Answered By: Amanda Roper Last Updated: Dec 12, 2016 Views: 7
This is a fascinating topic, but I must warn you it is extremely broad. If you are doing a paper of less than seven pages you will want to narrow down to a more specific type of American woman or a particular issue.
For example, “political and social rights” could include the Suffrage movement, education, marriage, parenting, financial rights (i.e. the ability to own property and inherit), and a host of other topics. A better topic would be “The 19th Century Woman and the Fight for the Vote” (keep in mind women did not earn the right to vote until 1920). “American women” is also a huge catch-all phrase. The political and social rights of an upper-class, white woman in Boston would be vastly different from the rights of an African-American slave woman in Georgia, or a lower-class Irish Immigrant in New York. Race and class profoundly impact political and social rights. A better topic would be “The Political and Social Rights of Female Ex-Slaves in 19th Century America.” I hope you see what I’m emphasizing; you either need to focus in on a particular political/social right or a particular type of woman. If you don’t narrow you’ll find thousands of sources and too much information can be just as frustrating as too little.
To help narrow your topic, I suggest you visit our American Experience LibGuide (http://libguides.brenau.edu/america). Once you are in the LibGuide click on the “US History” tab. In the middle of the page you’ll see a heading that says, “General American History: Primary Documents and Web Sites.” Under that heading is a link to “American Women through Time.” This resource highlights famous women, historical events, and pertinent issues by time. You’ll be able to quickly glance and issues, event, and famous women and this will help narrow your focus.
Once you’ve narrowed your topic it will be much easier to find search terms that will yield a manageable number of results.