Navigating Women and Social Movements

By Thomas Dublin

State University of New York at Binghamton

Last updated, September 2015


Navigating the Web Site

There are many paths of access to the resources that comprise Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000, and, because different users will have different purposes, there is no single "best way" to proceed. The site has an abundance of primary and secondary sources and a variety of powerful tools to facilitate access. These tips guide you to some effective paths. You may find others on your own. If you come across useful ways to navigate the web site that are not discussed in this guide, please drop an email to to share your ideas. We will update this document periodically. This database is a dynamic resource because, as new issues of the online journal are published, the database contents grow.

Current Issue and Back Issues

Whether your library subscribes to the Basic or the Scholar's Edition, you should begin at the home page, where you will find a link to access the table of contents of the most recent issue of the Women and Social Movements (WASM) online journal. The WASM journal makes additions to the database twice a year, including document projects, book reviews, web site reviews, teaching tools, and full-text sources. You can link to new document projects that interest you and read them as you would any journal article. You will probably want to begin with the introduction to each document project, which offers an overview of the project, or you can scan the project's document list and view the project's primary sources. From the table of contents for the most recent issue you will also find links to the tables of contents of previous issues. In addition, in the Browse column on the left-hand side of the home page, you will find another link to back issues. In this way you can view all new document projects and full-text sources that have been added to the database since 2004. For document projects published before 2004, see "Browse Document Projects" below.


A good way to access the site's resources is to employ the various Browse tools found in the Browse column on the home page. The Browse command permits you to access the main content of the database--Document Projects, Document Archives, Documents, Full Text Sources, Bibliography, and People. It also gives you access to indexes and listings of additional resources—Social Movements, Chronology, Subjects, Graphics & Tables, Book Reviews, Teaching Tools, and Back Issues.

Browse-Document Projects:

Document Projects constitute the unique feature of the database. For a chronological list of all Document Projects select Browse-Document Projects.

Document Projects are listed chronologically by their most pertinent date. Also listed are each project's author and title, and the volume and issue in which the project first appeared. You can click on the top of each column in the Browse Document Projects table of contents to sort by author, title, or volume and issue. Sorting by volume and issue, for example, will permit you to identify easily the most recently published document projects, which will appear at the bottom of the list. The title of each document project is a hard link. Clicking on that link will take you to a Table of Contents page for the project and permit access to the abstract, introduction, and documents in the project, as well as the other ancillary pages.

Document Projects offer an innovative format that unites a group of documents in ways that facilitate scholars' and students' access to the documents within an interpretive framework created by the introduction. Each project poses a specific question and presents documents that address the question.

The chronological list of document projects begins with a one-of-a-kind project, "What Are Social Movements?" which includes documents from other document projects. It provides a theoretical overview of social movements, the historical category around which the website is built. The chronological list then continues with the earliest project, dated 1665, which focuses on the interaction of French traders and Jesuits with native Illinois women in the Great Lakes region. Our latest project focuses on the Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994, and the 2000 Supreme Court decision modifying that law.

We began the publication of Document Projects in December 1997, when the web site was housed at the State University of New York at Binghamton. The first projects were extensively edited and reorganized versions of projects initiated by Binghamton students. In 2003 we began to co-publish with Alexander Street Press and started publishing Document Projects authored by historians and advanced graduate students. In March 2004, WASM became an online journal. By September 2015 we had published 118 Document Projects or Archives, including more than 4,800 documents and 1,340 images.


