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Women's History Sourcebook


"Yes, I am fond of history."
"I wish I were too. I read it a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me.  The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all -- it is very tiresome:"
  Catherine Morland, in Northhangar Abbey (1803),
  by Jane Austen

How are historians to remedy the silence about women in many traditional accounts of history? This question has received a number of distinct answers.

The first solution was to locate the great women of the past, following the lead of much popular historiography that focuses on "great men". The problem here is that just as the "great men" approach to history sidelines and ignores the lives of the mass of people, focusing on great women merely replicates the exclusionary historical approaches of the past.

The next solution was to examine and expose the history of oppression of women. This approach had the merit of addressing the life histories of the mass of women, but, since it has proved to be possible to find some degree of oppression  everywhere, it tended to make women merely subjects of forces that they could not control. On the other hand, historians' focus on oppression revealed that investigating the structures of women's lives was crucial.

In recent years, while not denying the history of oppression, historians have begun to focus on the agency of women. All human beings are subject to some degree of social forces that limit freedom, but within those limits people are able to exercise greater or lesser degrees of control over their own lives. This insight applies equally to women even in oppressive societies.

These various approaches to the history of women are not exclusive. This sourcebook attempts to present online documents and secondary discussions which reflect the various ways of looking at the history of women within broadly defined historical periods and areas.

***

This page is a subset of texts derived from the three major online Sourcebooks listed below.

For help in research, homework, and so forth see

Notes:

In addition to direct links to documents, links are made to a number of other web resources.

2ND
Link to a secondary article, review or discussion on a given topic.
MEGA
Link to one of the megasites which track web resources.
WEB
Link to a website focused on a specific issue.. These are not links to every site on a given topic, but to sites of serious educational value.

Contents

  • The Historical Study of Women
  • Human Origins
  • Ancient Egypt
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Gender Construction
  • Ancient Mesopotamia
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Gender Construction
  • Greece
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Gender Construction
  • Rome
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Gender Construction
  • Medieval Europe
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • Early Modern Europe
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • Modern Europe
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • North America
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Women Authors
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • Latin America
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • China
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • Japan
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • India
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • South East Asia
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • Australasia
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • Africa
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • The Islamic World
    • General
    • Great Women
    • Women's Oppression
    • The Structure of Women's Lives
    • Women's Agency
    • Apologetics
    • Feminism
    • Gender Construction
  • Further Resources in Women's History

The Historical Study of Women
Human Origins
Ancient Egypt

General

Great Women

Queens, Noblewomen, Warriors

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

  • Egyptian Love Poetry, c. 2000 - 1100 BCE [At this Site]
  • The Offering of Uha, c. 2400 BCE [At this Site]
    Male and Female Circumcision in Egypt.
  • Princess Ahura: The Magic Book, c. 1100 BCE [At this Site]
    On the brother-sister marriage of the two children of the King Merneptah.

Women's Agency

Gender Construction


Ancient Mesopotamia

General

Great Women

Queens, Noblewomen, Warriors

Women Writers

Goddesses

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Gender Construction


Greece

General

Great Women

Queens, Noblewomen, Warriors

  • Herodotus (c.490-c.425 BCE): Artemisia at Salamis, 480 BCE
    Artemesia was rule of Halicarnassus.
  • Aspasia
  • Olympia
  • Arsinoë
  • Cleopatra VII

Women Writers and Intellectuals

Goddesses

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Gender Construction


Rome

General

Great Women

Queens, Noblewomen, Warriors

Women Writers and Intellectuals

  • Sulpicia (Late 1st Cent. CE): Poems [At Diotima] or in Latin [At The Latin Library]
    The only surviving Roman female poet.
  • Socrates Scholasticus: The Murder of Hypatia
    A leading female philosopher, Hypatia was murdered by a Christian mob in Alexandria, urged on by St. Cyril.   See also The Hypatia Page. Three historical version's of Hypatia's murder are available, and useful for comparative purposes

Goddesses

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Gender Construction

  • Petronius Arbiter (c.27-66 CE): Satyricon c.61 CE
    See 2ND The Satyricon of Petronius [At Southwestern][Modern Account]
  • Priapea (collected 5th Cent CE) in Latin [At IPA]
    Said by the Oxford Classical Dictionary2 to be "uniformly obscene".

