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Women's History Manuscript Collections at the Rubenstein Library

Domestic & Social Life Overview

Image of the publication, The I Hate to Cook Book Abundant collections of diaries, correspondence, and related materials document the social life and customs, family relationships and routine domestic chores of women in the home. Holdings are particularly strong in Southern plantation materials, but also present are papers of rural Midwest and New England country women as well as urban aristocrats in the U.S. and abroad. The bulk of the collections are from the 19th or early 20th centuries. This is not an exhaustive list; it is meant to offer an overarching sense of our diverse holdings on the domestic and social lives of women throughout history. 

Related Materials

Image of the publication, The Questions Girls Ask

Subject Guides

The Glory of Woman: Prescriptive Literature
This bibliography provides an introduction to prescriptive literature, including conduct-of-life books, domestic arts manuals, and etiquette guides. The genre of prescriptive literature highlights the social and cultural forces that shape women's everyday lives. Materials range from 1631-2001.

Digital Collections

Everyday Life and Women in America c. 1800-1920
Provides access to rare primary source material on American social, cultural, and popular history from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History, Duke University and The New York Public Library. It comprises searchable images (alongside transcriptions) of monographs, pamphlets, periodicals and broadsides addressing 19th and early 20th century political, social and gender issues, religion, race, education, employment, marriage, sexuality, home and family life, health, and pastimes, emphasizing conduct of life and domestic management literature, the daily lives of women and men, and contrasts in regional, urban and rural cultures.

Secondary Sources

Burr, Virginia Ingraham. The Secret Eye : the Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889. Chapel Hill, NC: 1990.
An abridged version of the Ellas Gertrude Clanton Thomas diaries containing an introductory essay on Southern women diarists.