Autograph signatures, signed letters, and signed documents of famous women in many different fields of endeavor are avidly collected. Discussed here are women in history whose autograph signatures and signed pieces have been collected in part because they are women, as opposed to women whose autograph material has been of interest because of their accomplishments, for example authors. (Many of these authors are discussed in the section entitled “Authors.”) The leading figure in the women’s rights movement, Susan B. Anthony, pioneered the movement to establish every woman’s the right to vote in the United States. Susan B. Anthony’s signed letters have long been collected by a university library in New York, though signed letters do occasionally become available on the market. Susan B. Anthony was a popular figure who was very happy to sign her autograph on cards, and these are the most common form available for admirers and collectors today. Amelia Earhart was a very popular public figure as a pioneer in aviation, and while she readily signed her autograph on cards when people encountered her in person, they are clearly scarce, as the demand for her autograph signature exceeds the supply. In the field of science, the French chemist Marie Curie, known for her work in radioactivity, is very rare, and autograph signatures and signed letters have been collected by institutional libraries for decades; accordingly, her autograph signatures are rarely found. Mary Cassatt, the great Impressionist artist, is also quite rare in all autograph forms.
Catherine the Great, Czarina of Russia, is found in signed letters and signed documents, but neither is common and both are in significant demand, particularly by Russians, the newly avid collectors of their own history. Josephine, Napoleon’s Empress, can be collected in signed letters, but her autograph signatures alone are not found. Her predecessor on the throne of France, Marie Antoinette, is rare in signed documents, and many of those that bear her name were signed by secretaries. Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress, who greatly influenced his policies and French history during the period, is quite rare in signed letters or any other autograph form. A much more contemporary figure who influenced a country was Eva Perón, whose signed letters and signed documents are in much demand, particularly among South American collectors. Florence Nightingale, who had a tremendous influence on patient care and hospital reform, was a popular figure who was happy to comply with admirers’ requests for her autograph signature. She wrote and signed letters extensively, but these have generally been collected by institutional libraries and are not available on the market. Helen Keller, who was blind, deaf, and mute, captured America’s hearts, and her signed letters are very popular to this day. Many form letters asking for money are not signed by her but, she was very happy to comply with autograph signature requests and signed cards, and genuinely signed letters can be found. Two female authors seem to have particular appeal for women collectors. Virginia Woolf is rare in any autograph form, with signed letters frequently bearing only her first name or her initials. Ayn Rand is rarer still; she sent signed letters only in response to serious questions that really interested her. Queen Victoria of England, with a very long reign in a position that required her to sign large numbers of official documents, is a very popular figure in the field of women’s history. She succeeded a series of kings, all of whom were incompetent to one degree or another, and she led England through the industrial revolution, very actively involving herself in all aspects of the transformation from a rural to a manufacturing economy. The figure who has been of the greatest interest to collectors interested in women’s history has been Eleanor Roosevelt. She became the First Lady 150 years after Martha Washington, and she created a role for herself unlike any of her predecessors or successors. She involved herself in every aspect of national concern, and established herself as an independent-minded woman who understood issues and was not afraid to discuss them. She seemingly answered every letter sent to her with a signed letter, always typewritten. Her autograph signature was very clear and there was no question whose it was, and these signed letters have been treasured ever since.