Women and Literature

This section includes works encompassing women writers in several national literatures, as well as interdisciplinary women’s studies sources that have a substantial literature component. Numerous works on women writers appear in appropriate national literature and other divisions.

Guides to Reference Works

For a survey of the pre-1980 bibliographical resources for the study of English and American women writers, see the appendix to Deborah S. Rosenfelt, “The Politics of Bibliography: Women’s Studies and the Literary Canon” (vol. 1, pp. 11–35), in Hartman and Messer-Davidow, Women in Print (U6595).

For an important discussion of the obstacles facing researchers in feminist criticism and women’s studies, an evaluation of their treatment in standard bibliographies, and a list of bibliographic resources, see Marlene Manoff, “Tools for Feminist and Women’s Studies Scholars in Literature: Issues and Problems,” Bibliography in Literature, Folklore, Language, and Linguistics: Essays on the Status of the Field, ed. David William Foster and James R. Kelly (Jefferson: McFarland, 2003) 48–69.


Carter, Sarah, and Maureen Ritchie. Women’s Studies: A Guide to Information Sources. Jefferson: McFarland; London: Mansell, 1990. 278 pp. Z7961.C37 [HQ1206] 016.3054.

A guide to reference sources, all but a few published between 1978 and 1988 and exclusively about women. (A few 1989 publications are included, with most described from publicity releases.) The annotated entries are organized in three divisions: general works (with sections for general reference works, biographical resources, and women’s studies as a discipline); women in the world (with variously organized sections for broad geographic areas); and subjects (including extensively classified sections for arts and media, black women, and literature and language). A concluding page lists resources for men’s studies. Indexed by persons, subjects, and titles; in addition, generous cross-references lead users to multidisciplinary resources. Although the succinct annotations too rarely alert researchers to weaknesses or major limitations of works, the international coverage makes Carter and Ritchie the best single guide to reference works through 1988 devoted solely to women.

An essential complement—because it covers general reference works not devoted solely to women but nonetheless essential to research in women’s studies—is Susan E. Searing, Introduction to Library Research in Women’s Studies (Boulder: Westview, 1985; 257 pp.; Westview Guides to Lib. Research), a highly selective guide addressed to the undergraduate. Of most value is the annotated guide to commonly available English-language sources. Although the annotations are sometimes helpfully evaluative and, for general works, focus on their value to women’s studies, the numerous errors in citations and annotations render Searing untrustworthy.

See also

Gohdes and Marovitz, Bibliographical Guide to the Study of the Literature of the U. S. A. (Q3180).

Literary Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


The Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature. Ed. Claire Buck. New York: Prentice Hall, 1992. 1,171 pp. PN471.B57 809′.89287′03.

A guide to women writers from the earliest times to the present. The coverage is international and extends to popular forms, letters, and diaries as well as belles lettres. Most of the more than 5,000 unsigned entries are for writers and individual works, but cultural practices and beliefs, concepts, terms, periodicals, genres and forms, and other topics are also included. Because of peculiar labels derived from the prefatory essays (see below) and a lack of cross-references, some entries are simply not locatable (e.g., “Early North American narratives of witchcraft cases,” “Early North American Quaker women’s writings,” and “Learned literature in Sweden”). Entries on forms and genres include subdivisions for only a few of the national literatures covered. Entries for authors include basic biographical and career information and a brief commentary on important works; several conclude with a short list of studies. (Entrants are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index [J565].) Prefacing the work are 37 brief essays on national literatures, geographic areas, and critical approaches designed to provide a context for the entries. Impressive in its chronological and geographic breadth, and for the amount of information packed into its readable entries, Bloomsbury Guide is clearly the best single source for basic information about women writers and their works. A browser’s delight, it is especially valuable for the inclusion of many authors and titles virtually unknown to North American scholars.

Bibliographies of Bibliographies


Ballou, Patricia K. Women: A Bibliography of Bibliographies. 2nd ed. Boston: Hall, 1986. 268 pp. Women’s Studies Pubs. Z7961.B32 [HQ1121] 016.0163054.

