Information about British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries
  Release 4   May, 2005.
1. About the Database - a description of the contents of the database and its purpose.
2. Editorial Policy - detailed criteria used in selecting materials.
3. Editorial Board - individuals who have helped in the construction of the database.
4. Errata - known typographical and software errors to be fixed next release.
5. Release Notes - notes on this version.
6. Software Requirements - notes on which browsers are supported.
7. Technical Support - whom to contact for technical support.
8. Subscription and Free Trial Information - how to get a subscription or a trial.
9. License Agreement - licensing terms and conditions.
10. Acknowledgements - charter customers and individuals who contributed.
11. How to Contribute Materials or Comments - how to contribute materials.
12. Copyright Statement - copyright terms and conditions.
13. Archiving - how this material is preserved for the future.
14. Cataloging Records - what kind of MARC records will be available for this collection.

1.   About British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries

British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries is the largest collection of British and Irish women's diaries and correspondence ever assembled. Spanning more than 300 years, it brings the personal experiences of nearly 500 women to researchers, students, and general readers.

The uses for the collection will be many and varied. For historians, sociologists, students of literature, researchers in genealogy, and others, British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries will prove a dramatic new resource. These diaries bring us much more than the personal. They provide a detailed record of what women wore, the conditions under which they worked, what they ate, what they read, and how they amused themselves. We can see how frequently they attended church, how they viewed their connection to God, and how they prayed. We can explore their relationships with lovers and family and friends. William Matthews, an early scholar in this field, observed:

"I believe the diary to be a unique kind of writing; all other forms of writing envisage readers, and so are adapted to readers, by interpretation, order, simplification, rationalization, omission, addition, and the endless devices of exposition . . . [diaries] are in general the most immediate, truthful, and revealing documents available. . ."
This edition of the collection includes approximately 100,000 pages of published letters and diaries from individuals writing from 1500 to 1950, including several thousand pages of previously unpublished materials. Drawn from 290 sources, including journal articles, pamphlets, newsletters, monographs, and conference proceedings, much of the material is in copyright. Represented are all age groups and life stages, all ethnicities, many geographical regions, the famous and the not so famous.

The collection has been developed alongside North American Women's Letters and Diaries, which uses the same software and indexing to provide access to more than 150,000 pages of American material from Colonial times to 1950.

The contents have been selected from the bibliographies listed below as well as other sources.

Back to Top

2.   Editorial Policy

The material for British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries has been selected according to a number of strict criteria. Initially, we consulted a number of leading bibliographies, which provided a basis from which we could begin to license and acquire materials.

  • Women's Diaries, Journals, and Letters: an annotated bibliography, Cheryl Cline, Garland, 1989
  • And So to Bed: a bibliography of diaries published in English. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1987
  • 800 years of women's letters, Olga Kenyon ; foreword by P.D. James. Boston : Faber and Faber, 1993
  • Personal writings by women to 1900 : a bibliography of American and British writers, compiled by Gwenn Davis and Beverly A. Joyce. 1st University of Oklahoma Press ed. Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
  • Centuries of female days : Englishwomen's private diaries, Harriet Blodgett. New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, c1988.
Further criteria include:
  • Authors must be women and must have been resident in Ireland or the British Isles for a significant time.
  • Materials must have been written contemporaneously. Memoirs and autobiographical material are excluded, unless they are considered of particular value.
  • Letters written after 1950 are excluded.
  • Diaries that began before 1950 are included until they are complete. Diaries that began after 1950 are excluded.
  • Letters written by men are excluded, even when they are part of a source work.

Back to Top

        3.  Editorial Board

Dr. Melissa Hardie is a social historian and author with particular interests in liberal arts groups and institutions. She is the long-time publisher of the Patten Press based in Penzance, Cornwall, UK, and the founder/curator of the Hypatia Collections on the history of women's lives. She is a graduate of Boston University in English, obtaining her doctorate from the University of Edinburgh (1980).
Elizabeth Heckendorn Cook is an Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of Epistolary Bodies: Gender and Genre in the Eighteenth-Century Republic of Letters (Stanford, 1996). Her current research focuses on early modern intersections of science and literature.

