Digital History Resources for 20th Century Southern Women Historians

Our practicum for this week is to assess the digital history in our field of study. To begin with, I typed “20th century Southern women” into Google. I received many results that were either faculty pages at universities, books for sale on Amazon, and essays, both scholarly and non-scholarly in nature. I found a section of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History devoted to women’s history which provided essays, primary sources, multimedia, and teaching resources. There is a page of the History Channel devoted to the 19th Amendment which included some videos as well as a brief history of the women’s suffrage movement. There is a pathfinder for women’s history available from the National Archives website, which is fairly detailed and supplies the bibliographic information for many archival and print-based resources. However none of these examples are really what I had in mind: the History channel site is not scholarly, nor does it provide much useful information; The Gilder Lehrman Institute site, while providing primary sources and some multimedia, is geared towards school teachers; and the National Archives pathfinder simply points one in the direction of print-based sources.

There were two sites I came across that were more along the lines of scholarly digital history: Oral Histories of the American South and Southern Women Trailblazers. Both are products of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, so it can be assumed that they are authoritative and accurate. Oral Histories of the American South lists 148 interviews with Southern women, which cover such themes as politics, economics, labor, religion, race relations, and more. Each interview includes helpful metadata, transcripts, and the option to download the interview onto a computer. This site will be helpful to me in my research. Southern Women Trailblazers includes analyses of suffrage, education, the workforce, the Civil Rights Movement, and the results of women’s work to achieve equality. There are also images and audio excerpts, but the excerpts are taken from the Oral Histories of the American South website. Southern Women Trailblazers would be a good resource for lower-level undergraduate classes, but I doubt I’ll be returning to it when I conduct research.

I had found the prior sources by googling “20th century Southern women.” I then tried manipulating keywords a bit, and input “20th century” “South*” “women.” The first two resources listed are products of that search. I found a blog, run by Digital Collections Department of the University of South Carolina Libraries, for the South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program. One of their posts, “From Socialization to Social Change” details women’s clubs in South Carolina. While primarily discussing the 1800s, there is a bit of information about the early 20th century. There is another site, Digital History, that is supported by the College of Education at the University of Houston. It serves as a teaching resource for school teachers and provides many primary sources, multimedia, interviews, and background information. The National Women’s History Museum provides a plethora of online exhibits, ranging from topics such as women in sports,  women in the Progressive Era, and pioneer female state legislators. I found this resource by simply going to the Museum’s homepage. It did not appear as a result of either of my Google searches.

While searching the web for digital history relating to 20th century Southern women, most of the sites I found were affiliated with either an institution, museum, archive, or university. I was unable to find any that were products of organizations, like local history clubs, or any that were crowdsourced. A simple Google search did not yield the results I had been expecting: amateur historians writing blogposts or local history group websites with digitized records. Clearly more scholarly digital history sites need to be established to further the study of 20th century Southern women. There is a dearth of online sources for scholars in this field of study, and this is a need that should be addressed.

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