Reference: ereviews | January 2013

e reviews: Feminism

From Christine de Pisan’s 1405 work Le Livre des Trois Vertus or The Book of Three Virtues advising women how to deal with constant misogyny (available via Adam Matthew Digital’s Defining Gender) to Bora Chang’s essay “Defining Young Feminism Today—My Personal Journey to Activism” in Women’s Health Activist (included in Contemporary Women’s Issues from Gale Cengage Learning), these sources relate the details, challenges, frustrations, and triumphs of feminism’s long narrative. One source—The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs—even tells both sides of the story, providing fascinating (if incredible) antifeminist tracts.


CONTENT Born in 1854, Aletta Jacobs was the first Dutch women to complete a medical education and (following a trip to England to witness firsthand the efforts to undermine women’s medical studies in that country) she became the first female practicing physician and psychologist in the Netherlands.

With support from the Dutch General Trade Union, she taught hygiene and childcare techniques to impoverished women and established what some consider the first birth-control clinic. Denied the right to vote, she joined and ultimately became head of the Dutch Association for Woman’s Suffrage. Her efforts helped to bring about the Hague Conference of 1915, which led to the formation of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

In the midst of all this, Jacobs and her husband, C.V. Gerritsen, began gathering an extensive collection of published materials that documented the evolution of a new feminist consciousness and articulated their commitment to the struggle for women’s rights. They also made room for tracts that argued forcefully against the equal treatment of women, giving the collection the kind of rich balance that is suited to impartial research. Ultimately, Jacobs, Gerritsen, and the subsequent curators of their collection assembled more than 4,700 books, pamphlets, and periodicals—in 15 languages—from sources all over Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. The collection mainly includes publications dating from 1543 up until the Gerritsens concluded their work in 1945, although we also found periodical issues and annual reports published as recently as the mid-1970s.

The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs is comprised of two segments—the Monograph Language Series (which makes up about 75 percent of the material) and Periodical Series (making up the remaining 25 percent).

The monographs include some 4,000 books and pamphlets, grouped by language. Half of these titles are in English, giving students and researchers a sweeping view of the history of feminism and of the long battle for the right to vote in the English-speaking world.

German-language titles make up nearly a quarter of the monographs; these document the activities of women’s rights organizations, women and socialism, and the feminist orientation of the Jewish and Swiss segments of the population. The 734 French titles cover women in the military and the law, and include works on the influence of women on French literature and on reforms in women’s legal, civil, and economic rights. There are nearly 500 titles in 12 languages other than English and German. A brief, English-language summary accompanies most of the monographs in the collection.

The Periodicals Series segment of Gerritsen is unique in terms of its inclusion of titles both supporting and opposing feminist points of view. There are 137 English-language titles in this segment, 59 titles in German, 24 in French, 20 in Dutch, and 25 in a smattering of other languages. For the critical years from 1860 to 1900, Gerritsen is unparalleled in the thoroughness of its coverage, and every effort was made to provide as complete a run of every periodical title in the collection.

USABILITY Gerritsen employs the Chadwyck-Healey interface, which enables users to perform a quick search on any keyword in the books or periodicals sections of the database or in the full collection. The search button links to an advanced-search template where users may again limit the search to a specific segment of the resource by clicking on the appropriate radio button. Search template options include keyword, keyword in title, author, publisher, place of publication, language, and date range. Alternatively, search terms may be easily selected from a standardized list and added to the search strategy.

Additional book search options include a keyword search of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH); users may also select the formal LCSH from a list. These steps are also possible with the 12 broad categories of the custom Gerritsen Index: Bibliography; Biography and Autobiography; Education and Professional Training; Feminism; History and Social Condition; Opinions, Satires, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms; Physiology of Women; Political and Social Reform; Psychology of Women; Women and Employment; Women and Religion; and Women and the Arts. Here, for example, a keyword search on “satire*” would bring up the 192 book titles in the database classified with the term Opinions, Satires, Anecdotes, and Aphorisms. A keyword search of the term women in this index would bring up results from five different Gerritsen categories.

Additional periodical search options include title keyword search or selection of a specific title from a list. Users may refine such a search by checking one or more article types, including editorial cartoon, letter, obituary, poetry, recipe, and statistics.

Browsing of Monographic titles is done using LC Subject Heading or via the Gerritsen Index Terms. The latter provides an instant sense of the subject themes the collection emphasizes—History and Social Conditions offers 1662 titles, for example, which is twice as many as the second largest category, Feminism.