Back toTop

4.   Errata

Our goal is to have no errors in this database.   To this end we are interested in hearing about any errors you may find.

Below are known errors in this release of the database which will be rectified in the next release.

  • There are no known errors in the database at this time.

Back to Top

5.   Release NotesThis release of British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries includes approximately 500 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of material.

Back to Top

6.   Software Requirements

British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries is optimized to operate with Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 or higher, and Firefox 3.0. (We are aware that the "select terms" feature of our Find and Search is not performing well in Firefox 3.5.2. Upgrading to the latest version of Firefox will resolve this issue.)

Back to Top

7.   Technical Support

You can contact us by:

When reporting a problem please include your customer name, e-mail address, phone number, domain name or IP address and that of your web proxy server if used.

Back to Top

8.   Subscription and Free Trial Information

British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries is available for one-time purchase of perpetual access, or as an annual subscription. Please contact us at if you wish to begin a subscription or to request a free 30-day trial

Back to Top

7.   License Agreement

Terms of Use

Back to Top

10.   Acknowledgements

British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries was made possible through the hard work of the following individuals:


Catherine Mardikes Software and design, University of Chicago
Charles Blair University of Chicago
Christina Keller Indexing, Proofing, Mark-up
Darryl Baker Sourcing, Proofing, Mark-up
Diane R. Schnurrpusch Helped build the British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries thesaurus
Eileen Lawrence Research, Alexander Street Press
Graham Dimmock Software Development
Janice Cronin Finance, Alexander Street Press
John Cicero Software Development
John O'Keefe Indexing, Proofing, Mark-up
Kelly Connor Indexing, Proofing, Mark-up
Kristin Shumaker Mark-up
Laura Gosling Assistant Editor, Alexander Street Press
Mark Olson Software and design, University of Chicago
Ning Zhu Software Development
Pat Lawry Editor, Alexander Street Press
Phyllis Holman Weisbard Assistance with selection of material
Sheryl Friend Indexing, Proofing, Mark-up
Will Whalen Licensing, Sourcing, Proofing, Mark-up

Back to Top

11.   How to Contribute Materials or Comments

Our goal is to create a unique archive of letters and diaries according to the editorial criteria expressed above. We welcome contributions from organizations and individuals, especially if you have materials that are unpublished or of unique interest. Submitting materials to our editors is easy and without obligation on your part. If you have collections of substantial value, we may be able to pay you a royalty in return for the rights to use them.

  • To submit materials for inclusion in BWL, please email the Editor at or mail them to him at 3212 Duke Street,  Alexandria, VA 22314.
  • If you are a commercial publisher who would like to discuss licensing materials for inclusion in the database, please contact the Editor at or 1-800-889-5937 or 1-703-212-8522.
  • To report factual errors or to suggest improvements, please email us at Please include the author, the document, and the page number. Please also include your email address so that we can let you know the status of your correction.

Back to Top

12.   Copyright Statement

All materials in British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries are protected under U.S. and International Copyright Law. Fair use under the law permits reproduction of single copies for personal research and private use. Further transmission, reproduction, or presentation of protected items requires the written permission of the copyright owners.

Back to Top

13.   Archiving

Texts produced for British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries are considered research materials and receive the same level of stewardship as books, paper documents, and photographs. Once complete, copies of the database will be given to all purchasing institutions, so ensuring that the materials are available to subsequent generations.

Back to Top

14.   Cataloging Records

MARC records are now available for this collection. Records will point to each book, series or manuscript. This will enable patrons to link directly from a public access catalog to all documents pertaining to that publication.

Back to Top


Produced in collaboration with the University of Chicago.
Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © Alexander Street Press, LLC. All rights reserved.
Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy
PhiloLogic Software, Copyright © The University of Chicago.