Medieval Europe

General

Great Women

Queens, Noblewomen, Warriors

Women Writers

Religious Women: Saints

Religious Women: Monasticism

The Cult of the Virgin Mary

Women's Oppression

Misogyny

  • Athanasius: Life of Anthony [From Ante-Nicene and Nicene Fathers Series]. See also Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Anthony or Encyclopedia Britannica (9th ed): Athanasius
    Just as the martyrdom of Polykarp is a model text for many other martyrdom accounts, the Life of Anthony provided a model for accounts of saints - later called confessors whose sanctity was manifested by a holy - usually monastic - life rather than by a heroic death for the faith.
  • Sprenger and Kramer: The Malleus Maleficarum [The Hammer of Witches], 1484, [Full Text] [At Sacred Texts]
  • Witchcraft Legends, Translated and/or edited by D. L. Ashliman, [At Pitt]
  • Ibn Fadlan. Risala, 921 CE [At VikingAnswerLady]
    Ibn Fadlan was an Arab chronicler. In 921 C.E., the Caliph sent Ibn Fadlan with an embassy to the King of the Bulgars of the Middle Volga. Ibn Fadlan wrote an account of his journeys with the embassy, called a Risala. This Risala is of great value as a history. It contains an account of a Viking version of suttee.

Courtly Love

The Structure of Women's Lives

Marriage

Everyday Life

  • Stephen de Bourbon: De Supersticione: On St Guinefort
    The basis of the film The Sorceress about a sainted dog. Based on the tradition of St. Christopher as being "dog-faced".
  • Master Huen's Boke of Gode Cookery
    A compilation of Medieval recipes from period sources, with modern adaptations for the 20th c. kitchen. With diverse facts on food & feasting in the Middle Ages, and many things related historically. [At SCA site: at labs.net]

Everyday Life: Jewish Women

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction

Men's Roles

Sexualities


Early Modern Europe

General

Great Women

Queens, Noblewomen, Political Leaders

Women Writers

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction


Modern Europe

General

Great Women

Queens, Noblewomen, Political Leaders

  • Margaret Thatcher: Christianity and Wealth, Speech made to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, May 21, 1988 [At this Site] 

Women Writers

  • WEB Victorian Women Writers Project Library
  • Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797): Maria, 1795-97 [At Project Gutenberg] [Full Text]
    [The attribution in the text to Mary Shelley must be wrong, since Mary W. died giving birth to Mary Godwin (later Shelley) in 1797.] Mary Shelley (1797-1851): Frankenstein, 1818 [At Project Gutenberg] [Full Text]
  • Mary Shelley (1797-1851): The Last Man [At this Site]
  • WEB The Gaskell Page [At Nagoya]
    A Comprehensive web page dedicated to the works of Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65). It includes ALL of Mrs. Gaskell's writings as etexts, as well as a lot of ancillary material about 19th-century England.
  • Elizabeth Gaskell: North and South, 1855, excerpts [At Internet Archive, from Clinch Valley College]
  • Elizabeth Gaskell: Mary Barton - A tale of Manchester life [At Project Gutenberg][Full Text]
  • Elizabeth Gaskell: North and South [At Project Gutenberg][Full Text]
  • Elizabeth Gaskell: Cranford [At Project Gutenberg][Full Text]
  • Vera Brittain: Testament of Youth, excerpts [At Virginia]

Women Leaders in Professions

  • Florence Nightingale (1820-1910): Rural Hygiene [At this Site]
    Life on the farm was not that much of an improvement over a factory. But, eventually, the social activists turned their eyes on the countryside as well.
  • WEB Florence Nightingale: Selected Correspondence [At kumc.edu]
  • Marie Curie (1867-1934): On the Discovery of Radium [At this Site]

