The Special Collections Departments of the Bryn Mawr and Haverford College Libraries hold extensive collections of historical manuscripts, printed works, and artifacts relating to a wide range of topics. Bryn Mawr's collections are especially strong on topics relating to women's rights and European encounters with Africa, Asia and the Americas, and Haverford is one of the major repositories on the history of Quakers in America and early Philadelphia history.
Bryn Mawr College’s Special Collections Department has extensive collections rare books, pamphlets, manuscripts, photographs, and art and artifacts from many time periods and most parts of the world.
For the rare book collections, there are individual guides to Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, 15th Century Printed Books, French Revolution pamphlets, European Travel Accounts before 1850, the History of London, Botanical Books, and Women’s Suffrage Ephemera, and there are also important collections on British colonialism in Africa and India, the history of cooking and domestic management, and European cities, especially Paris.
The art and artifact collections cover a wide range of cultures and time periods. An overview can be found on the Art & Artifacts website, and the collection can be searched through the online catalogue, Triarte.
One of the Special Collections Departments's major strengths is women’s history and the history of the women’s rights movements. The most important of these collections is the papers of M. Carey Thomas, which document not only her career at Bryn Mawr, but also her active work and writings on women’s rights, and including her extensive correspondence with suffrage leaders, notably Anna Howard Shaw, and with Thomas’s close friend and a funder of many women’s causes, Mary Garrett. Other important women’s rights collections include the photograph albums compiled by suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt, and long runs of several major women’s rights publications, including The Woman’s Column (New York: 1892-1904), International Woman Suffrage News (London, 1914-1916), the publications of Alice Paul’s National Woman’s Party, The Suffragist (Washington, 1916-1919) and Equal Rights (1924-1952), and from the feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s, Off Our Backs, Women: A Journal of Liberation, and Heresies.
The collections include correspondence and diaries of many Bryn Mawr graduates, including a number of women who worked in Europe and Asia in the early part of the century, including Margaret Bailey Speer, Dean of Yenching University from the 1920s to the early 1940s; Clara Case Edwards, a resident of Persia during World War I, and Dorothy Burr Thompson and Lucy Shoe Meritt, both archaeologists working in Greece and Turkey in the 1920s and 1930s. Guides for most of the manuscript collections can be found either on Special Collections Guide page, or as part of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries Finding Aid Database.
There are also a number of online exhibitions relating to Bryn Mawr’s history that were created through the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, and that drew from the Bryn Mawr collections, including Black at Bryn Mawr, and exhibitions on LGBT experiences, the Summer School for Women Workers, Athletics, and Bryn Mawr graduates in WWI.
The Quaker and Special Collections at Haverford have extensive holdings in the records of Quaker meetings and organizations on the East Coast and papers of Quaker families in the Philadelphia region, making it a major center for the study of colonial and early American history. Additional information about its collections can be found at its website. There are also more detailed guides available on the following topics:
Native American History: Quakers had extensive connections with Native Americans beginning in the late 17th century in Pennsylvania and New York, and including a leadership role in the federal government’s relationships with Native Americans in the West after the Civil War. The collections include both organizational records relating to Native American relations and papers of individuals active in the work.
Abolition and Slavery Materials: Quakers were active in the Abolitionist Movement from the 18th century. Their abolitionist work is documented in numerous collections of family papers, and pamphlets, broadsides, and other printed material related to slavery and the Abolitionist Movement.
Asian History and Culture: Quakers were active in missionary and educational work throughout Asia, particularly in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The collections include large numbers of letters, diaries, and organizational records relating to the work of Quakers in Japan, China, India, and the Middle East.