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OBD Editor’s Guide to Using the Database


The Online Biographical Dictionary provides biographical sketches of 3,750 grassroots woman suffrage activists. The vast majority of the sketches have been written by volunteers, though we also have hyperlinks to several hundred sketches prepared for Notable American Women, Wikipedia, and other resources. The bio sketches are grouped into three sections—Black women suffragists, militant suffragists from the National Woman's Party (NWP), and mainstream suffragists active with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA).

There are a number of ways to search in or browse through the database. At the bottom of the overall introduction to the database there is a search window that enables full-text searches of the entire database (Not including sketches from Notable American Women and other external resources). You can search for names to see if particular individuals are included in the database—using either regular name order or "lastname, firstname." If you search for "Tennessee" you will get a results for all suffragists from Tennessee, but also all sketches that mention Tennessee. You can also search for names of organizations, but you'll need to place the names in quotation marks. Thus, as of July 2023, there were 422 sketches with references to the "Woman's Christian Temperance Union." The ability to search for any word or phrase in the sketches should prove very valuable to researchers.

For each of the three subgroups in the database, you can go to their section from the website's home page. At the bottom of the introduction for each section you can go to the listing of suffragists in that group. On the list of militant woman suffragists, for instance, you will find a search window that permits full-text searching within the group of NWP militant suffragists. There is also an alphabetical list of the NWP suffragists on this page and you can scroll down the list, browsing for sketches of suffragists you are interested in. The same functionality is available separately within Black women suffragists and NAWSA suffragists.

For all searching, you will want to employ multiple variations of names of individuals and organizations. In contemporary primary sources these names were rendered with considerable variation, both by suffragists and people writing about suffragists. You may want to try an individual's first and last name; middle and last name; first, middle and last name, in quotation marks. You may need to spell a suffragist's last name in multiple ways to find all the references to her in the database. You may want to try "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" and NAACP in searching for that organization. Given the fact that more than 1,900 volunteers wrote the sketches it has been impossible to impose absolutely consistent editorial control over the sketches and their Sources notes.

In July 2023, we corrected an error in full-text searching for Black women suffragists. Previously, the overall search from the OBD's home page did not include searching in the sketches of Black women suffragists. We have corrected that problem and you will be able to carry out full-text searches in all the sketches in the database. If you prefer to limit a search within only one group of sketches, you can employ the search window found in that section.

If you find errors in the database, please feel free to contact the editor at Every six months we update the database and that work includes making corrections to existing sketches as they come to our attention.

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