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Religious Women

Feminism

Gender Construction


North America

General

Great Women

Political Leaders/ Social Activists

Women Writers

Women Leaders in Professions

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

  • General
  • Work
  • Marriage Law
  • Fashion
    • Bruce Bliven: "Flapper Jane", from The New Republic, September 9, 1925. [At Pitt State][Added 7/20/98]

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction


Latin America

General

Great Women

Women Political Leaders/Social Activists

Women Writers

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction


China

General

Great Women

  • The Empress Wu:
  • Isaac Taylor Headland,  1859-1942: Court life in China: the capital, its officials and people, (New York, F.H. Revell, c1909), full text
    Contemporary discussion of reform efforts in late imperial China, with a significant discussion of the lives of elite women, and an extended account of the rule of the Empress Dowger.
  • Image: People: Cixi Tse hsi The Dowager Empress
  • Image: People: Cixi Tse hsi The Dowager Empress

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

  • The Legend of Miao-Shan
    The divinity with perhaps the most devotion in China is Guan Yin. She began as a male bodhisattva, but has now become the Chinese Goddess of Mercy through assimilation of the Buddhist belief with this old Chinese story.
  • The Tale of Mulan, the Maiden Chief, c. 502-556 CE [At this Site]
    A heroic Chinese woman warrior, and a virgin. [Cf. Joan of Arc.]
  • Pruitt, Ida, A Daughter of Han: The Autobiography of a Chinese Working Woman by Ida Pruitt from the Story Told Her by Ning Lao T'ai t'ai, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1945, repr. Stanford CA; Stanford University Press, 1967) Daughter of Han Reading Guide

Feminism

Gender Construction


Japan

General

Great Women

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction


India

General

Great Women

Women's Oppression

It is important to note that, while I in no way, wish to  minimize the implications of the sati/suttee, a number of the readings here must be understood as western colonialist texts, and be addressed from that perspective.

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction


South East Asia

General

Great Women

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction


Australasia

General

Great Women

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction


Africa

General

Great Women

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Feminism

Gender Construction

Gender and Sexualities in Modern Africa


The Islamic World

General

  • See WEB Islamic History Sourcebook
  • WEB Women in Islam [At Answering Islam]
    The website is a site devoted to arguments with Muslims. This web page contains links to explanations, defences, and attacks on the subject of women in Islam.
  • The Qur'an: The Women [At Internet Archive, from CCNY]
    From Surah's 2 and 4.
  • Ibn Battuta: Malian Women, [At Internet Archive, from CCNY]

Great Women

Women's Oppression

The Structure of Women's Lives

Women's Agency

Apologetics

Feminism

Gender Construction


Further Resources in Women's History

 


© This text is copyright. The specific electronic form, and any notes and questions are copyright. Permission is granted to copy the text, and to print out copies for personal and educational use. No permission is granted for commercial use.

If any copyright has been infringed, this was unintentional. The possibility of a site such as this, as with other collections of electronic texts, depends on the large availability of public domain material from texts translated before 1923. [In the US, all texts issued before 1923 are now in the public domain. Texts published before 1964 may be in the public domain if copyright was not renewed after 28 years. This site seeks to abide by US copyright law: the copyright status of texts here outside the US may be different.] Efforts have been made to ascertain the copyright status of all texts here, although, occasionally, this has not been possible where older or non-US publishers seem to have ceased existence. Some of the recently translated texts here are copyright to the translators indicated in each document. These translators have in every case given permission for non-commercial reproduction. No representation is made about the copyright status of texts linked off-site. This site is intended for educational use. Notification of copyright infringement will result in the immediate removal of a text until its status is resolved.

© Paul Halsall, November1998. Last Updated April 16, 2007.
halsall@fordham.edu