I have a question that I’d like to pose to list members: which journals are considered “top tier” in the field of women’s and gender history?
There’s a larger context for this inquiry. For junior faculty members who do women’s and gender history and are tenure track in a history or interdisciplinary department at an R-1 institution, a record of publishing in prestigious peer reviewed journals is often a pre-condition of successful tenure. Yet in promotion and tenure committees at various institutional levels, there may be differences of agreement about what constitutes a prestigious journal and what constitutes a mediocre one. I know of at least one case in which a college-level promotion and tenure committee refuted arguments that the journal Feminist Studies was a top-tier publication by comparing it unfavorably with Gender and Society, which I always had the impression was an important journal for social science scholarship on gender but published fewer articles written by historians. The same committee identified Gender and History as a third-tier journal which was not of sufficient quality and reputation to be considered “acceptable publishing” for a faculty member at that institution.
I don’t want to get bogged down in individual cases, but to ask is there a consensus about what constitutes “top tier” publishing in women’s history? What standards apply to determine the quality of a journal for this particular field? I also want to raise the wider question of what strategies junior faculty members can use justify the quality of their work and publishing record in a field like women’s and gender history which may itself suffer from subtle (and not so subtle) intellectual de-legitimization, both among individual faculty and administrators and structurally, at the level of institutions, disciplines, and the academy generally.
One of the editors of Gender and History, Karen Adler, wrote a nice response to refute the claim that G&H is a “third-tier journal:”
At the last count, 80 per cent of submissions were rejected. All published articles go through stringent anonymous peer review with at least two and generally far more specialists in the field reviewing them, often more than once. Our subscription rates and, perhaps more importantly, resubscription rates, remain high and rising, and we have subscribers on every continent. The European Science Foundation, which has reviewed a very large number of journals and rated them A, B, or C, has rated Gender & History at A level. This rating pertains to a journal’s pertinence across the field, but no journal whose content is considered poor was rated A, even if it had field-wide pertinence.
Something tells me that concerns here about “what constitutes a prestigious journal and what constitutes a mediocre one” revolve around the fact that “feminist,” “gender,” and/or “women” might appear in the names of the journals that publish women’s history. I’ve always thought that the top two women’s and gender history journals in English are unquestionably the Journal of Women’s History, and Gender & History. The Journal of the History of Sexuality publishes a lot of women’s and gender history too, but not as much (understandably) as JWH and G&H.
Adler’s response was excellent, one that can be used by any of you who publish in women’s history or women’s studies journals: ask the editor what the acceptance rates are. (In fact, my college at Baa Ram U. has started requiring these statistics in tenure and promotion files–I remember having to track down this information for the Chair of my department six years ago when I went up for tenure.) When considering an article submission to an interdisciplinary journal like Signs or Feminist Studies, it always pays to see which discipline the editor and associate editors come from, and what they’ve been publishing recently. I’m impressed that G&H has only a 20% acceptance rate–and more than a little intimidated now! If a tenure and promotion committee–whether in a department, or at the college or university level, won’t accept that a journal that may include the words “gender,” “women,” or “feminist” in the title is a selective, high-quality journal even when presented with something less than a 30% acceptance rate, then that’s a prejudice that’s not about “quality” at all.
If someone is hired to teach women’s history or in women’s studies, then any and all committees that weigh in on her tenure and promotion should expect that she will very likely publish in women’s history or women’s studies journals. I am sick and tired of departments and colleges hiring people to teach and publish in a given field and then punishing them for doing so. If you don’t like women’s history, the time to have that argument is before your department or college authorizes a search in women’s history. Trying to keep it out of your world on the back end when someone is up for tenure is just sore-loserism. Grow up!
Have any of you experienced or witnessed this kind of hassle? Do any of you have advice about how do answer concerns about “quality” that come up when publishing feminist scholarship? By the way, in the course of doing a little research for this post, I found this handy-dandy list of women’s studies journals. Here are the women’s history journals and magazines (including a few periodically situated interdisciplinary journals):
- Arenal. Revista de historia de las mujeres The first Spanish journal for women’s history.
- Aspasia International Yearbook of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European Women’s and Gender History
- Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal
- Eighteenth-Century Women: Studies in their Lives, Works, and Culture
- Genesis. Rivista della Società Italiana delle Storiche Journal of the Italian Association of Women Historians
- Historica Published by the Dutch Association for Women’s History VVG, in Dutch.
- History of The Family
- Lilith a feminist history journal
- Magistra: a Journal of Women’s Spirituality in History
- Women’s History Magazine The WHN Magazine is published twice every year by the UK Women’s History Network
- Women’s History Review