In the last half-century much scholarly attention has been focused on the various and evolving roles of women in modern society. Researchers in history and cultural studies have shed new light on how and why gender roles are constructed and enforced at different times and in different societies. Such lines of inquiry today help explain the gulf between Islamic and Western views of women, and the multiplier effect of development aid to women in many emerging societies.
The present issue of Focus highlights some of the primary source materials that CRL has collected and preserved to support those studies. CRL collections are especially rich in popular literature, magazines like Women’s Wear Daily and the Russian Rabotnitsa, which at times reflect and reinforce gender stereotypes—and at times shatter them. CRL holdings also include German political tracts and treatises, and the the publications of activist groups that have at various moments in history affected women’s status. The issue also highlights a particular scholarly enterprise, the Modern Girl Around the World project at the University of Washington, which has mined these collections to create new understandings of an important phenomenon.