North American Women's Letters and Diaries
"My pen is always freer than my tongue. I have written many things to you that I suppose I never could have talked." -- Abigail Adams, 1775
North American Women's Letters and Diaries is the largest collection of women's diaries and correspondence ever assembled. Spanning more than 300 years, brings the personal experiences of some 1,325 women to researchers, students, and general readers.
The uses for the collection will be many and varied. For historians, sociologists, students of literature, researchers in genealogy, and others, North American Women's Letters and Diaries will prove a dramatic new resource. These diaries bring us much more than the personal. They provide a detailed record of what women wore, the conditions under which they worked, what they ate, what they read, and how they amused themselves. We can see how frequently they attended church, how they viewed their connection to God, and how they prayed. We can explore their relationships with lovers and family and friends. William Matthews, an early scholar in this field, observed:
"I believe the diary to be a unique kind of writing; all other forms of writing envisage readers, and so are adapted to readers, by interpretation, order, simplification, rationalization, omission, addition, and the endless devices of exposition . . . [diaries] are in general the most immediate, truthful, and revealing documents available. . ."
The collection includes some 150,000 pages of published letters and diaries from individuals writing from Colonial times to 1950, including more than 6,000 pages of previously unpublished materials. Drawn from more than 600 sources, including journal articles, pamphlets, newsletters, monographs, and conference proceedings, much of the material is in copyright. Represented are all age groups and life stages, all ethnicities, many geographical regions, the famous and the not so famous. It includes some 300 biographies to enhance the use of the database.
North American Women's Letters and Diaries aims to cover all published material and as large a number of unpublished materials as copyright and cost will allow. The contents have been selected from the bibliographies listed below as well as other sources.