Internet Women's History Sourcebook


"How are historians to remedy the silence about women in many traditional accounts of history? This question has received a number of distinct answers.

The first solution was to locate the great women of the past, following the lead of much popular historiography that focuses on "great men". The problem here is that just as the "great men" approach to history sidelines and ignores the lives of the mass of people, focusing on great women merely replicates the exclusionary historical approaches of the past.

The next solution was to examine and expose the history of oppression of women. This approach had the merit of addressing the life histories of the mass of women, but, since it has proved to be possible to find some degree of oppression everywhere, it tended to make women merely subjects of forces that they could not control. On the other hand, historians' focus on oppression revealed that investigating the structures of women's lives was crucial.

In recent years, while not denying the history of oppression, historians have begun to focus on the agency of women. All human beings are subject to some degree of social forces that limit freedom, but within those limits people are able to exercise greater or lesser degrees of control over their own lives. This insight applies equally to women even in oppressive societies.

These various approaches to the history of women are not exclusive. This sourcebook attempts to present online documents and secondary discussions which reflect the various ways of looking at the history of women within broadly defined historical periods and areas."

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