Most of the Gerritsen index terms are also hierarchical, giving researchers access to more specific subcategories, which in turn are grouped by language. Under Physiology of Women, for example, are sub-sets including antifeminist tracts (“Women’s Unfitness for Higher Coeducation”), Medical information (“Madre Natura Versus the Moloch of Fashion: A Social Essay,” which blames the poor health of many women on the “foolish dictates of fashion”), and profeminist pieces (“Science and Suffrage: An Inquiry into the Causes of Sex Differences,” a 1909 tract that “uses the theory of evolution to argue that women are biologically superior to men”).

Gerritsen users can take advantage of Boolean and proximity operators, truncation and wildcards, and phrase searching using quotation marks to tailor their search strategies with a considerable degree of sophistication.

Documents are available as both TIFF images and PDFs. Search results may be marked for emailing, printing, or downloading, and saved to the researcher’s personal archive. Results may also be sorted by relevance, author, title, or by date in either direction.

PRICING Pricing for the Gerritsen Collection is based on a variety of a variables including FTE and other products purchased. An academic library serving 5,000 students could expect to spend about $5,000 per annum. Free trials are available to institutions.

VERDICT The Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs contains materials (and periodical runs in particular) that are extremely hard to come by, making it a treasure trove for researchers who want to delve into four centuries worth of primary sources on all aspects of women’s and feminist issues. The beauty of Gerritsen is that it tells both sides of that story.


CONTENT Adam Matthew Digital here merges extensive collections of primary-source documents. Ephemera, pamphlets, college records and exam papers, commonplace books, diaries, letters, ledgers, account books, educational practice and pedagogy materials, government papers, personal journals, and receipt books come from 21 contributing libraries and are complemented by a selection of original essays from international scholars. Additionally, the resource includes a rich array of published material such as periodicals, illustrated writings on anatomy, midwifery, art and fashion, poetry, novels, ballads, drama, literary manuscripts, travel writing, and conduct and advice. The result is a comprehensive resource for teaching and conducting interdisciplinary gender-studies research in literature, history, sociology, and education.

The broad thematic areas listed in Defining Gender include: Conduct and Politeness, Domesticity & the Family, Consumption & Leisure, Education & Sensibility, and The Body. Within these boundaries, users will find materials on a wide array of key topics, including advice (for both men and women), anatomy, arranged marriage, beauty, bullying, chastity, diet, domesticity, dress, education, etiquette, health, midwifery, modesty, parental influence, recipes, religion, sexuality, submissiveness, and vanity.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford, the British Library in London, the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University, and a number of other institutions contributed materials to Defining Gender.

USABILITY Site navigation is simple and straightforward. There are tabs for accessing the contents of the resource—Essays, Documents, Biographies, Chronology—along with a set of housekeeping type tabs—Introduction, FAQs, Teaching, Help, and Microfilm Index.

The essays, which are original to the database, help introduce its themes and provide links directly to the underlying primary-source content. They are quite substantial. For example, “Art and the Body: Representation and the Nude” by Dr. Rosemary Betterton of the Institute for Women’s Studies at Lancaster University runs some 5,300 words in length, and includes 32 endnotes along with multiple links to images in the collection.

Documents are arranged by the five thematic sections and then alphabetically by title. The title lists are not so long that browsing them becomes a chore, and in fact, there’s something that’s at least a little bit pleasurable in scanning the list and seeing a things such as “Beauty and How to Keep It, by a Professional Beauty”; “My Grandfather’s Pocket-Book”; and “Rugby Rhymes, Rough and Ready.”

Document quality varies to some degree, which should not be surprising. On a Mac, whether using Safari or Firefox, enlarging the image size more than once (which was often necessary to make the text readable) makes the page image drift out of the frame and it is not obvious how to maneuver the image so all of it can be viewed. Some of the documents are hand-written, as well, which could represent a considerable challenge for untrained researchers, as there is no accompanying text version available in this collection.

Defining Gender offers only a simple, quick-search box for entering search terms, but users have a range of capabilities at their disposal: Boolean operators (AND, OR, and AND NOT), proximity operators, phrase searching using quotation marks, and wildcards and truncation. There are buttons leading to the names and topics lists, and a drop-down menu under the search box enables the restriction of results to a specific century. Even in the tight quarters of the single search box we were able to execute a search on (virtu* OR piety) AND (women or female) limited by pull-down menu to only the 18th century, which produced 20 documents distributed among all four thematic sections.

The Teaching tab links to pragmatic information on topics such as creating links to this resource from course pages, copying, fair use, and proper citation practices.