A bibliography of bibliographies, surveys of research, library catalogs, and guides to archives or manuscript repositories published as books, parts of books, articles, or databases from 1970 through June 1985. Although international in scope, it emphasizes works about the United States and Canada, and includes a very few publications not in English. Basing selection on “scope, availability, organization, and commentary,” Ballou excludes bibliographies of individuals and small groups, nonprint media, auction and booksellers’ catalogs, and most out-of-print publications. The 906 entries are organized in four divisions: general and interdisciplinary works, bibliographies devoted to a type of publication or format (including library catalogs, biographical sources, and guides to archives and manuscript collections), geographic areas, and subjects (including sections for history, literature, mass media and popular culture, performance art, and anthropology, which encompasses folklore). The literature section includes subdivisions for general works; American, Canadian, English, French, Spanish and Latin American, and other literatures; feminist criticism; and children’s literature. Except for studies involving the United States or Canada, a geographic focus takes precedence over a topical one in organizing works; hence, users should generally begin with the subject index. Entries are accompanied by full descriptive annotations, but only a few offer an evaluative comment. Three indexes: persons; titles; subjects. Although the work is limited in its coverage and now dated, it is the fullest bibliography of bibliographies devoted to women’s studies.

Jane Williamson, New Feminist Scholarship: A Guide to Bibliographies (Old Westbury: Feminist, 1979; 139 pp.), remains an important complement, since it cites works before 1970 and others omitted in Ballou.

See also

Ingles, Bibliography of Canadian Bibliographies (R4585).

Guides to Primary Works


Davis and Joyce, Drama by Women to 1900 (Q3513).

Davis and Joyce, Personal Writings by Women to 1900 (Q3545a).

Davis and Joyce, Poetry by Women to 1900 (Q3534).

Grimes and Daims, Novels in English by Women, 1891–1920 (M2640).

Marshall, Pen Names of Women Writers from 1660 to the Present (U5115a).

Reardon and Thorsen, Poetry by American Women, 1900–1975 (Q4330).

Smith and Cardinale, Women and the Literature of the Seventeenth Century (M2007).

Women’s History Sources (Q3245).

Guides to Scholarship and Criticism

For a valuable introduction to searching women’s studies topics in the online versions of Arts and Humanities Citation Index (G365), Humanities Index (G385), Essay and General Literature Index (G380), English Short Title Catalogue (M1377), America: History and Life (Q3310), Historical Abstracts (U6500), MLAIB (G335), Philosopher’s Index (U6275), Religion Index (U6350), Art Index (U5145), and ARTbibliographies Modern (U5140), see Joyce Duncan Falk, “Humanities,” Women Online: Research in Women’s Studies Using Online Databases, ed. Steven D. Atkinson and Judith Hudson (New York: Haworth, 1990; Haworth Ser. on Lib. and Information Science 3) 7–72.

For an assessment of the indexing of women’s studies journals by women’s studies bibliographies and general serial bibliographies, see Kristin H. Gerhard, Trudi E. Jacobson, and Susan G. Williamson, “Indexing Adequacy and Interdisciplinary Journals: The Case of Women’s Studies,” College and Research Libraries 54.2 (1993): 125–35; and Deborah Mesplay and Loretta Kock, “An Evaluation of Indexing Services for Women’s Studies Periodical Literature,” RQ 32.3 (1993): 404–10.

Surveys of Research


Fishburn, Katherine. Women in Popular Culture. Westport: Greenwood, 1982. 267 pp. Amer. Popular Culture. HQ1426.F685 305.4′0973.

A survey of scholarship through c. 1980 on the role and image of women in popular culture. Although Fishburn does not provide any explanation of scope or criteria governing selection, she emphasizes recent studies in chapters on histories of women in popular culture; women in popular literature; women in magazines and magazine fiction; women in film; women in television; women in advertising, fashion, sports, and comics; and theories of women in popular culture. The essays vary in organization and breadth, but most conclude with a brief commentary on important reference works and a selective bibliography. Five appendixes: selected periodicals; special issues of periodicals; selected reference works; a chronology; a list of research centers and institutions. Indexed by persons, subjects, and titles. Despite the lack of a statement of editorial policy, Women in Popular Culture is valuable for its detailed descriptions and sometimes trenchant evaluations of studies.


Hartman, Joan E., and Ellen Messer-Davidow, eds. Women in Print: Opportunities for Women’s Studies Research in Language and Literature. New York: MLA, 1982. 198 pp. PN481.W656 809′.89287.

