What is a primary source?

Primary sources come in a wide variety of formats, but they all have one thing in common: they are original, unfiltered sources that describe people, places and events. While museums, archives, and libraries preserve primary sources in their original form, reproductions may be widely available and accessible in a variety of formats including print books, digital archives, websites, and microfilm.

Primary Sources in the Library's Collection and Elsewhere

Use the Library's catalog and WorldCat to discover primary sources related to your topic. Visit the history subject guide for advice on finding primary sources in the catalog or contact your librarian for assistance. Looking for magazine archives? Go the the Magazines section of this guide.

Falvey Library Catalog
The Library's catalog enables patrons to search & browse Falvey Library’s collection of books, journals, audio/video materials, electronic resources and more.

WorldCat (FirstSearch)
Presents a combined catalog of the catalogs of more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. WorldCat highlights publications available at Villanova University. Other items can be requested via an inter-library loan request form.

Selected Digital Archives

Black Women's Suffrage (Digital Public Library of America)
Explores linkages between women's suffrage and other social issues of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries including slavery, lynching, education reform, and civil rights, as well as racism within the Suffrage Movement.

Defining Gender (Adam Matthew Digital)
Offers documents including diaries, periodicals, letters, pamphlets, account books, commonplace books, college records and exam books, government papers, and ephemera that cast a light on gender, leisure, and consumer culture in the UK from 1400 through the early 20th century. Contents fall into five main thematic areas: Conduct and Politeness; Domesticity and the Family; Consumption and Leisure; Education and Sensibility; and The Body. Includes contextual essays and biographies of many of the authors. Sourced from the originals in a variety of British libraries and archives.

Digital Transgender Archive (College of the Holy Cross)
Features direct access and links to primary source materials from over thirty institutions including the GLBT Historical Society, the NYC Trans Oral History Project, and numerous university archives.

Gender: Identity and Social Change (Adam Matthew Digital)
Provides access to primary sources documenting the changing representations and lived experiences of gender roles and relations from the nineteenth century to the present. Offers sources for the study of women's suffrage, the feminist movement, the men’s movement, employment, education, the body, the family, and government and politics.

Gerritsen Collection of Aletta H. Jacobs (ProQuest)
Features digital copies of books, pamphlets and periodicals related to women's history in general and the movement for women's rights in particular. Coverage is international and extends from the middle of the 15th century to the middle of the 20th century.

Godey's Lady's Book (Accessible Archives)
Presents full text access to the complete run of the magazine from 1830 to 1898. Also published as Godey's Magazine and Lady's Book. Includes all color plates as they originally appeared in the magazine.

LGBT Thought and Culture (Alexander Street Press)
Provides coverage of the essential works and archival documents of the global LGBTQ+ movement. Coverage is from the late 19th century to the present and includes archival content in the form of text, letters, speeches, interviews, and ephemera.

Perdita Manuscripts (Adam Matthew Digital)
Offers digital copies of writings by early modern women (1500-1700). The name of the collection, derived from the Latin word for “lost,” alludes to the ephemeral nature of women’s writings which were rarely published and widely shared. Genres represented in the collection range from poetry and religious writings to letters, recipes, and account books. Includes manuscript descriptions with partial transcriptions and detailed annotations where available. The collection is part of the Perdita Project. The manuscripts are held by libraries and archives in the US and UK. Includes pdf files for all manuscripts.

Women in The National Archives (Adam Matthew Digital)
Features a finding aid to women’s studies collections and resources at The National Archives and digital copies of documents related to the campaign for women’s suffrage in Britain (1903-1928), and the colonial territories (1930-1962).

Women Writers Online (Northeastern University - Women Writers Project)
Offers a full text collection of works in English by pre-Victorian women writers. Covers a variety of genres and topics. All texts were originally published between 1526 and 1850.