Women's studies, at its heart, put women’s lives and experiences at the centre of study which examines a wide range of social issues: issues and constructs relating to gender, rights and equality, privilege and oppression, crime and justice. The National Library has a wealth of resources relating to women, many of which can be accessed online.
I’ve selected a small number of excellent resources that may help you to start or deepen your research into Australian women:
- Archives of Sexuality and Gender: International Perspectives on LGBTQ Activism and Culture
- Women's Studies Archive: Voice and Vision
- Gerritsen Collection: Women's History Online, 1543-1945
- Australian Women's Register (free resource)
One by one, let’s have a quick exploration of these resources and the take a look at the kinds of content you can uncover.
Compilation of resources, from the Women's Studies Archive. Image courtesy of Gale
Archives of Sexuality and Gender: International Perspectives on LGBTQ Activism and Culture
This resource examines populations and areas of the world previously underrepresented in prevailing scholarship on sexuality and gender, with a particular focus on southern Africa and Australia. There is around 450,000 pages of content dating from the 1820s, with the bulk of the material between 1970–2016. Searching the keywords ‘Australian Women’ produced some 1,600 results in newspapers and periodicals published world-wide. There are approximately 150 Australian titles held in this database including many LGBTI titles, as well as lesbian/women's focused titles such as the Australasian Lesbian Movement Newsletter, Lesbian Territory etc. Making up some 240,000 pages of content.
With this eResource you can limit your results by content type, document type, language and source library. Whether you’re looking for a diary, lyrics, handwritten note, announcement, advertisement or a report, the information you can expect to find is diverse and with a wide range of applications to suit a serious researcher, or any person generally interested in social history.
Women's Studies Archive: Voice and Vision
This Archive connects archival collections concerning women’s history from a wide range of sources across the globe. Focusing on the evolution of feminism throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the archive provides materials on women’s political activism, such as suffrage, birth control, pacifism, civil rights, and socialism; and on women’s voices, from female-authored literature to women’s periodicals.
On first opening this eResource, click on ‘Publications’ and you’ll find some 55 publications listed covering the dates 1838-1999. You can view specific issues by limiting the date range and clicking through to a publication. You can also download from publications and you can easily find citations for reference.
There is no end to the fascinating finds you discover in this eResource. The following is a short excerpt from an article explaining the difficulties of finding suitable domestic servants in the colonies, in particular, Australia.
Detail, "The Domestic Servant Trouble in Australia." The Women's Gazette and Weekly News, vol. 2, no. 50, 12 Oct. 1889, p. 790. Women's Studies Archive.
The Women’s Studies Archive is a great place to hunt for primary resources. This particular article gives insight into the attitudes towards domestic servitude and the conditions in Australia for women in service during the late 19th century. It also highlights wages for women domestic servants as being higher than compared to England at that time. The article’s author concedes that the problems may be due to immigration and exclusivity, that few working-class people could afford the voyage. The article sheds light on boarder societal issues through the lens of women.
Gerritsen Collection: Women's History Online, 1543-1945
The Gerritsen Collection contains books, pamphlets and periodicals reflecting the evolution of a feminist consciousness and the movement for women's rights. Here you can find many interesting documents and in many different languages. You can simply quick search the entire database of digitised material or browse through the titles of books and periodicals.
The search form lets you choose a keywor, title, publisher, place of publication, language and year of publication. The following is an example of one collection item, of parliamentary processes and industrial relations for women; a bill to extend protection to women employed as waitresses in 1898. In this case you find the subject of law is covered, however there are a variety of subjects covered in the Gerritsen collection.
Great Britain. Parliament, 1898. House of Commons.: A bill to amend the law relating to the employment of waitresses in restaurants. Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1898 4 pages
The Australian Women’s Register
The AWR is another eResource that speaks to the rich culture of women – the AWR was an initiative of the National Foundation for Australian Women (AFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne. The register is searchable online and is a growing source of biographical data about Australian women and their organisations, with hyper-links to the archival repositories and libraries where their records are held and to other sources of information such as they relate to the particular woman and her achievements.
An excellent feature of this register is the ‘Explore themes’ section on the home page. Clicking through to the next page I was able to browse the register through the theme of ‘Women’s Occupations’. While stories of women who triumph and make their way in the world are inspiring, nothing is more pointed than finding a particular woman in your industry and vocation, and then learning about their trajectory. So, I clicked on the letter ‘A’ hoping to find information about Australian artist women and I came across an extraordinarily long list. At random I clicked on the name ‘Coopes, Jenny’ and found a biography of the Artist, cartoonist and journalist, related entries such as Walkley awards and published resources. There is also a link to the Trove ‘people and organisations’ profile through this resource, and for ‘Jenny Coopes’, the page shows a long list of resources held in Australian institutions, some of which are available online. And it turns out we hold in our collection several cartoons by Jenny Coopes.
How do I get started?
Visit the National Library’s eResources portal, accessible from the Library’s homepage by clicking on the eResources button. Next, accept the terms and conditions and you’re ready to start browsing!
The simplest way to access the particular eResources listed above is by clicking on the ‘Browse eResources’ tab. Click on the plus tab next to ‘Social Sciences’ and from the drop-down menu, at the very bottom, select ‘Women’s Studies’. There you will see listed these different eResources. You will notice a small icon to the left of the titles, either a globe or a key symbol; the globe symbol indicates the item is freely accessible while the key symbol indicates a licenced resource and you will need a National Library card to access the content.
You can apply for a National Library card here.
Wolfgang Sievers, Skilled technicians study slides of cells in body fluids, looking for abnormalities suggestive of cancer at the Royal Womens Hospital, Melbourne, 1959, nla.cat-vn3914799
In addition to eResources you can find other avenues to build your knowledge about women’s history;
Read our Blog; This is what a feminist looks like
Watch our Learning Program webinar; Dangerous and Persuasive Females webinar
Learn what items we have in our collection from our National Library Catalogue User Lists; Heather (SOL) Groves's "International Women's Day 2020" list and Sarah (SOL) Schindeler's "Dangerous & persuasive females" list.