About the Project

About College Women

College Women is a searchable portal of diaries, letters, scrapbooks and photographs from the archives of a select group of the earliest women’s colleges in the United States, the Seven Sisters. This site aggregates content from partner sites and illuminates connections between the experiences of women students, with the goal of supporting new studies in topics such as political reform and women’s rights, sexuality and body image, religion, race and class, as well as major domestic and international events.

History of the Project

College Women is a consortial project of the libraries and archives of the institutions formerly known as the Seven Sisters. The project began in the spring of 2014 with a Foundations Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support the development of an online portal capable of searching the institutions’ digital collections of student material. Design and construction of the site was done by Interactive Mechanics, LLC of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These materials form the core of a collection that will continue to grow and evolve as a resource for scholarship on the impact of education on the trajectory of women’s lives.

A white paper that reports on the first phase of the project, which culminated in the beta release of CollegeWomen.org in May 2015, is available on the Bryn Mawr College open-access repository.

In March of 2016, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant to Bryn Mawr College to fund the expansion of digitized content and selective technical improvements to the website. The second phase of the project took place between summer 2016 and April 30, 2018.

Note on Bias in the Collections

The College Women project team acknowledges the bias inherent in our collections, as they are both documents of and products of anti-Black racism, xenophobia, homophobia, religious and class discrimination, theft of indigenous land, and other aspects of white supremacy in US history that have shaped our institutions and archival practices. We disavow the notion of archives as neutral entities: instead, we consider the histories of exclusion and of marginalized people to be an indispensable component of any full interpretation of these items, and we commit to the work of surfacing those histories.

Our approach to this responsibility has involved, and will continue to involve:

  • Building site content to facilitate access to items that are pertinent to the experiences of students from marginalized populations, including but not limited to: students of color, poor and working class students, and queer and gender nonconforming students;
  • Providing context, wherever possible, for pejorative representations in the collections;
  • Centering this work formally in our project mission and our resource distribution, especially as the project pursues additional partners or further rounds of funding;
  • Remaining in open dialogue with colleagues and users as we continue to build and maintain CollegeWomen.org.

Contributors and Advisory Board

Current contributors to this site include the libraries and archives of the colleges Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley, Vassar, and Radcliffe (now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University). Our advisory board consists of leading scholars in the fields of women’s history, history of education, women’s archives, and the digital humanities: Ellen Gruber Garvey (New Jersey City University); Helen Horowitz (Smith College); Mary Kelley (University of Michigan); Laura Mandell (Texas A&M University); Monica L. Mercado (Colgate University); Katherine Rowe (College of William and Mary); Susan N. Tucker (Tulane University); and Nancy Woloch (Barnard College).

Contact Info

For questions about an individual item in the collection, please contact the repository that holds the document. There is a link to repository contact information at the bottom of each item record, as well, or you could use the list of links below. Please note: if you are inquiring about a specific item, take note of the title of the item and the url listed in the citation.

For more information about this project, please contact the College Women Project Director, Eric Pumroy at epumroy@brynmawr.edu.

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