A valuable feature of the database is Browse-People. This browse list provides access to information about more than 17,000 individuals who are either authors of documents or people who figure prominently in documents. A box on the Browse-People page permits you to limit your browse list to authors of documents in the database. As of September 2015 there were more than 2,500 authors in the database. You may further limit your list to either primary or secondary authors by clicking boxes at the top of the listing of all authors. Primary authors are the authors of one or more primary documents in the database; secondary authors are the authors of document projects, book or web site reviews, teaching tools, or other secondary sources on the website. If you are interested in a particular author or group of authors, you can scroll through the authors listing and see what biographical information we have collected on the author(s) in question and how many documents written by that author are included in the database. A click on the author's name will produce a biographical details page including all the indexing information we have compiled on that person. The number of documents by each author is noted in the Documents By column. A click on the number in that column will produce a listing of all documents authored by that person currently in the database. These numbers will change as new document projects and full-text sources are added to the database. A click on the Documents About column will produce a listing of all documents in the database about that person. Some major historical figures appear repeatedly in the database, as both authors and subjects. For example, as of September 2015, Susan B. Anthony is the author of 39 documents and the subject of 291, while Jane Addams is the author of 21 documents and the subject of 41.


The Bibliography browse list provides a listing of all materials included in the database. As of September 2015 this includes more than 5,000 primary sources that are found in document projects, more than 3600 full-text primary sources that are not included in document projects, and almost 400 secondary sources, all of which have been key entered into the database and are fully indexed. This enormous body of materials is organized to permit varying kinds of access.

By default the list is organized alphabetically by title, but the data in the table is arrayed in columns and by clicking on the column header you can sort the list by the other fields that are presented: author, publication date, publisher, type of source, and the database in which the item is found. Clicking on the author column, for example, will provide you with an alphabetical list by author, whether individual or corporate. Thus you can view the eight sources in the database that Jane Addams authored or co-authored. Clicking on the column head for type of resource, lists audio recordings first and ends with web sites. When the Bibliography is sorted by type of source you will notice across the top of the listing the different types of resources, such as speeches or images. By clicking on Image you can view a list of images that are sources for the database. As you explore images in the database, keep in mind that the vast majority are viewed as "documents," and you will want to view them through Browse-Documents. (see below)

The Full Text Primary Sources tab on the Browse Bibliography list permits you to access those titles that are not part of document projects—more than 2,600 items in December 2012. Clicking on this tab brings up all full-text sources; notice headings at the top of the listing that you can select and deselect that permit you to produce listings of specific subgroups among these sources. In WASM Basic Edition, publications of Black Woman Suffragists, numbering more than 1,100 in December 2015 (and slated to grow to some 1,550 by September 2016), provide the largest grouping of full-text sources. In WASM Scholar's Edition, the largest of these groups are the publications by Commissions on the Status of Women, 1960-2005 (with 1800 items). There are also smaller arrays of full-text sources, including works related to the Struggle for Woman Suffrage, 1830-1930; Woman's Rights Conventions, 1848-1869; Women and Antislavery, 1836-1839, proceedings of annual national meetings of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, 1874-1898, publications of the League of Woman Voters, and Gender Bias Reports prepared in the 1980s and 1990s. Knowing which books are available in full-text format in the database permits you to employ the site's search capability more effectively. The full-text portion of the database will grow by about 5,000 pages annually, focusing on themes related to the history of women and social movements in the United States.

Navigating Full-Text Sources

The Full-Text Sources tab on Browse Bibliography will bring up a listing of all full-text sources on the web site. You can select among titles by the subcategories noted above. When you click on the full-text source entry for an individual item, you are taken to a main page for that source that includes a citation at the top and a table of contents listing for the source. That table of contents has been generated dynamically by a program operating on all the indexing information keyed into the database for each item on WASM. The table of contents lists the front matter of the work, where available, any chapters in the work, as well as any documents or images that are components of the work.

Here it is helpful to recall the structure of the WASM database. We have keyed into the database individual documents that are parts of document projects. We have also keyed in full-text sources that stand on their own in the database. We make a distinction between entire works, which we call "sources," and components of entire works, which we call "documents." A "document" can be an image, a table, a chapter, or an extract that is part of a larger work, or "source." The History of Woman Suffrage, the six-volume history prepared by woman's rights activists, is viewed in these terms as six distinct sources in the full-text sources section of the web site. However, the editors of these volumes included more than 800 letters, speeches, newspaper accounts, and other items in their history, and our indexing permits us to list the authors and titles of these component parts as separate "documents" in the database. The organization of tables of contents gives users access to full works through their chapters or other major components. Our "table of contents" lists the chapters, appendices, and included documents, and by clicking on a particular entry you can move to that location in the full-text source and begin reading. Also, if you perform various searches of the database, these individual components will come up as results for your searches. The surest way to read consecutively through a full-text source is to read through the first chapter, then click on the down-arrow in the drop-down menu and find and highlight the next chapter. In that way you can read through a multi-chapter work without the repetition that might occur if you click on "Next" and go to subcomponents that you have already viewed.


