Nun dolls, the sequel

dollnunsThe Michigan Historical  Museum in Lansing has a special exhibition called “Michigan Roadside Attractions,” which features a few samples from the Nun Doll Museum at The Cross in the Woods Shrine in Indian River (near Sault St. Marie, unfortunately–not really a day trip from Southern Michigan.)  How totally awesome is that?  Maybe we have a few clues as to why a vision of Mother Kewpie of the Sisters of the M-50 appeared in an antiques mall in Brooklyn to me yesterday…

Now there’s some early American history, and modern American history, that has yet to be told.  To the barricades archives, mes amies!

"What about Women in Early American History?" In which Historiann and friends get up on their high horses and rope 'em up good

cowgirl3Howdy, cowgirls and dudes–here’s my long-overdue report on a conversation we had Friday afternoon, June 12 at the Omohundro Institute’s Fifteenth Annual Conference in Salt Lake City.  Called “What about Women in Early America?”it featured Karin Wulf of the College of William and Mary (and the book review editor for the William and Mary Quarterly); Sowande’ Mustakeem of Washington University, St. Louis; Andrea Robertson Cremer of Macalester College; and Historiann (natch.)

Wulf wore two hats as the chair of our roundtable, and as the person who shared e-mailed comments from Terri Snyder of California State University, Fullerton, who was originally supposed to join us on the panel.  (The Cali budget crisis waits for no woman!)  She opened the discussion by saying, “We may have had this conversation before,” and reminded us of previous conversations at the 2002 and 2008 Berkshire Conferences and at the Organization of American Historians’ annual conference in 2009.  (Regular readers here will remember too our discussions of Judith Bennett’s History Matters in March here and at Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar, Tenured Radical, Blogenspiel, and the wrap-up featuring Bennett herself, in which we aired a number of questions and anxieties many of us have about the future of women’ s history.) 

Wulf noted that among women’s historians in general, there is a “persistent concern. . . that in expanding [women’s history] there is a diffusion” of interests that is leading us away from a focus on XX chromosome people.  In particular, she said that she perceives a decline in submissions of articles in women’s history at the William and Mary Quarterly and in the numbers of fellowship applications submitted to the Omohundro Institute that relate primarily to women’s history.  Finally, she said that the fashion for large-scale comparative, transnational, or neo-imperial frameworkslike Atlantic World and borderlands histories, with their neo-traditional focus on political and military history, may also play a part in creating these perceptions.  Continue reading

Vintage (and creepy) dolls, Brooklyn, Michigan, June 2009

dollmenagerieI’m back in vintage doll heaven in Michigan–and by “heaven,” I mean “my parents’ garage and the local antique malls.”  (And by “antique malls,” I mean “somewhat better than garage sale stuff!”)  So here’s a selection of the fun, freaky, and just plain “why?” that I came across today in just one booth in one antique mall.  I apologize that some of the photos are a little blurry–I had to photograph some of these things through a glass case.  Abundant pleasures await you!  For example, next to the Eskimo doll is a Pepper doll with a crocheted dress in gold yarn with green trim.  Lots more, and more of the weird, on the flip!

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Advice from one old liar to another

Joseph Ellis was asked by the New York Times for his advice to Dick Cheney about the writing of Cheney’s memiors!  Yeah, right–because Ellis, the Walter Mitty of early American historians, is such an expert in creative autobiography?  I guess they would have asked Norman “Advertisements for Myself” Mailer, but he’s dead.  (Oh, yeah–and he was an actual veteran, not a fabulist who bragged about his exploits to generations of undergraduate women.) Continue reading

Into the woods

woodsMy memories of childhood seem to revolve around the woods–I grew up in a land of mixed fields and forests that were slowly being converted into the outer edge of a city suburb, and in the 1970s and 1980s, there were still large patches of forest surrounding my neighborhood.  Riding bikes with friends to the edge of the woods, and then ditching the bikes for a walk into the unknown was how I spent my summers from ages 8 to 12.  Visiting Ohio and Michigan again this summer has given me an opportunity to reconnect with this familiar landscape.  I live now in Colorado, which sounds more glamorous to most people, with its 14,000 foot peaks, sweeping vistas of the Rocky Mountains, powder snow, and cloudless blue skies, but I miss the woods and rolling hills of the North American East and Midwest. 

I’ve enjoyed some walks and runs in the woods lately, but I am amazed that I have found absolutely no evidence of children or teenagers hanging out there.  Back in the 1970s, running into teenagers in the woods was a large part of the pleasure and the danger of the woods for us younger kids.  Continue reading

Do you like riding on the passenger side?

54convertiblelightblueWe’re road trippin’–and with respect to Jeff Tweedy (“Hey wake up–your eyes aren’t open wide/For the last couple of miles you’ve been swervin’ from side to side“) this is just a quick post to let  you know that the great American midwest is amazingly lush and green compared to our High Plains Desert, and we even enjoy the humidity, too!

I had an interesting conversation over lunch today with a friend who’s a generation older than me–a classic Second Waver, who commented that it’s only women around my age (40) who have really benefited from Second Wave activism and reforms with respect to the working world.  She thinks that women who are even just 10 years younger are much more willing to mommy-track or otherwise not prioritize their careers. Continue reading

Barack Hoover Obama or Barack Delano Roosevelt?

bhoOn the airplane yesterday, I read an interesting article in the July 2009 Harper’s Magazine by Kevin Baker called “Barack Hoover Obama:  the best and brightest blow it again” (sorry, it’s subscription only.)  It’s a scathing review of Obama’s performance in office so far by way of a comparison with Herbert Hoover, and a dire prediction, as the title of the article suggests.  (Congress–especially the “aged satraps from vast, windy places” who are running the U.S. Senate these days–comes in for its share of withering criticism, as does the “utter fecklessness of the American elite” in general.)

Baker tries to draw a number of comparisons between Hoover and Obama in his short biography of Hoover and assessment of his presidency:  a fatherless but plucky boy who put himself through Stanford University to study geology and engineering, and who then struck it rich as an intrepid miner in China and Burma.  Retired from mining at age 40 with a tidy fortune, he turned his engineering skills to public service, becoming one of the first modern experts in humanitarian relief on behalf of several early 20th century disaster refugees:  Chinese Christians in the Boxer Rebellion, 7 million people living in occupied France and Belgium during World War I, 20 million postwar Western Europeans and Soviets, and residents of the Mississippi Valley after the floods of 1927.  About Hoover’s inauguration as president, Baker quotes journalist Anne O’Hare McCormick, “‘We had summoned a great engineer to solve our problems for us; now we sat back comfortably and confidently to watch the problems being solved. . . . Almost with an air of giving genius its chance, we waited for the performance to begin.'”

Now, from what I understand, Obama’s biography is dramatically different from Hoover’s:  instead of a career in industry or the law, he returned to Chicago after law school and like Bill Clinton, went almost immediately into politics.  Aside from the fatherlessness of both Hoover and Obama, the similarity Baker sees seems to be in the minds of the American people anticipating masterful presidencies, not in the two men being compared here.  But, I have read next to nothing about the years 1914-1945, so I’d really be interested to hear what the rest of you think. Continue reading