In addition to its strong presidential and congressional collections, the Manuscript Division also holds the nation's largest
gathering of papers of chief justices and associate justices of the United States, as well as the papers of many judges of the lower federal and state courts. Complementing these judicial collections are the papers of numerous attorneys general, solicitors general, public interest
groups, and private lawyers and litigants, all of which provide excellent sources of historical information on the country's legal affairs, including the laws and
court cases that have shaped women's status, rights, and freedoms for more than three centuries.
Although principally relating to areas of federal law, these
collections touch on a host of legal matters of interest to women's historians, including such issues as nationality, citizenship,
property and dower rights, voting rights, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, working conditions, pay equity, and reproductive
rights, to name just a sampling. They often contain details about legal cases and background on a judge's decision-making
process that are not found in the official court reporters and similar published accounts, which are described among the holdings of the Law Library.
Noted here are the papers of prominent women Supreme Court justices, judges and attorneys, followed by a sampling of men's collections relevant to women's legal history. Since many of these legal collections carry
access restrictions (which vary from collection to collection and are too
complex to explain here), researchers are reminded to contact the Manuscript Division Reading Room before visiting.