PRICING Adam Matthew uses a banded pricing structure to determine discounts and payment plans for institutions of all sizes. The one-time price for Defining Gender, 1450-1910 ranges from $7,500 to $25,000. Free, four-week trials are available to universities, colleges, academic institutions, and libraries. Once a trial is active, access may be openly disseminated across the institution.

VERDICT With its uncomplicated and entirely effective user interface, Defining Gender puts four-and-a-half centuries’ worth of rare and intriguing primary-source materials into the hands of students and researchers engaged in the exploration of gender-studies themes across a wide range of academic disciplines.


CONTENT This multidisciplinary database brings together articles pertaining to women’s lives from mainstream periodicals, “gray” literature, and the alternative press. With full-text coverage approaching 100 percent, the resource includes English-language titles from East and West Africa, Asia, South and Central America, the Caribbean, North America, and Europe.

CWI draws on more than 2,300 sources including books and book reviews, mainstream journals and magazine articles, alternative media outlets, pamphlets, grassroots political and social groups, nongovernmental research institutions, newsletters, government agencies, research reports and other material from domestic and international organizations.

Updated weekly, subject coverage includes activism, domestic violence, pay equity, politics, reproductive rights, employment and the workplace, legal status, family life, sex education, and health and sexuality. The earliest records in CWI date back to 1990, with “comprehensive” coverage beginning in 1992.

USABILITY Contemporary Women’s Issues records are indexed by 17 categories, including subject area, 230 geographic regions, article type, and publication type. Searching is rather basic—as is the interface and navigation—with options to search full-text, enhanced titles, article author, or book author. Advanced searching is done using pull-down menus for selecting indexed terms.

The resource provides more than 150 different subject areas to choose from, including abortion, adoption, breastfeeding, family planning, feminism, gender equity, lesbian studies, parenting, pornography, etc. All articles are indexed by subject and include a thesaurus developed to accurately categorize the subjects and concepts represented in the database. The controlled vocabulary indexes (subject area and geographic region) are available through multi-select text boxes. Searchers may select multiple subject areas from a scrolling controlled-vocabulary window and restrict to a specific country or geographic region and combine them by clicking on the appropriate Boolean operator.

CWI’s single search mode looks a little dated with all the system’s capabilities packed together onto one screen, but the various searchable elements are clearly labeled, and most users, both novice and pro, should negotiate this interface with little effort.

We wanted to explore the availability of current content and chose searches such as “paul ryan,” retrieving 11 records, including “The War on Women: Why It’s Not Just an Election Issue—It’s Personal,” from Curve, “Election 2012: Doctors Decide: Physicians from Both Sides Weigh In,” from OB-GYN News, and “Social Darwinism returns,” from a July 2012 issue of The Progressive. A subject search on mortality, limiting to the geographic area of Afghanistan or Iran, and the keyword children, retrieved five research reports from Bulletin of the World Health Organization and the journal Herizons, complete with tables, survey data, and references.

Matters are somewhat simplified with a highly visible “not U.S.A.” check box. Limiting by article or publication type is available via pull-down menus. Finally, users may restrict searching to one or more specific sources via a linked table. The system supports Boolean and proximity operators as well as nesting and automatic stemming.

Like the search screen, the results list is not an aesthetic showpiece. Date, title (with a checkbox for marking selected sources), source, and word count are displayed in simply formatted rows and columns. The full text itself is presented without any graphics.

Export tools include print, email, and download, and users can bookmark articles with durable urls.

Given the competition with other similar products that cover women’s issues from an alternative media perspective (Alt-Press Watch, GenderWatch), the interface seems limited. There are no suggested subject topics, “More like this” and linked index fields, easy browsing of source titles with full publication details, subject content, export options to citation management software, search history, etc.

PRICING Pricing is based on an institution’s full-time enrollment or the size of the population served. Annual subscriptions start at $888.

VERDICT While the interface is a little lacking, this database’s chief advantage is that it focuses on rarely indexed ephemeral literature from grassroots organizations, along with hard-to-find newsletters and NGO research reports that are not typically available in academic or public libraries. Recognizing the reasonable pricing, institutions with women’s or gender studies programs and curriculum will be interested in the wide range of content that is so effectively compiled into a single collection.



Never more opportune than during this post-election period—with media attention on the 18-point gender gap that largely contributed to the president’s reelection—Facts On File’s American Women’s History Online covers the gender gap and more. Its material spans 500 years that includes nine historical periods relevant specifically to women’s history.

A user-friendly interface contains thousands of linked entries. The biographies section discusses everyone from tribal leaders, philanthropists, and religious missionaries to contemporary novelists, poets, and playwrights. “Events and Topics” describes captivity narratives, fertility during the colonial period, Daughters of Temperance, the National Women’s Rights Convention, forming of the Daughters of Bilitis, the introduction of the Bill of Rights for Women, the rise of black feminism, and the antifeminist campaign of the ’80s. Primary-source material, meanwhile, includes landmark legislation, Supreme Court cases, and women’s liberation movement documents, with excerpts and full-text titles such as “An Act Concerning the Dowry of Widows, Connecticut (1672)”; “Manifesto of the Nebraska Men’s Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage”; Margaret Sanger’s “A Moral Necessity for Birth Control”; Shirley Chisholm’s “Equal Rights for Women” address; and Dan Quayle’s infamous “Murphy Brown/Family Values Speech (1992).” Time-line entries are also provided; these come from Encyclopedia of Women’s History in America. Maps and charts such as “Comparison of Female and Male Population by State (1800),” “Nations That Granted Women Suffrage before the U.S.,” and “Abortion Rate by Race (1990–2003)” are a further boon to researchers.

Content is organized via “Topic Centers,” a group of selected entries specifically chosen to provide a broad, inclusive look at an era or demographic group, and that include overview essays and coverage of important events and topics, key people, and primary-source documents. With titles such as “1492–1774: Native Societies and Colonization of the Americas” to “1980–Present: Contemporary Issues and Conflicts,” Topic Centers feature rich content on, for example, Native women, the Salem witch trials, and contemporary subjects such as riot grrls, abortion, and RU-486.

Examples from the source list—with some of these items included in their entirety and others excerpted—includes Encyclopedia of Women’s History in AmericaGreat Supreme Court Decisions: Roe v. Wade; the “Women of Achievement” series; the “Facts On File Encyclopedia of Black Women in America” series; A to Z of American Women WritersEncyclopedia of Women and American PoliticsAmerican Biographies: American Social Leaders and Activists; and Encyclopedia of Feminist Literature.

The welcome screen features an “Editor’s Selection of the Month” section, with the current presentation a lengthy biography of Grace Hopper, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developer of the first compiler for a computer programming language. Also prominent is a “Focus on History through Video” section, with a varying array from nearly 120 historical videos covering such topics as women’s right to vote, domestic life in the United States, Anita Hill’s 1991 senate testimony, pointers on selling Tupperware, and marketing to 1950s housewives.

Updated monthly, the resource includes general “Timelines by Era,” as well as “Timelines by Topic” on women in politics, the history of reproductive rights and technology, and the suffrage movement.

USABILITY It is evident from the extensive content recounted above that American Women’s History Online offers a wide range of valuable material. Users can begin their research in a multitude of ways either utilizing a basic or advanced search across all content, browsing through the nine main categories (each allows for further refinement by topic and time period), and/or checking the Topic Center Index to get an overview of the subject matter. To further refine a topic, biography browse includes narrowing by occupation (activists, warriors, rebels, and more); and primary sources by 17 document types (address, court decision, resolution, etc.).

Browsing through the biographies of modern feminists, we examined entries on Susan Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin, Shulamith Firestone, and Betty Friedan. Additional content for each selected biography includes related biographies, events and topics, and documents.

Export options include save, email, or print. Creating a personal account allows users to save items to a personal folder for more than the current session. Records have a persistent URL and full citations are available, with “how to cite” information for Chicago Manual of Style; MLA, 7th Edition; and APA styles.

All navigation and search features are available throughout the session, as is access to The Facts On File Student’s Dictionary of American English, search history, and cross-searching other Facts On File history databases, if the library is a subscriber.

PRICING Prices start at $410 per year for K-12 schools of fewer than 500 students; $650 for public libraries with up to 15,000 cardholders; and $500 for academic libraries. Free, 30-day trials are available.

VERDICT An intuitive interface combined with the interesting collection of material helps to make this resource attractive to all levels of users. Easy access to primary-source material is always in demand with our undergraduate students and Topic Centers are an outstanding option for those looking to get a feel for the content and subject matter. The organization scheme offers beginning users a starting point for their research while advanced search—with its exact phrase and limiting features—allows those in the know to quickly locate specific primary-source documents.


Archives Unbound
Gale Cengage Learning;

Archives Unbound is an impressive, expanding set of “topically-focused” digital collections of historical documents. It supports a wide range of interdisciplinary research and the diverse study needs of both scholars and students alike. A sampling of collections relevant to this review includes:

Feminism in Cuba, 1898–1958 Compiled from Cuban sources, this trove spans the period from Cuban independence to the end of the Batista regime. The collection sheds light on Cuban feminism; women in politics; literature by Cuban women; and the legal status of Cuban women.

