In Her Own Right: The Many Faces of Women's Activism, 1820-1920

Material Description

The materials include 43 collections and approximately 117,000 pages from ten PACSCL institutions. Although most of the material dates from 1820 to 1920, the project includes materials both earlier and later that add important context. Some are portions of larger collections of papers from organizations that continued well beyond our period; these portions have a thematic or structural unity. In making the selections, the organizers sought to demonstrate the full range of women's rights-related activities. Some collections are primarily suffrage-related, e.g., the papers of Mariana Wright Chapman and the minutes of the Woman Suffrage Society of the County of Philadelphia. Others, like the papers of prominent Philadelphia abolitionist and suffrage advocate Lucretia Mott, demonstrate a range of activist endeavors, including treating African Americans as equals in the Female Anti-Slavery Society. Many collections illustrate women's activities in charitable or social justice issues, such as poor relief, education of women and disadvantaged children, and prison reform. Two medical school collections are of particular interest: the Mercy-Douglass Hospital records at the Bates Nursing Center (part of the pilot project) document African-American women's efforts to attain a professional education in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and the Woman's Medical College records document early efforts of women to become physicians. The organizers sought out collections that illustrate interactions across races, genders. and socio-economic classes and reveal the tensions and innate biases of those encounters. Together, the collections provide a complex and nuanced view of a century of progress in women's activism.


This project builds on an NEH-funded planning grant to survey member collections relating to the efforts of women to assert their rights in the century prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, and to develop a prototype interface to expose these collections on a collaborative website. It is led by Temple University Libraries' Special Collections Research Center, the Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center, and Swarthmore College and involves seven additional content contributors, listed below. Project participants will digitize and create metadata for their own materials. A project website will harvest OAI-PMH-compliant metadata that will also be DPLA-ready. Participants have paid particular attention to uncovering records by and about women of color, working women, and other marginalized or underrepresented populations.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



Temple University


  • Ms. Margery Sly (Temple University Libraries)
  • Ms. Margaret Graham
  • Ms. Celia Caust-Ellenbogen

Collaborating Institution(s)

Temple University Libraries' Special Collections Research Center; Bryn Mawr College; Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center; German Society of Pennsylvania; Haverford College; Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Lehigh University; National Archives at Philadelphia; Swarthmore College: Friends Historical Library and Peace Collection; University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press; University of Pennsylvania, Barbara Bates Nursing Center; Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections (PACSCL)

Date Range

1820 - 1920

Geographic Scope

The majority of collections involve women or organizations located in Philadelphia or southeastern Pennsylvania; with additional collections from the mid·Atlantic states and New England. These women worked locally. regionally, nationally, and internationally.


  • 117000 Mixed Archival Collections