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Primary Sources for Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies (GSWS)

You can request assistance from Moninder Lalli, Liaison Librarian for GSWS by phone 778.782.4264 or or Ask a librarian.

General notes

Primary Sources for the Humanities guide provides an extensive list of sources which may also be useful for students of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies (GSWS).  This guide provides a selected number of sources which are of interest to the discipline.

Finding Primary Sources at SFU

Search engine that searches both collections: Atom

SFU Library Catalogue

Use Keyword Search in the SFU Library Catalogue and combine your topic keywords with terms such as sources, documents, correspondence, trials, diaries, or personal narratives.

E.g. - women AND diaries

        - women AND interviews

        - gender AND (interview* OR diar* OR narrativ*)

        - women AND concentration camp* AND personal narratives

Search using specific subject terms by doing a Subject Heading Search:

E.g.  African American Women -- Interviews

The following list of subject headings could be added to a topic to narrow search results to primary sources:

  • history -- sources
  • documents
  • correspondence
  • diaries
  • personal narratives
  • pictorial works
  • description and travel
  • interviews
  • maps
  • manuscripts 

Evaluating primary sources

Reading and interpreting an historical document requires a thoughtful and critical approach. The following sites offer some guidelines for approach and evaluation: Reading a Primary Source , Dohistory, and Using Primary Resources.

Primary Source Databases

       " the oral histories of people who presently or at one time identified as lesbian."

A collection of primary sources on social, political, health, and legal issues impacting LGBTQ communities around the world.  

This unique fully-searchable collection brings together approximately 1.5 million pages of primary sources on social, political, health, and legal issues impacting LGBTQ communities around the world since 1940.  Rare and unique content from newsletters, organisational papers, government documents, manuscripts, pamphlets, and other types of primary sources sheds light on the gay rights movement, activism, the HIV/AIDS crisis, and more. 

  • ARTstor
    The ARTstor Collection currently contains over one million images. The Collection documents artistic traditions across many times and cultures and embraces architecture, painting, sculpture, photography, decorative arts, and design as well as many other forms of visual culture.
  • British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries

        The immediate experiences of Britsh and Irish women, as revealed in diaries and letters.

        "project is a permanent, catalogued and publicly accessible online digital archive of research materials related to health and social welfare, with an emphasis on housing, gender, aboriginal issues, 
         HIV and mental health."

       Books, images, documents, scholarly essays, commentaries, and bibliographies that document the different facets of women’s activism in public life.

       Documents and interpretive essays on women's involvement in World War I, primarily in Britain.

Primary sources on the internet

Many archival and library collections are now preserving, digitizing, and providing access to significant primary historical resources. The Internet also provides access to many other primary sources, such as advertisements, e-mail messages, speeches, manifestos, creative works, laws and court cases, historical documents, etc. It is always possible to search for specific items by using a web browser.  

  • Canadian War Brides
    Provides information on the Canadian War Brides of WWII.
  • Herstory
    A retrospective exhibition to capture the flavour of 20 years of work on a unique feminist project. It samples the pages of Herstory: The Canadian Women's Calendar from 1974 to 1995, and reflects on the process and the people that created them.