Women’s Issues and Their Advocacy Within the White House, 1974–1977 documents the evolution of the position of Special Assistant to the President for Women, who advised the President on women’s issues, handled White House liaison with women’s organizations, and oversaw the work of the Office of Women’s Programs. The resource includes meeting minutes, briefing papers, correspondence, draft presidential remarks, etc.

Women Organizing Transnationally: The Committee of Correspondence, 1952-1969 includes gendered aspects of Cold War liberalism, the United States government’s propaganda operations, women’s relationships to U.S. foreign policy, etc.

International Women’s Periodicals, 1786-1933: Social and Political Issues includes significant and least-widely held periodicals produced during this time period.


GenderWatch includes a diverse combination of sources that focus on how gender impacts a broad spectrum of issues, both historically and today. It covers topics such as sexuality, feminism, eating disorders, daycare, birth control, and women’s social and societal roles. The content extends back to 1970 for some publications, and users can search the database as a valuable repository of important historical perspectives on the evolution of the women’s and men’s movements; gay, lesbian, and transgendered communities; family studies; and changes in gender roles over the years. The more than 300 publications include scholarly journals; popular magazines; newspapers; newsletters; regional publications; conference proceedings; books; and NGO, government, and special reports. A sampling of scholarly titles includes Advancing Women in LeadershipAsian Journal of Women’s StudiesColumbia Journal of Gender and the Law, and Feminist Studies.

Women and Social Movements in the United States
Alexander Street Press;

Organized as a chronology of the history of women in social movements in the United States between 1636 and 2000, this rich collection currently includes 110 document projects and archives with almost 4,200 documents and 56,000 pages of additional full-text documents, by more than 2,200 primary authors. The database also includes book, film, and website reviews, news from the archives, and teaching tools with lesson ideas and document-based questions.

Users can browse by bibliography, documents, people, chronology, subjects, movements, and more. Each year sees the addition of a further 5,000 pages of materials. Subscription options include Basic and Scholars, the latter adding a digital archive of 90,000 pages of publications of federal, state, and local Commissions on the Status of Women between 1961 and 2005; an online edition of the five-volume biographical dictionary,Notable American Women (1971–2004); and a dictionary of social movements and organizations.

Women’s Studies Encyclopedia
Greenwood Electronic Media (GEM) ABC-CLIO;

Organized within 17 broad subject categories including activism, feminism, gender roles, race and ethnicity, and violence and incarceration, Women’s Studies Encyclopedia offers more than 700 alphabetically listed entries from “Abolitionism” to “Zhenotdel,” with nearly 50 countries or regions having dedicated entries. Subcategories include antifeminist movements; aging and end-of-life issues; family structure; gender and society; women of color; emotional violence; sexual violence; pregnancy and maternity; and poverty. Prepared by 425 scholars from all disciplines, the reference offers a thorough analysis of women and society throughout history and around the world, with extensive bibliographic sources for individual entries, as well as a comprehensive general bibliography. Although rather dated—the original print source was published in 1997—the online version offers a wealth of additional information via an extensive and current external listing of links, organized according to the equivalent 17 subject categories.

Women’s Studies International 
EBSCO Publishing;

With the latest scholarship in feminist research included, Women’s Studies International integrates nine databases on women’s studies, women’s issues, and gender-focused scholarship from throughout the world. Files include “Women Studies Abstracts (1984-)”; “Women’s Studies Bibliography Database”; “Women’s Studies Database”; “New Books on Women & Feminism (1987-)”; “Women of Color and Southern Women 1975-1988,” and annual supplements (1989-); “WAVE: Women’s Audiovisuals in English: A Guide to Non-print Resources in Women’s Studies”; “Women, Race and Ethnicity: a Bibliography”; “Women’s Health and Development: An Annotated Bibliography”; and other databases and print publications.

Updated quarterly, coverage generally extends from 1972 (some is earlier) to the present. Nearly 800 core sources include journals, newspapers, newsletters, bulletins, books, book chapters, conference proceedings, reports, theses, dissertations, NGO studies, websites, and grey literature. More than 2,000 periodical titles are indexed, allowing users to find relevant articles on a wide range of subject matter from a feminist perspective.

Gail Golderman ( is electronic Resources Librarian and Bruce Connolly (connollb@union.ued) is Reference & Bibliographic Instruction Librarian, Schaffer Library, Union College, Schenectady, NY

About Bruce Connolly & Gail Golderman

Gail Golderman ( is Electronic Resources Librarian and Bruce Connolly ( is Reference & Bibliographic Instruction Librarian, Schaffer Library, Union College, Schenectady, NY