Alexander Street Press; alexanderstreet.com/products/women-and-social-movements- international; for free trials, go to alexanderstreet.com/node/291?pid=247
CONTENT Women and Social Movements, International‚ 1840‚ Present (WASMI), is a collection of primary-source materials from more than 300 repositories around the world. The documents are mainly in copyright and previously unpublished. They include letters, diaries, unpublished manuscripts, conference proceedings (a major portion of the file), journal articles, memoirs, photographs, ephemera, and national committee reports. These are licensed from women’s organizations, archives, and publishers and accompanied by scholarly essays for historical context. The file also provides links to 20,000 pages of online primary-source material.
Approximately seven percent of the content is in Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Russian, or Spanish, and well over half of the published material is from outside the United States. Alexander Street Press will add material periodically and plans for the collection to contain 150,000 pages when the file is complete in December 2012.
USABILITY The homepage’s top toolbar has buttons for home, browse, advanced search, playlists, new material, and help and a simple search box with options to comb all subjects, author, collections, full text, organizations, or title. From a column at screen left, users can browse all materials or archives, secondary essays, people, places, organizations, all subjects, or proceedings, as well as a number of themes (encompassing human rights, law, race, sexuality, and more). The center of the homepage displays a welcome note and feature items from the file.
Since proceedings are a major feature of WASMI, I began by browsing them, starting with the five typed pages of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Africa Program Committee, by the African-American Institute, Women’s Africa Committee (June 20, 1958) and continuing with items such as the five typed pages of the Minutes of Consultation of Representatives of the YWCA of the United States and Canada Regarding West Africa, at the National Headquarters of the YWCA of Canada (December 10, 1956).
Other proceedings uncovered include those of the All Asian Women’s Conference, the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the International Council of Jewish Women, the League of Nations, and the Peace and Disarmament Committee of the Women’s International Organisations. This is just a tiny taste of what’s here. The extent of the content is impressive; it comes from a large host of sources and is backed up with detailed provenance notes, and the scans are high quality and easily manipulated.
Next I browsed themes, which include Social reform and political activism, Women and education, Women and development, Women and sexuality, birth control, and health, Work and class identity, Peace, international governance, and international law, Political and human rights, and Women of color. These themes can be refined‚ the 1,527 results found under Political and human rights, for example, narrowed to 476 when I used the Refine feature under advanced search to find material covering Pakistan.
Browsing Places Discussed revealed the international nature of the file. The breakdown of locations found was Africa (470), Asia (1234), Atlantic Ocean (1), Europe (988), North America (360), Oceania (139), and South America (150). The number of Asian and African places compared to North American is impressive.
My simple search for Bandaranaike found 15 full-text results, from The Role of Women in Liberation Struggles, by Amy Jacques Garvey in The Massachusetts Review, Winter 1972, to the Report of the World Conference on International Women’s Year, by Mary Virginia Busby in U.S. Center for IWY Newsletter, No. 4-75, August 1, 1975. This is significant, as it would be hard to name another source that could come up with the full images of both of these items in ten seconds.
My next simple search, for dorothy kenyon, hit a vein of gold with 58 full-text results and 76 title hits. An examination revealed such material as Text of Address by Dr. Pauli Murray at the Memorial Service for Dorothy Kenyon and Letter from Mary Anderson to Dorothy Kenyon, March 19, 1938. Good material, but I then tried an advanced search for Kenyon in the Person Discussed field. As I typed ken, the system suggested I was looking for both Kenyon, Dorothy and Dorothy Kenyon and unearthed 12 excellent results, including the letter Press Attacks on Judge Kenyon, by Rachel Conrad Nason (June 17, 1949), and the 21-page report The Work of the Commission on the Status of Women, by Janet Henderson Robb (October 20, 1951). This is again material that could probably not be found and accessed so quickly anywhere else‚ not even in the excellent Smith College Special Collections, where the 69 boxes of material in the Dorothy Kenyon Papers are housed.
Using the detailed field searches available in advanced search, I located the seven items in Arabic in the file (Equality Now Annual Reports from 1992 to 2008), the 129 items from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, the 436 photographs now in the file, and the poem Pour Madeleine Doty by Edouard Dantan.
I was frustrated when, after finding the Dorothy Kenyon material, I returned to Browse All Subjects. Since the alphabetical subjects list was somewhat lengthy, I made use of the Find Term box, typed in Kenyon, and waited for the system to tell me if that was in the list. Two long minutes later I started over, went into Browse All Subjects again, and scanned the list until I found Kenyon, Dorothy. That approach also took a mere ten seconds.
The Playlists feature stands out. It allows users to create themed collections of documents, images, and videos that can be annotated, edited, copied, and shared and used for class viewing. This promises to be an essential application for this file.
The depth of content in this data base is superb and so is its usability‚ I love the multiple and powerful ways to access the extraordinary material. WASMI illustrates with ease what can be achieved by thoughtful collaborations between commercial and research
PRICING For academic libraries, subscriptions to Women and Social Movements, International start at $545. For public libraries, subscriptions start at $727.
VERDICT This scholar’s dream will be equally accessible to high school students and post-docs alike. I recommend it, with awe and appreciation, to libraries worldwide serving historical, cultural, and political researchers.