Women and the Law: Collections

The diverse group of collections offered as part of Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive provides the opportunity for students and researchers to examine the role of women in the development of law. These archival collections from advocacy groups, rights organizations, and trade unionists, as well as individual figures connected with the law, trade unionism, and gender rights, allow for greater understanding of the issues surrounding justice, equality, and discrimination. Although the ideologies of the groups covered—and their perceptions of gender, feminism, and the law—may differ, their histories and archives provide an important opportunity to examine the relationship between women and the law. 

Through examining the material provided in Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive, researchers can fully explore the intersection of female experience and the law. The archive gives researchers access to primary sources that cover the development and discussion surrounding legislation affecting women’s lives—from abortion, birth control, and parenthood to race, poverty, and prostitution. The role of women in the workplace, including women’s trade unions, can also be examined, with material covering a wide range of issues surrounding women, employment, and the law. For scholars looking for a greater understanding of the women’s liberation movement, women’s rights, and the organizations that campaigned for them, these collections provide essential material to support detailed research. Through Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive, researchers, teachers, and students can delve into the topic of women and the law, and use primary sources to examine the many facets of this complicated topic.

  • Committee of Fifteen Records, 1900‒1901

    The Committee of Fifteen (1900–1901) was a private group of businessmen and professors in New York City that formed to combat “vice” such as prostitution and gambling. The group’s purpose was to collect evidence of where vice occurred, to force local authorities to take action, and to promote legislation combating these vices. Posing as customers, their 30 investigators tried to visit every establishment in Manhattan where they believed vice was occurring, including “hotels,” tenement houses, dance halls, pool halls, and other locations. The group’s information often led to police raids. The committee also helped people harmed by prostitution and gambling. The majority of the collection consists of more than 200 affidavits and investigators’ reports. These reports, listed by precinct, include information about the establishments investigated; the activities occurring there; names, ethnic backgrounds, and physical descriptions of prostitutes and others found there; and information about the investigator and his actions. The collection also includes meeting minutes and correspondence with the New York legislature and city health department. Newspaper clippings about the committee during its one-year tenure can be found as well.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Malthusian, 1879‒1921

    Two turn-of-the-century periodicals are the focus of this collection: The Malthusian and the Eugenics Review. The Malthusian was published by the Malthusian League, the world’s first group to advocate for family planning, since they believed that overpopulation was the most significant cause of poverty. The league battled public disapproval but succeeded in influencing both public policy and the thinking of figures such as Sigmund Freud and Margaret Sanger, among others. The collection consists of the first issue of The Malthusian in 1879 through its last issues under that name in 1921. Articles focus on poverty, overpopulation, demographics, laws, race, and birth control. The Eugenics Review was a quarterly publication of the Eugenics Education Society. The goals of the periodical were to introduce members to each other, spread information about eugenics, and place eugenics on a scientific foundation. Topics included abortion, birth control, morality, divorce, crime, poverty, parenthood, legislation, and many other concepts relating to families. This collection consists of all issues of the Eugenics Review, from its beginning in 1909 through 1921.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • National Network of Hispanic Women Archives

    The National Network of Hispanic Women was a nonprofit corporation founded in 1980 with a mission to push for the identification and advancement of Hispanic, Latina, and Chicana women for positions of leadership in the public and private sectors. In the past, primary sources documenting Chicana and Latina women have been confined to unpublished dissertations and government documentation. This collection includes organizational records, correspondence, photographs, publications, reports, and ephemera that allow the personal voices of these women to be heard. By putting the sociopolitical experiences of Hispanic, Latina, and Chicana women in American society at the center of the narrative, these materials promote the continuation of ethnic and gender studies, gender research, and debate.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Papers of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

    Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was an agitator and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, an official and activist for the Communist Party, and one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union. Dubbed “The Rebel Girl,” she was notorious and, for more than half a century, was a professional revolutionary against capitalism. The eldest daughter of a family of reformers and activists, she spoke; organized workers; led immigrant worker’s strikes; and wrote pamphlets, articles, and books with the aim of convincing the public that private ownership and the profit system were inhumane. An excellent orator, she left a permanent record of her protest campaigns through her writings, which call attention to the critical issues of the twentieth century: war, poverty, sexism, and civil liberties.

    Many of the papers in this collection are from Flynn’s political activities and her time in the Communist Party (1937‒1964), although some cover her earlier years, including the papers of her son, Fred Flynn. Made up of correspondence, biographical sketches, autobiographical notes, telegrams, published and unpublished articles, speeches and poems, diaries, itineraries, clippings, programs, invitations, course materials, documents pertaining to legal proceedings, and files produced by various government agencies, alongside printed materials, including election campaign literature, annotated books, galley proofs, articles, and pamphlets, the materials tell the story of a lesser known, but nonetheless significant, figure of the feminist movement.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Papers of Mary E. Gawthorpe

