Women's Studies Section

Association of College & Research Libraries / American Library Association
Valley of the Shadow
Primary Source Types for Women's Studies TEXT
Diaries / Letters / Personal Papers
Government Documents
Periodicals – Newspapers
Record Books
Art Images / Drawings / Paintings
Statistical Data
Subjects for Women's Studies Advice Literature
African American Women
Civil War (United States), 1861-1865
Economic Status
Family Studies
Gender Roles
Labor / Employment
Literature – Poems
Social History
Women’s Clubs
Collections The Eve of War: Fall 1859 to Spring 1861
The War Years: Spring 1861 to Spring 1865
The Aftermath: Spring 1865 to Fall 1870
Coverage Dates


Archive is Ongoing / Completed Completed
Publisher Virginia Center for Digital History, University of Virginia
URL http://valley.vcdh.virginia.edu/
Date Searched January 2007


The Valley of the Shadow is really a gathering of 19 separate databases. It provides remarkable detail of the lives of individual people, both slave and free, and of two communities, one Northern and one Southern, from the American Civil War era. This is defined as the time of John Brown’s raid through the era of Reconstruction. Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania are the sites covered. Each database contains several hundred items, ranging from some 200 letters to 700 photographs.

New collections are added as they become available, although the project is considered to be nearly completed.

Women's Studies Content

Six databases with women’s studies content

  • Letters - substantial content for women's studies
  • Diaries - substantial content for women's studies
  • Images - 5 records for "women"
  • Chambersberg Claims - 178 records for "female"
  • Veterans' Widows - "woman" by name
  • Free Black - "woman" by name


Searching in the Valley of the Shadow Archive begins on a page with three images of a building floor plan representing the three collections or time periods of the materials. Each "floor plan" has nine sections organized by primary source type - statistics, church records, maps and images, letters and diaries, newspapers, census and tax records, battle maps, soldiers records', and Freedmens Bureau documents. Searching then takes place in one of the 19 individual collections.

Searching varies within each category but is usually available for word or phrase with options to limit the search by fields such as author, date, or particular type of material. For example, in Letters & Diaries, author, keywords, date and types of material can be specified within a keyword or phrase search. In Church Records, searching is by personal name, while in Soldier’s Records, a number of elements can be entered to find a particular person.

Searching for documents, letters, or diaries retrieves a facsimile of the original document. Within the Census, Church Records, and Maps & Images sections, tables of data and graphic representation are available.

Truncation yes (%) (stated but does not seem functional)
Boolean yes (AND)
Phrase Searching for some collections
Help Screens/Quality yes, in some collections / basic
Controlled Vocabulary yes
Keywords in Context yes (within results list)
  • Controlled vocabulary is limited to lists of topics covered in a particular area
  • Access beginning with three floor plans is a useful if unconventional approach
  • Exact matches will be found unless truncation is specified
  • Both exact bibliographic information and a modern spelling version are provided for each letter or diary entry
  • Printing and copying entries as they are found is easy. However, there is no provision made for saving records to a file for accumulation or later use.

Archive Review:
Susan White
Princeton University

Last updated: January 16, 2007

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