A collection of surveys of areas needing research. The essays on bibliography, archival research, and language and on lesbian, black, working-class, and national literatures selectively survey scholarship as well as define topics for further research. Although now dated in their particulars, the essays remain full of solid practical suggestions for needed research.

See also

Duke, Bryer, and Inge, American Women Writers: Bibliographical Essays (Q3275).

Inge, Handbook of American Popular Culture (U6295a).

Other Bibliographies


Boos, Florence, ed. Bibliography of Women and Literature: Articles and Books, [1974–81], by and about Women from 600 to 1975. 2 vols. New York: Holmes, 1988. Z2014.W65 B66 [PR111] 016.82′09′9287.

A bibliography of English-language books, articles, dissertations, and reviews on literature by and about women. Coverage supposedly extends from 1974 through 1981, but a few later studies are included. Vol. 1 (1974–78) is a revised, enlarged cumulation of the annual bibliographies published in 1976 through 1978 as supplements to Women and Literature; vol. 2 ostensibly extracts entries from MLAIB (G335) and ABELL (G340) “for 1979–81,” but it actually cites only a very few works published after 1979. Although emphasizing British and American writers, Boos includes some of the other literatures in English (especially Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand). The approximately 10,000 entries are organized in divisions for general works, British literature (before 1660, 1660–1800, 1800–1900, and 1900–75), American literature (before 1800, 1800–1900, 1900–75), Canadian literature, other literatures in English, and (in vol. 1) foreign language writers; each is subdivided by genre (including children’s literature and one subdivision for the treatment of women by male writers), then by literary author. Some entries in vol. 1 are accompanied by brief descriptive annotations. Three indexes: scholars; literary authors; genres; unfortunately, the poorly conceived numbering system makes locating entries unduly difficult (and quite impossible unless one remembers that S identifies an entry to be found in vol. 2). Although error-ridden, covering a limited span of years and a restricted number of journals, and less accessible than it should be because of two sequences of entries, the separation of reviews from the work reviewed, and poorly conceived indexes, Boos at least serves as a preliminary guide to studies of women authors and women in literature and demonstrates the need for both retrospective and current serial bibliographies of scholarship and criticism on women and literature. Review: Isobel Grundy, Review of English Studies ns 42.166 (1991): 235–36.


Schwartz, Narda Lacey. Articles on Women Writers: A Bibliography, [1960–84]. 2 vols. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1977–86. Z2013.5.W6.S37 [PR111] 016.82′09′9287.

A checklist of English-language articles and dissertations listed in ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (H465) on women since the Middle Ages writing in English in the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Africa. Vol. 1 covers studies appearing between 1960 and 1975; vol. 2, between 1976 and mid-1984. Writers are listed alphabetically by the most commonly used name (but without cross-references for other forms); under each, studies are organized in up to three sections: bibliographies, general studies, and individual works. Indexed by scholars; writers in vol. 2 are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Limited in scope, omitting numerous studies, and taking most entries from other bibliographies rather than the journals themselves, Articles on Women Writers is principally useful as a starting place and must be supplemented by the serial bibliographies and indexes in section G.

Including works about women in literature as well as about female writers, two books by Carol Fairbanks (Myers)—Women in Literature: Criticism of the Seventies (Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1976; 256 pp.) and More Women in Literature: Criticism of the Seventies (1979; 457 pp.)—cover only 1970 through 1976, are riddled with errors, omit numerous studies, and are generally useless because of a lack of subject indexing. Some additional publications are listed in Linda K. Lewis, “Women in Literature: A Selected Bibliography,” Bulletin of Bibliography 35.3 (1978): 116–22, 131.

See also

Humm, Annotated Critical Bibliography of Feminist Criticism (U6170).

International Medieval Bibliography (M1835).

MLAIB (G335): See the headings beginning “Woman” or “Women” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes or in the online thesaurus.

Salzman, American Studies: An Annotated Bibliography (Q3335).



Women Studies Abstracts. New York: Springer, 1972– . Quarterly, with annual cumulated author and subject indexes. Z7962.W65 016.30141′2′05.