The term Documents refers to all documents in the database—those contained in Document Projects and those that are components of Full Text Sources, numbering almost 51,000 items in September 2015. Thus "documents" include advertisements, chapters of books, diaries, images, legal documents, letters, and speeches, but also graphs, tables, and photographs that are included in Full Text Sources.

One can view these separate documents, with appropriate bibliographical information, in the Browse-Documents list. In December 2012, this list included 1,340 images, 1,787 letters, and 1,200 speeches. You may rearrange this list to reflect your interests, exploring it by year, author, or title. Organizing the listing by author, for example, reveals 21 items by Jane Addams, 43 by Susan B. Anthony, and five by Bella Abzug, to name just three authors found among the A's. Conversely, organizing the listing by document dates reveals 95 items published before 1800 compared to more than 2,000 items dating from the 1890s. In this way you can see the current chronological strengths and limitations of the database as they pertain to your interests.


The Browse-Movements command on the home page Navigation Bar produces an alphabetical listing of ninety social movements or social movement organizations that are important in U.S. Women's History and are well represented in the database. For each social movement or organization, we offer a brief description and we also indicate the number documents published by or about the movement or organization that are found in the database. For example, there are forty-seven documents in the database relating to the Age of Consent movement and 49 relating to the American Birth Control League. We list separately documents that discuss an organization and those that were authored by the organization. For instance, we have 1551 documents in the database published by the League of Women Voters, 421 about the anti-slavery movement, and another 430 about the Civil Rights Movement. If you click on any of these listings, you can view a list of the documents with these references and may choose to open those documents and read further. For each social movement or organization we also offer a link to a page permitting users of the database to access the organizational details about each social movement or organization. Among those details are names of prominent activists within the movement or organization whom users of the database may search for separately.

Browse Chronology

The Browse Chronology link on the home-page Navigation Bar goes to a chronological list of significant events in U.S. Women's History. Naming seventy-three events, the Chronology then offers links to documents found in either the document projects or the full-text sources on the website. As we add new documents to the database, our links in this area will also expand. If you want to use the database in conjunction with a specific historical event, check this chronology first and quickly find your way to documents related to your focus.

Search Commands

Accessing Search from the site's home page permits one to perform searches on texts, people, or movements. The Texts tab on the Search page provides access to text searching across the database. From the search texts screen one can search for a word or group of words throughout the database, or one can employ an extensive subject index to search for relevant documents. One finds, for example, that there are 291 places in the database where the word "lynching" appears; in addition, searching for the subject term "lynching" reveals 183 relevant documents. Similar subject searches reveal 54 documents relating to the age of consent, 470 related to contraception, and 418 related to civil rights. You can also limit your search to a particular individual or corporate author or to a specific source. You can search for text in documents written in particular time periods, or regions, or by authors based on gender, race, or nativity. The possibilities for constructing searches are almost endless and the power of the site's engine is great.

Some examples will illustrate the text searching and indexing capabilities of Search Texts. The search page provides a window for a full-text search string, a group of windows to specify indexing terms for the document, and a third group of windows to specify the identity or characteristics of the author. If we search for documents written before 1900 that deal with temperance, we find that there are 971 documents in the database but that only 17 were written by African Americans. If we change our focus to writings about contraception in the twentieth century, we find 152 documents in all, of which 18 were written by African Americans.

