The Women's Thesaurus

The Women’s Thesaurus is a useful tool for searching by subject. It consists of terms about women, gender, gender equality and feminism. It also includes synonyms along with broader, more specific and related terms. The Thesaurus is a good starting point for searches involving theses, research, articles, programmes and policy memoranda.

To The Women's Thesaurus



Searching by subject

Information about women can be about anything concerning their experience and position in society. For instance: economic independence, feminism, domestic violence, informal care, migration, political participation and public perception.

This can entail historical subjects such as first-wave feminism, witches, women’s suffrage and black women’s history. In addition, it encompasses theoretical developments in women’s studies and feminist academic practice that involve intersectionality, theories of power, the nature versus culture debate and queer theory, etc. Terms relating to men and masculinity are also included.

Moreover, The Women’s Thesaurus contains geographical and time indications along with terms for the information’s form such as a thesis, statistics, a diary or song.

Search options

There are different ways to search The Women’s Thesaurus:

  • By using The Women’s Thesaurus’ search box next to the Atria search box
  • By category
  • Alphabetically by using thesaurus terms

Thesaurus terms are written in the plural with the exception of words that have no plural. Form terms are always in the singular. For example, the term ‘diaries’ will generate search results about diaries, whereas the term ‘diary’ will result in the actual diaries themselves.

How does The Women’s Thesaurus work?

A list of relevant thesaurus terms is located alongside the search options in the right-hand column. If you click one of these terms, you will see associated words that include broader and more specific terms, related subjects (Related for) and synonyms (Used for). If you click a non-preferred term in this list, you will then access the preferred term.

It is now possible to click from term to term in The Women’s Thesaurus. For instance, if the term ‘feminism’ fails to provide sufficient information, you could then opt for a broader term like ‘social movements’. Conversely, if you wish to refine your search, you should deploy more specific terms such as ‘first feminist wave’ and ‘radical feminism’. You could also look at related terms including ‘anti-feminism’ and ‘black feminism’. Finally, if you click on the term in bold in the centre, you will leave The Women’s Thesaurus and be shown the collection’s search results.

Using thesaurus terms to search the collection

There are different ways of using thesaurus terms to search the collection:

  • By using The Women’s Thesaurus itself
  • On the home page, you can add one or more Women’s Thesaurus terms to the search box, which you can also supplement with your own keywords
  • An advanced search allows you to combine a number of thesaurus terms. When looking for a term, you will be shown a drop-down list of possible terms that can be used in your search

 The Women’s Thesaurus in use both at home and abroad

The online Women’s Thesaurus is an up-to-date version of the publication The Women’s Thesaurus: A List of Controlled Terms for Indexing Information on the Position of Women and Women’s Studies (1992), which was compiled by Gusta Drenthe and Maria van der Sommen. It was jointly published by the International Archives for the Women’s Movement (now known as Atria) and the Anna Maria van Schurman Centre (AMSC), the Graduate School for Advanced Research on Women’s Studies at Utrecht University. Both The Women’s Thesaurus and its English-language equivalent, The European Women’s Thesaurus (1998), are used not only by Atria but also by many other women’s information centres both at home and abroad. Atria maintains the online Women’s Thesaurus and the European Women’s Thesaurus.

Questions about the Women’s Thesaurus

You can contact the information desk at with any questions about The Women’s Thesaurus and also for help when searching.