Nonevaluative abstracts and lists of studies on a wide range of topics relating to women. The organization varies widely over the years, with recent issues including unclassified divisions for literature, language, theater and films, biography and criticism, and book reviews. Although subject indexing is now very thorough, the early indexes are not reliable for locating literary authors or works mentioned in abstracts or titles. In some volumes, many articles are listed without abstracts.

The best access to Women Studies Abstracts is through Gender Studies Database or Women’s Studies International database, both hosted by EBSCO (http://www.ebscohost.com; Women’s Studies International is also included in Gender Studies Database); see entry I512 for an evaluation of the EBSCO search interface. Although inconsistent in coverage and annotations, Women Studies Abstracts is useful for its inclusion of numerous works overlooked by the standard bibliographies and indexes in section G.

In addition to Women Studies Abstracts, Gender Studies Database includes Men’s Studies Database (which indexes print and electronic documents produced since 1990), Women’s Studies Database (which indexes about 125 journals since 1972 devoted to women or feminism), and other databases involving women; unfortunately, the Web site does not provide a remotely adequate explanation of the scope of, selection criteria for, or editorial principles governing the individual subfiles.

G. K. Hall Women’s Studies Index, [1988–2002] (New Haven: Hall-Gale, 1991–2003; annual; title varies) includes more popular periodicals among the c. 80 titles indexed by author and subject in each volume. Women’s Studies on Disc, the CD-ROM version, suffers from a rudimentary search engine and minimal help screens.

Studies on Women and Gender Abstracts (London: Routledge–Taylor and Francis, 1983– ; 6/yr.; title varies; <http://www.tandfonline.com/db/cswa>) offers fuller abstracts of journal articles, essays in collections, and books but covers very few works on literature and suffers from rudimentary subject indexing. The online version offers two search modes: Search (basic keyword); Advanced Search (searches of full text, title of article or chapter, publication title, author, ISSN or DOI, and abstract can be limited by date). Results can be sorted by relevancy, title (ascending), date, or author.

For a comparative assessment of Women Studies Abstracts, G. K. Hall Women’s Studies Index, and Studies on Women and Gender Abstracts, see Linda A. Krikos, “Women’s Studies Periodical Indexes: An In-Depth Comparison,” Serials Review 20.2 (1994): 651.

Dissertations and Theses


Gilbert, V. F., and D. S. Tatla. Women’s Studies: A Bibliography of Dissertations, 1870–1982. Oxford: Blackwell, 1985. 496 pp. Z7961.G55 [HQ1180] 016.3054.

A classified list of dissertations and some theses accepted through 1982 by British, Irish, Canadian, and United States institutions. Gilbert and Tatla excludes North American master’s theses as well as most studies of gender difference, marriage, and motherhood. The works are organized in 23 variously classified divisions, among which are ones for the arts (including film), language, and literature (with subdivisions for comparative and general studies, feminist criticism, and then national literatures, some of which are broken down by period and individual authors). An entry cites author, title, degree, institution, and date. Indexed by subjects. Because of a classification based on titles, a lack of cross-references, and an insufficiently thorough subject index (which has more than its share of errors), researchers are generally better served by ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (H465) for North American dissertations. Despite its faults, however, Women’s Studies is a convenient compilation.

See also

Sec. H: Guides to Dissertations and Theses.

Biographical Dictionaries

For an overview of biographical dictionaries of women published between 1966 and 2006, see Susan E. Searing, “Biographical Reference Works for and about Women, from the Advent of the Women’s Liberation Movement to the Present: An Exploratory Analysis,” Library Trends 56.2 (2007): 469–93; <http://hdl.handle.net/2142/4587>. The database underlying the study is available at http://www.library.illinois.edu/lsx/BiogRefWorksAboutWomen.htm (last updated 15 November 2012).


American Women Writers (Q3390).

Bell, Parfitt, and Shepherd, Biographical Dictionary of English Women Writers, 1580–1720 (M1433a).

Blain, Clements, and Grundy, Feminist Companion to Literature in English (J593).

Notable American Women (Q3385).

Schlueter and Schlueter, Encyclopedia of British Women Writers (M1433a).

Todd, British Women Writers (M1433a).

Todd, Dictionary of British and American Women Writers, 1660–1800 (M2265).