended as a bibliographical tool for those seeking an introduction to the lives of American women in the twentieth century: a century of unprecedented innovation, transition, and change. The guide is by no means comprehensive. It should, however, provide a solid foundation for initial exploration as well as a platform for further research. With the notable exception of creative literature it addresses most aspects of women's experience and culture, including education, work, family life, politics, ethnicity, and sexuality.

The guide includes both monographs and periodical articles. Shelf-marks for the former appear in parentheses at the end of each entry; those for the latter may be found in the final section of the guide. The majority of works are held at the British Library at St Pancras, London. A shelf-mark prefaced by 'DSC' indicates that the work is held at the Document Supply service in Boston Spa, Yorkshire, but may be ordered for reading in London.

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