History and Social Studies Teachers

You can bring history home by looking at the artwork and reading the stories of women artists who have lived in Illinois since statehood. The artwork these women made may well capture the imagination of your students. Tell the stories–what life was really like– using the work of artists from your community and nearby Illinois locales. Look at the sitters’ clothing, the objects assembled around them, and any furniture in portraits. Note the buildings in street scenes.

Here are some publications and websites which might be helpful in studying state and local history.

 If there are women artists who lived in your town or area of the state, their works and experiences might personalize history for your students. We can help you locate them. Send us an email telling us your Illinois town, and we’ll find the artist who is nearest to you. Then you can go to the ARTISTS DIRECTORY of our website to learn what we’ve found out about her. You may want to do a little digging to learn more about her and her time period; please share new information you find with us. And also let us know about other useful resources you like.


Hoffman, John, ed. A Guide to the History of Illinois (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991) offers a social history of Illinois as well as guides to researching local history.


Ramirez, Leonard G. ed. Chicanas of 18th Street: Narratives of a Movement from Latino Chicago (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011) presents powerful testimonies of six female community activists from the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago on how education, immigration, religion, identity, and acculturation affected the Chicano movement.


Schultz, Rima Lunin and Adele Hast, eds. Women Building Chicago 1790-1900: A Biographical Dictionary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001) features biographies of more than 400 women who helped build modern day Chicago. 


You’ll find information and resources about Illinois art, history and writing at the sites listed below. Check our LINKS page also. Be sure to look for facts, historical descriptions, and ideas at your local historical society, art center and library. Libraries have often been repositories for local artists’ works. Visit the artist’s home and places she frequented if they are still standing.


General History of Women in Illinois

  • the Chicago Area Women’s History Council is a non-profit volunteer organization that provides a dynamic network of historians, archivists, teachers, public historians, media professionals, writers, artists, activists and scholars from many disciplines. Their current project, “Documenting Women’s Activism and Leadership in Chicago, 1945-2000,” is identifying and preserving resources to document women’s contributions during this period, with a particular emphasis on the Chicago women’s movement of the 1960s – 1980s. 
  • Osborne, Lori. “A Brief History of Woman Suffrage in Illinois” (Evanston Historical Society, 2018).

Historical Sites

Illinois Art History

  • this section of the Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) catalogue, “Topics in American Art” contains a group of essays and a list of arts organizations concerned with Illinois representational art history.

Illinois History

  • the Federal Writers’ Project collection at the Library of Congress includes 75 manuscripts about Illinois subjects. The Federal Writers’ Project was a New Deal jobs program that was part of the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1940. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents vary in form from narratives to dialogues to reports to case histories.
  • Life in Illinois before 1950 is an online exhibit based on an on-going exhibit at the Illinois State Museum, At Home in the Heartland, about family life in Illinois. It includes timelines, maps, objects, people, and teacher resources.

Oral Histories