    Born in Leeds in 1881, Mary E. Gawthorpe was a British suffragist and campaigner who worked full time for several feminist and social organizations in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, both in the UK and the United States. Trained as a schoolteacher, she initially became involved in socialist and labor politics, working as an organizer for the Women’s Social and Political Union from 1906 to 1912. Gawthorpe increasingly became interested in the issue of women’s suffrage, stimulating interest in the cause throughout Yorkshire by writing letters to the press and speaking at local labor events. Alongside Dora Marsden, she started a new radical feminist journal, The Freewoman, in 1911. In 1916, she emigrated to the United States and supported the struggle for women’s suffrage in her new country, joining the Women’s Suffrage Party. The collection includes her diaries; notes; postcards; extensive personal correspondence; and printed materials, such as handbills, flyers, and annual reports of local suffrage societies, which cover the period of her involvement with the militant British suffragettes as well as some of her activities in the United States. The papers form an extensive collection of personal and political material from a woman whose political involvement spanned many decades and went beyond supportive activism. They’re an excellent resource for researchers exploring the British militant suffrage movement, with papers relating to this forming a large part of the collection, while her position as a working-class socialist from the north of England expands our knowledge of the social, cultural, and geographical basis of the Women’s Social and Political Union’s work. Much of the later material in this collection helps to situate suffrage involvement as part of a broader political life, including communications with fellow suffragettes, outlines of demonstrations, and more complex plans, and material on Gawthorpe’s association with The Freewoman publication.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Records of the Equal Opportunities Commission

    The Equal Opportunities Commission was established as an independent statutory body that worked toward the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sex or marriage, promoted equal opportunities for women and men, kept the Sex and Discrimination Act under review, and provided legal advice and assistance to individuals who had been discriminated against. In 2007, it merged with the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The collection includes minutes and papers of Equal Opportunities Commission meetings, minutes and papers of its legal committee, surviving papers of other committees and working parties, and major case papers. 

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Records of the Women’s National Commission

    Following the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations recommending that its member states establish national commissions on the status of women, the Women’s National Commission was established in the UK in 1916 as an advisory, nondepartmental public body that ensured female opinions were considered in the deliberation of the government and in matters of public interest. It was also formed to act as an umbrella body for UK women’s groups in their interactions with the government. The commission was wound up on December 31, 2010, and its continuing functions were transferred to the Government Equalities Office. The Records of the Women’s National Commission collection consists of internal organizational and administrative files of the Women’s National Commission, including constitutional papers, arrangements for elections, meeting agendas and minutes, and general papers of the organization, including some photographs.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Women and Law Collection

    Compiled from 1969 to 1975 by the Women’s History Research Center Inc., this collection covers six broad topics within the framework of women and law, including general information on women’s legal issues, politics, employment; special films on rape, prison, and prostitution; and issues specific to Black and minority ethnic women. Much of the content is contemporary to the collection, but historical documents are included as well. The collection contains texts on a wide range of legal issues relating to women, and also includes sources related to early equal-rights efforts and protests and the women’s liberation movement. Also of interest to legal scholars are files related to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project, which was established in 1971 by future Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Rutgers law professor at the time. Other source materials consider laws that apply to women’s access to employment and education, as well as legal cases that tested common practice, such as challenges to employee benefits and maternity leave.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Women’s Labor League: Conference Reports and Journals, 1906‒1977

    This collection contains the conference proceedings, annual reports, and publications from the Women’s Labor League (WLL) and the Labor Party Women’s Organization. The Women's Labor League  was a UK-based, feminist-driven organization aimed at increasing women’s participation in Parliament and other significant political forums. The organization’s primary goal was achieving women’s suffrage, but it also more generally advocated for the promotion of women’s rights across the UK. It held its first conference in 1906, and dissolved as an independent institution in 1918 to become an affiliate of the UK’s Labor Party, as the Labor Party Women’s Organization. Much of the collection relates to organizational conferences. Yearly conference proceedings and annual reports from 1906 to 1918 provide insight into the operations and program work of the Women’s Labor League. The conference proceedings of the subsequent Labor Party Women’s Organization begin in 1919 and continue through its 53rd conference in 1977, after which it merged with the Labor Party’s main conference. The remaining files in this collection are printed periodicals, including 28 issues of the League Leaflet and the complete run of The Labor Woman.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

  • Women’s Trade Union League and Its Leaders

    The Women’s Trade Union League (WTUL) was founded in 1903 and disbanded in 1950. Its goals were to organize working women into unions, to push for legislation protecting women in the workplace, and educate both working class and middle-class people about the benefits of unionization. This collection includes materials from the national WTUL, records of its local branches, and papers of five women active in the organization. The largest section consists of the papers of Margaret Dreier Robins, who led WTUL from 1907 to 1922, during which time it became a significantly larger, better funded, and more prominent and influential organization. Records include articles, speeches, meeting minutes, and extensive correspondence detailing the day-to-day life of a women’s rights activist in the first decades of the twentieth century. Other collections of individual women’s journals, correspondence, and assorted papers include those of Leonora O’Reilly, active in the suffrage and vocational education movements in addition to WTUL; Mary Anderson, longtime head of a government bureau for working women; Rose Schneiderman, leader of the New York WTUL from 1918 to 1944; and Agnes Nestor, president of the International Glove Workers Union of America and head of the Chicago WTUL. The collection also includes papers from the national and New York branches of the WTUL. The New York branch collection is the largest, revealing the day-to-day work of the WTUL’s most active chapter. Included are minutes of general and executive board meetings and monthly reports of the group’s actions.

    Request trial access to Women's Studies Archive >>

    Learn more about Women's Studies Archives >>

View Collections from Women's Studies Archives