Collecting the literary record of women writers—some very well known, others often neglected, some anonymous—is the purpose and goal of the Cairns Collection of American Women writers, 1650-1940. The voices of women in American literary history reflect visions and styles as diverse as their experiences. In addition to the works of published authors the Cairns Collection includes more than 100 manuscript diaries and journals. There are travel diaries, birth journals, scrapbooks, autograph books and daily life records of many kinds. These are often multi-volume works reflecting years and sometimes decades of activity and are frequently accompanied by ephemera. The diary books and examples of handwriting provide a rich record of a variety of types of life-writing.
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