The power of search engine stems from its flexibility: it can search the entire database or search a single book, chapter, or section. Suppose that you have been studying an early suffrage activist, Harriet Hanson Robinson of Massachusetts, and you are interested in exploring her attitudes toward the two national suffrage leaders, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone. To search within Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: A General, Political, Legal and Legislative History From 1774 to 1881, start typing the title of the work in the Title field. As you type the title, the database opens a drop-down menu with all book, chapter, or section titles that match what you are typing. You may highlight and select the appropriate title from that menu when you see it there. Two successive searches for references to Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Cady Stanton reveal links to 11 and 8 documents respectively. The search results for "Lucy Stone" list the different documents with references to Stone. In some sources, "Chapter II," for example, one can next click on "all hits" and go to a list of the 17 places in that chapter with references to Lucy Stone. Reading these marked passages provides a preliminary basis for exploring Robinson's relationship with these two suffrage leaders.

Another way to employ the search engine would be to use it to find particular kinds of documents. Take for instance the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage. This remarkable source reprinted a great many valuable primary sources. If you enter "History of Woman Suffrage" into the Title window, you can limit your search to this resource. You can narrow the search further by leaving the text window blank and selecting documents that are speeches. This search reveals that there are 150 speeches reprinted in the six volumes. This search would permit one to access a substantial body of speeches for subsequent analysis. A further specification that the authors of the speeches should be male reveals that 36 of the speeches were given by men, enabling one to analyze the differences between rhetorical strategies employed by male and female speakers as recorded in the History. Selecting further on race indicates that three of the speeches--two by Sojourner Truth and one by Frederick Douglass--were given by African Americans. Selecting characteristics of authors and at the same time searching for strings of words would permit quite focused analysis of these speeches. One could compare speeches given at the women's rights conventions of the 1850s with those offered in other venues in the 1880s. The ability to combine full-text searching with information about authors and publications makes the website's search capabilities especially strong.

Finally, one can limit a full-text search to a single document project. On the Search Texts screen, in the Title field begin typing the title of the document project. As you do so, a drop-down menu will appear with the full title for the project and you can select it. Go next to the full-text window on the menu screen and type in a word or phrase of interest that you hope to find in the document project and click on search. The search will then list all occurrences of your full-text expression in the document project.

Search--People--limit to Authors opens up an author search screen with a variety of search variables. If you search for the race of an author, click on select terms you can choose from a range of values for race. Selecting Black and then searching produces an alphabetical list--which if you further limit to primary authors--that notes 275 authors (about 11 percent of all authors for whom race is known). Native American authors are much less frequent, numbering ten authors of eleven documents. You may also search by gender, nationality, birthplace, ancestry, religion or social movement, or you may narrow your results by combining any number of these terms in a single search. A search for black female authors born before 1850, for instance, yields 22 authors in the database, while a search for black female authors affiliated with the temperance movement finds nine authors in the database.

The Search-Movements command permits you to search the database using a growing set of index terms relating to social movements and social movement organizations. In all, more than 1,200 social movements or social movement organizations are currently accessed through this command. You can click on a given window and select a particular value from a series of drop-down menus. If you select Black in the race window and check off "organization" and "proceedings" under Type, you'll find references to 102 different African-American social movements or organizations, organizational details about each, and from one to fifty links to documents in the database that relate to the organization in question. Another field for searching is that of key people. You may select individuals from an extensive alphabetical list. In the process you can find that Susan B. Anthony was associated with 6 associations or organizations. Jane Addams is shown as connected with five organizations or groups with 403 related documents. You can also explore along lines of associations' reform focus. Selecting from a drop-down menu of index terms reveals 16 abolition organizations with 500 associated documents in the database. The variety of index terms for this search screen and the detailed indexing throughout the database sources make the Search-Movements command a valuable tool for research.

These "tips" for utilizing the database only begin to explore the possibilities in the Women and Social Movements website. Explore the website yourself and let us know if you discover interesting ways to access its information. Or let us know if you have questions about using its resources. We would be glad to hear about your successes and help you overcome any problems that you might encounter with the database.

September 2015

Thomas Dublin
Kathryn Kish Sklar

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