Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Searching for Topics with Online Resources – The Civil War and Emerging Women’s Rights

April's display on the Civil War addresses an important part of America's political and military history. It also marks a time when Americans were becoming socially conscious about the rights of human beings. In the years leading up to the Civil War, prominent abolitionists who challenged slavery, including Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, also began asking questions about the rights of women.

While Ken Burns was working on his now famous Civil War documentary, his interest in this time period resulted in Not For Ourselves Alone, which was on display for Women's History Month in March and is based on the lives of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who headed the first women's rights convention at Seneca Falls in 1848. A search on Seneca Falls in the library's catalog reveals that the historical convention also made its way into fiction via a mystery novel called Through A Gold Eagle: a Glynis Tryon mystery by Miriam Grace Monfred.

To search for the most recent information on historical topics, you can go to the Gale Infotrac General Reference Center Gold on the library's blog or online resources page. After you enter your library card number, the page will go to “Browse Subjects.” If, for example, you then typed “Seneca Falls,” a recent search would bring up three subject terms, and by clicking on “Seneca Falls, New York” you would have access to 29 articles.

A recent search turned up a decade old article about the 1848 convention for a children's magazine called Cobblestone, and several abstracts of articles in Ms. For the abstract of “What really happened at Seneca Falls” in a 1998 issue of Ms., “Related Subjects” provided a list of helpful topics on the left side of the screen, including 299 matches for Abolitionists and 91 matches for Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Matches for Stanton turned up an article in the Spring 2009 issue of National Parks, which included photographs, details about a historic chapel that had been converted into a laundromat, and the author's revelation that her grandmother had been a civil engineer who actually lived with Stanton for a short time.

A basic search for Sojourner Truth, the abolitionist and suffragist who made her famous “Ain't I A Woman?” speech to the Ohio Women's Rights convention in 1851, turned up the most recent article as: “Sojourner Truth: Childhood and Youth” in the November and December 2010 issue of Skipping Stones. The story included beautiful color drawings of Truth's life by 3rd and 4th graders who live in the part of New York where she was born and raised.

One of the great things about using the library's resources is that they give you a way to dig deeper into history. Another good reason is to find proof that many different kinds of stories, including ones that may not have made it into some textbooks in the past, are now being honored by the next generations.

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