Researching Women

In addition to encouraging an exploration of women's roles in the American Civil War, this exhibition seeks to promote a deeper understanding of how historical documents are preserved, used, and interpreted. Look for the text accompanied by a pointing finger throughout the exhibition to learn more about historical research using primary documents and to become familiar with archival terminology.

Although this exhibition strives to document a variety of perspectives on the war, the reality of the historical record is that most original documents from the time period were created by white, middle and upper-class women and men. Many such documents are featured in this exhibition. Sources that document poor women, free black women, and enslaved women are more challenging to find and interpret. However, historical documents can often be read "against the grain," in order to hear the voices of those who did not have the means or the opportunity to record their perspectives on the pages of history. Some examples will be encountered in this exhibition.

The documents, images, and other materials on display here are, with a few exceptions, drawn from Special Collections at the University of Maryland Libraries. They represent just a small portion of the many archival and manuscript collections, rare books, reference works, monographs, and other materials related to the Civil War available in the University of Maryland Libraries. Researchers interested in discovering more about the materials on display and other Civil War sources are encouraged to use these Special Collections. Curators and librarians at the university can assist researchers in finding these materials, as well as related historical resources at other libraries and archival institutions.

Digital and traditional research methods and resources complement each other. The University Libraries have online tools to assist researchers in finding primary sources in Special Collections, including ArchivesUM and Digital Collections. ArchivesUM provides access to finding aids, or inventories, of our Civil War manuscript collections, as well as of the Libraries' extensive archival holdings on other topics. Digital Collections showcases selected Special Collections materials online. In conjunction with this exhibition, recent efforts have been made to digitize the University Libraries' Civil War-related rare books and manuscripts.

This is a guide to important primary and secondary sources on the topic of Women and the American Civil War with a focus on Women in Maryland. The emphasis of this guide and of the exhibition is on material available in the University of Maryland Libraries' collections, but external resources are also included.