Women Working Harvard Libraries Women Working Home

Scope and Content


"It has been just about thirty years that the contemporary field of women's history has been in practice. There have been changes within the field, in the bulk of the work and where its gravity lands. The initial impulses and ambitions in the field simply were to make women visible, to put women on the historical record, to enable women's voices to be heard, to listen to their voices, and to show their points of view. That was not a simple endeavor. It involved changing—broadening—what had been seen as "history," what had been seen as historically important. It even involved changing typical periodization and assumptions about causation in history. The ambition to focus on women's lives and experiences involved revisualizing what was subject to history…Fulfilling that ambition significantly changed what was in the corpus of US history in the 1970s and into the 1980s."

Nancy Cott, Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History, Senior Fellow of the Society of Fellows, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library—Harvard University

Though it is a relatively recent field of study, women's history is inscribed across all of the Harvard Library holdings gathered since 1638. By examining those holdings afresh and querying them in a new and feminist light, the curators of Women Working have aggregated thousands of items that cast light on women's history. The result is a unique virtual collection, comprising over 650,000 individual pages from more than 3,100 books and trade catalogs, 900 archives and manuscript items, and 1,400 photographs.

Women Working is a digital exploration of women's impact on the economic life of the United States between 1800 and the Great Depression. Working conditions, workplace regulations, home life, costs of living, commerce, recreation, health and hygiene, and social issues are among the issues documented in this online research collection from Harvard University.

The collection features approximately 650,000 digitized pages and nearly 1,500 images images, including:


Materials included in Women Working provide unparalleled digital access to a significant selection of unique source materials drawn from the holdings of libraries across Harvard University:

Items digitized and included in Women Working are in the public domain.

Manuscript Materials and Published Texts

Many manuscript materials are handwritten and not generally convertible to searchable text by optical character recognition (OCR). They therefore are not full-text searchable. While manuscript materials may be included in library catalogs such as HOLLIS, manuscript repositories often rely on separate finding aids to guide users who are interested in these materials. Where possible and appropriate, the Open Collections Program provides links to finding aids at Harvard. To view Harvard finding aids online, visit the OASIS catalog.

Published texts are generally searchable in full text.


Except in incidental cases, selections in Women Working are in English.

Digitization Standards and Practices

Project cataloging and descriptive metadata practices are designed to promote discovery of digitized items in the environments that students, teachers, and researchers use. OCP applies community standards for bibliographic description, assigns persistent links to digital objects, and stores metadata in centrally supported library systems using open protocols (MODS, OAI-PMH) to facilitate discovery in major Internet search engines, as well as in library catalogs and project databases for OCP web sites.

When supported by optical character recognition (OCR) software, machine-printed texts in a variety of languages are digitized to facilitate full-text as well as catalog searching. OCR-generated texts are not corrected to be 100% accurate transcriptions of all characters in the original materials.

Digital imaging and structural metadata practices have evolved with technologies and institutional expertise—primarily in HCL Imaging Services—to produce complete, legible, navigable, citable, and portable electronic reproductions delivered by the centrally managed delivery systems of the Harvard University Library’s Office for Information Systems. Digitization processes and practices for materials preparation and quality control balance mandates for safe handling, high rates of throughput, and affordability.