Finding a Topic
Collections of Potential Interest to Students
The WLA holds a wide range of collections that might be of interest to students working on History Fair projects. Many of our collections also contain a variety of materials, including documents, correspondence, photographs, videos, oral histories, and more! Be sure to check out our finding aids for a complete list of our collections.
We welcome students to visit us, see our collections, and consult with staff in person. No appointment is required to visit the WLA during our normal operating hours, but they are encouraged. We are also happy to offer special/weekend appointments with advance notice.
History Fair Topics
Topic ideas from the WLA collections can be found in several ways. This page contains some ideas and examples of collections at the WLA. You can also search the list of all of our collections for inspiration. Visit the websites for National History Day and the Chicago Metro History Fair for more information.
Breaking Barriers in History and the WLA Collections
The following collections may be of particular interest for students searching for a topic on this year's History Fair theme: "Breaking Barriers in History."
The collections below are sorted into general topics that relate to the theme “Breaking Barriers in History.” Students might find them useful as a starting point for further research on a particular topic. Subject areas include: Latin American Activism, Women in Politics, Social Justice, Feminist Artists, Class-Action Lawsuits, and Religious Groups.
Latin American Activism
The WLA’s collections include records and papers of women and organizations that fought oppression for Latino communities in Latin American countries as well as in the United States. The women below participated in activities that strove to fight for the civil rights of Latinos both in the United States and abroad. The work included organizing protests for the United Farm Workers Movement, starting a school for underprivileged children in Ecuador, and striving to improve the lives of refugees escaping from oppressive political regimes.
- Mary Agnes Curran, OSF
- Ada Maria-Isasi-Diaz Papers
- Carol Frances Jegen, BVM
- Barbara Kutchera Papers
- Nuevo Mundo School
Women in Politics
Many of the women featured in the WLA collections held political office or represented the United States in some form in foreign relations. The collections include women who served as alderman, councilwomen, senators, and as consultants for U.S. embassies. In addition, our collections also feature the important work of the Chicago Chapter of UNIFEM: United Nations Development Fund for Women.
- UNIFEM Chicago Chapter Records
- Patricia Caron Crowley Papers
- Carolyn Farrell Papers
- Mary P. Haney Papers
- Gretchen Leppke Papers
- Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom
- Margaret “Peggy” Roach Papers
- Carol Ronen Papers
- Mary Ann Smith Papers
- Marion Kennedy Volini Papers
- Diane Ciral Papers
Breaking barriers often means standing up for a cause one feels passionately about-- important examples of this in American history usually pertain to issues of social justice. Which issues have the women in our collections fought for? Our collections include issues of homelessness, the prison system, oppression in the church, education, civil rights, United Farm Workers, disability rights, and economic justice. How did social activists stand up for their beliefs and break barriers to change their communities?
- Patricia Ann Crowley Papers
- Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz Papers
- Prudence Moylan, BVM Papers
- Margaret (“Peggy”) Roach Papers
- Anna Stonum Papers
- Helen Sauer Brown Papers
- Homemakers' Equal Rights Association (HERA)
Many artists break barriers and share ideas through various forms of creative expression including painting, sketching, print-making, and poetry. The WLA holds the records of many artists who expressed their opinions about gender inequality, race, and sexuality. What benefits does art have as a way to share your point of view? How have artists used their craft to comment on cultural realities in the past?
Class-Action Law Suits
Class-action law suits are legal cases where a group of people, with one member as the representative, join together to sue a defendant. Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe vs. Wade are famous class-action law suits that changed the course of U.S. legal history. They also exemplify how groups of individuals can come together and take a stand against injustices using the legal system as a mechanism for change.
Many women’s religious groups worked to reconcile conflicts between women and the Church.