Special Collections & Archives holds archival collections, books and periodicals that support research in women’s, gender and family studies. Archival collections include papers of individual women and women’s organizations that support the study of women’s history in Canada from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. The book and periodical collections have a wider historical and geographical focus, including early works on women's role and place in society from the sixteenth to the twentieth century.

Collecting in the area of women’s studies at the University of Waterloo began in the mid-1960s as a result of the combined interests of Doris Lewis, then university librarian, and the National Council of Women of Canada. The National Council had assembled a library on the history of women and donated it to the fledgling University of Waterloo Library as a Centennial Project in 1967. The Council also encouraged its members to deposit their personal papers here and as a result many important archives were acquired at that time.

The collections mostly fall into the following broad categories: