Women in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-1900: a
Guide to Materials in the British Library
Few regions, in any country, at any time, have so indelibly shaped their nation's identity and its international image as the late nineteenth century American West.
For nearly a century this West was portrayed in fiction, film, folklore and art as a vast arena of mythic struggles between rugged individuals, a hostile environment and even more hostile inhabitants. It was a place populated almost exclusively by single men: cowboys, miners, loggers, gold-panners and ranchers, single-mindedly creating new lives for themselves in unknown and challenging terrain. Women rarely featured, even in the work of historians, and when they did it was invariably as one of three types: genteel civilisers, sunbonneted helpmates or prostitutes.
During the past two decades, however, historians of both women and the West have increasingly turned their attention to western women's diaries, letters, journals, memoirs, novels, poems and oral histories. These sources have profoundly affected the paradigms of both fields of study, and are steadily enriching our understanding of the western experience of both women and men.
This guide is intended as a bibliographical aid for all those interested in the experiences of the women who moved to the trans-Mississippi West before 1900. It does not specifically address the lives of the Native American and Hispanic women who already inhabited this region. However, numerous works included here do indicate paths for such research.
Whilst it would be foolhardy to make claims of absolute exhaustivity for this guide, I am confident that it includes the vast majority of works published on this subject and housed at the British Library.
The works are arranged by author in three categories: state, region and subject, with many works appearing in two (and very occasionally three) places. The shelf-mark for all works appears in parentheses at the end of each citation.
Most works are housed at St Pancras; however, a shelf-mark prefaced by 'DSC' indicates that the work is held at Boston Spa (but may be read at St Pancras), and the shelf-mark 'BLNL' indicates that the work is held at the British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale and may only be viewed there.
Finally, readers should note that this guide does not mention the sizeable number of autobiographies, journals and other sources included in the microfilm collection History of Women. Both the index to this collection (RAM 305.4) and the microfilms themselves (Mic.b.955/ ) are held in the Rare Books Reading Room at St Pancras.
Women in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-1900 (PDF format), 625KB