Small Repositories Subject Guide: Women's History

Women's contributions to arts and culture, community and social service, and science, medicine and technology are documented in archival collections held at small repositories.

The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), a project of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is uncovering the hundreds of hidden collections held by the many small archival repositories in the five-county Philadelphia area. Some of the collections cataloged in the HCI-PSAR project are summarized in this subject guide, which is designed to facilitate and encourage research at small repositories. The guide is not comprehensive but will serve to highlight underutilized collections and reveal the depth and breadth of resources available at small repositories.

Finding aids to all small repository archival collections surveyed in the HCI-PSAR project are available at our finding aid website, hosted by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Finding aids are being added on an ongoing basis, so check back frequently.

Arts and culture
Community and social service
Nature, technology, and medicine

Arts and culture

Christine Shearer and Irma Schultz scrapbooks, 1935-1970 (WHS.03)
Worcester Historical Society
1.5 linear feet
Christine Shearer (1884-1968) of Worcester, Pennsylvania began entering jingle-writing contests in the 1930s, and continued to enter and win such contests for over 25 years. Mrs. Shearer was active with the local Ladies' Aid Society, serving as its president. Her sister Irma Schultz also entered jingle-writing contests, although not as frequently. The Christine Shearer and Irma Schultz scrapbooks, 1935-1965, are comprised of scrapbooks created by Shearer and Schultz. The bulk consist of newspaper clippings, but of special interest are three scrapbooks that document the women's jingle-writing hobby.

Foerderer and Tonner family papers, circa 1870-1970 (GF.01)
Glen Foerd on the Delaware
18.5 Linear feet
The Foerderer family was prominent in the Philadelphia area and well known for their self-named leather manufacturing and tanning business. The family resided at Glen Foerd beginning in 1893 after purchasing it from the Macalester family. A large portion of the records in the Foerderer and Tonner family papers, circa 1870-1970, are financial in nature and range from 1896 to 1946. There is also a span of subject files which include primarily correspondence and receipts pertaining to the maintenance of the estate. A highlight of this collection are papers of Florence Tonner, who was an avid art collector.

Labyrinth records, 1983-1995 (JJW.SC.0010)
John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives of Philadelphia
5 linear feet
Labyrinth was a feminist newspaper published from 1984 to 2000. The Labyrinth records, 1983-1995, are comprised of administrative records, financial records, and correspondence.

Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926 records, 1921-1927 [bulk 1926-1926] (SM.03)
Historic Strawberry Mansion
7.25 linear feet
The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926 was formed to promote, raise funds, and create exhibits for the exposition. One of their most ambitious and popular exhibits was High Street, a recreation of early American life through buildings and period reenactment. The Women's Committee records, 1921-1927, contain administrative and financial records as well as ephemera generated by the committee.

Community and social service

Foulke and Long Institute for Orphan Girls records, 1857-1948 (GHS.14)
Germantown Historical Society
4.75 linear feet
The Foulke and Long Institute for Orphan Girls was established in Philadelphia in 1882 for orphaned daughters of soldiers, firemen, and others sacrificed for the public benefit. In 1888, Foulke and Long merged with the Industrial Home for the Training of Girls in the Arts of Housewifery and Sewing. Foulke and Long moved to the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia in 1913, where it remained until the institute merged with the Youth Study Center of Philadelphia in 1960. The Foulke and Long Institute for Orphan Girls records, 1857-1948, are primarily comprised of administrative, financial, and pupil records for the Foulke and Long Institute, with some materials from the Industrial Home for Girls. There are Admission and Dismission Committee records, meeting minutes, account books and ledgers, and many other document types.

Nature, technology, and medicine

Dr. Hiram Corson family papers, 1827-1896 (HSMC.12)
Historical Society of Montgomery County
6.7 linear feet
Dr. Hiram Corson (1804-1896) was a practicing physician, and an advocate for abolitionism and women in medicine. He lived in Plymouth Meeting, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The Dr. Hiram Corson family papers, 1827-1896, consist primarily of the papers of Dr. Hiram Corson, with a small amount of materials by other family members. The highlight of the collection is the diaries of Dr. Corson, which date from 1848 to 1896.

Mary Larkin Thomas family papers, 1807-1981 (WTS.13)
Westtown School Archives
3 linear feet
A graduate of Westtown School (West Chester, Pa.), Mary Larkin Thomas (1886-1981) was a horticulturalist who was known, along with her mother and sister, in the area of Chester County, Pennsylvania as an "herb doctor." Thomas practiced herbal medicine; in particular, she used these skills to care for the infants of local Quaker families. She was also involved in numerous organizations, particularly Quaker associations. The Mary Larkin Thomas family papers, 1807-1981, include mostly correspondence, photographs, and other personal papers of Mary Larkin Thomas as well as papers of her immediate family members, in particular her sister Rachel C. Thomas and her mother Rebecca J. (Hallowell) Thomas. There are also some financial records of Mary's father, R. Henry Thomas.