Meet Sylvia

"Does not my heat astound you? And my light."

"This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary."

Encompassing incandescent radiance, glacial luster, and all the refracted and penetrating illuminations in between, Sylvia Plath was driven to examine the world, herself, and her spot in the universe. Her ferocity and inquisitive nature propelled her to stretch the boundaries of what a poem should do, what a poet should be, who a woman should be: she wanted to be and do everything.

Our Sylvia can't be or do nearly that much, but it keeps reaching outward. This collection of books about gender and feminism help reveal the expansive lives and contributions of women, transgender women, and girls. To provide starting points for your work, the scholarship and primary sources are selected to cover science and activism, law and history, peace and gender identity, education and human rights, music and health care, indigenous peoples and work, theory and real-world circumstances, and more as we find it. Here you can seek "the passing dazzle of each face" (try an autobiography) or take in a crowd (check for studies of Egyptians or Brazilians or Koreans). Look from sky to ocean (we have works on pilots and ecofeminists), from the "red eye" of morning to night's "carbon paper" (search for photographers or vampires), from "snowed-in" lands to sweltering shores (there's criticism of literature you'd read anywhere). Investigate the range of jobs or see how girls play. If you have a destination, jump right to it. Or simply contemplate the scenery (Plath would approve of the horses at least). Do it all.


Sylvia is the digital expansion of New Books on Women and Feminism, a bibliography printed at least yearly since June 1979. Its first issue was a typed newsletter copied onto colored paper, stapled, and handed from person to person—immediately and directly connecting readers with resources. The strategy was simple: collect information about all books in English on women and feminism or written by women and spread the word. Over time that ambitious plan generated longer lists, more pages, an evolving design, commercial binding and printing, subscriptions, and a mailing list to reach across the planet.

A net was purposefully cast wide to gather a range of topics and approaches for a general audience: autobiographies of all types, poetry chapbooks, humor, plays, novels in translation, financial guidebooks, short story collections, self-help books, and literary anthologies were well represented alongside scholarship. By spring 2008, distinct subject categories for masculinity/men's studies and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex studies prompted the addition of "Gender" to the title, issues ballooned, and keeping up with the outpouring of work was daunting.

Sylvia builds on this expansive framework and narrows the scope to not only better serve the academic and library communities but also enable us to more readily identify appropriate books about gender, women's rights, the status of women and girls, feminism, discrimination, LGBTQ+ communities, and related content. Now we focus on works for researchers, noteworthy memoirs, scholarly editions, and books of significance with broad appeal mostly published since 2010.

We imagined how an explorer would trek through the site, so we've made it easy to instantly locate what you need or browse for works you didn't realize you couldn't do without. Each book gets assigned as many main subject categories as possible—we aren't limited by newsletter pages now or shelf space or the laws of physics governing paperbacks after all—and more specific subjects plus brief descriptions for selected items help identify content by geographic region, time frame, theoretical underpinning, related research, headings you may already use, and other random terms you can plug into the search bar (no promises on getting meaningful results with "Lazarus" or "Ariel").

We attempt to manage bias within our ecosystem by updating terminology as usage shifts and by avoiding language that marginalizes individuals and groups. We continue to draw inspiration from A Woman's Thesaurus, edited by Mary Ellen S. Capek (New York: Harper and Row, 1987). This process won't end (it's our version of Plath's "piston in motion").

Each record is checked against available information from the publisher, other library catalogs, previews of content, and in some cases a physical copy. Unlike in a typical library resource, names for authors and editors are listed as they appear on each work. We suspect that aside from seeking unfamiliar material you'll use Sylvia to compile a bibliography or grab citations for notes, so you want information presented to suit those scenarios (and we have a handy copy button to assist with that task). With the proliferation of publishing formats and ISBNs and no way to gauge any individual's restrictions or ideal choice, we won't attempt to include every option or maintain records as books fall out of print or get released in new forms over time. If you're desperate for a particular version, head to the linked publisher's website or use an ISBN to unearth the right one through your own library, at your local indie shop, or online.

You'll encounter some brief descriptions that might list novels or locations covered, names of connected research groups, or sources like academic conferences that ground a work. We hope to provide enough content to send you the right direction, but we know Sylvia can never be perfect (sometimes we wish Plath's "fixed stars" could govern our brains), and we'd be glad to know about corrections.

If you have uncovered a Plath manuscript or letter we can read or would like pdfs of New Books issues, please contact us:

Check out "Fever 103°," "The Moon and the Yew Tree," "Epitaph for Fire and Flower," "Ariel," "Insomniac," "Tulips," "Lady Lazarus," "Years," "Getting There, " "Words," and numerous poems featuring horses to get the context for those Plath references.

Contact Us

Sylvia is maintained by the Office of the Gender and Women's Studies Librarian
430 Memorial Library
728 State St.
Madison, WI 53706