Feminist mentors and feminist activism: part II of my interview with Mary Beth Norton

Today’s post is part two of a three-part interview with Mary Beth Norton.  If you missed yesterday’s post, catch it here and get with the program! 

At the end of yesterday’s interview, Norton talked about how she transformed herself from a historian of loyalists in the American Revolution into a women’s historian.  She spoke of an anecdote in which a senior scholar in her field wondered why she had given up loyalists to study women, when her loyalist work was “perfectly OK!”  In today’s conversation, Norton and I move from a discussion about feminist scholarship to a conversation about feminist activism in the historical profession.  She also talks about her feminist mentors in the academy, and about the relationships and organization that has sustained her through her career.

Historiann:  I am pretty sure that if you had stuck with the loyalists, you would not have achieved the stature in your fields that you have as a women’s historian! 

I assume that as your star rose as a historian that you were able to make some changes in the Cornell history department itself, such as hiring more women and continuing to diversify the curriculum.  Can you tell us more about this side of your feminist activism?  Who or what was most helpful to you, and what (if any) obstacles still remain in your view to sex equality in academia or the historical profession in particular? Continue reading

Mary Beth Norton: A Founding Mother tells all.

Today and for the next two posts, Historiann is thrilled to present an interview with the distinguished senior scholar and women’s history great Mary Beth Norton.  Norton is the Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History and a Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow at Cornell University.  Even those of you who have never met her in person probably know of the legendary energy, enthusiasm, and industry that have made her a legendary scholar in both early American history and American women’s history.  Quite simply, Mary Beth Norton is a force of nature.

She is the author of The British-Americans:  Loyalist Exiles in England, 1774-1789 (1972), Women of America:  A History (1979, with Carol Berkin), Liberty’s Daughters:  The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (1980), Founding Mothers & Fathers:  Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society (1996), In the Devil’s Snare:  The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2002), and most recently, Separated by their Sex:  Women in Public and Private in the Colonial Atlantic World (2011).  Aside from numerous important articles, she is also the co-author of an American history textbook, A People and a Nation, and she is the co-editor (with my colleague at Colorado State University Ruth Alexander) of Major Problems in American Women’s History.

You’d think that someone with a groaning shelf of books like this wouldn’t have time to answer her own e-mail, but when I contacted her this summer about interviewing her, she wrote back immediately and enthusiastically.  Continue reading

La Loca contemplates bespoke suits and online education. Historiann contemplates the profit motive at her allegedly non-profit employer.

I know many of my readers also follow Dr. Crazy, but just in case you missed her post from earlier this week, I’ll show you a preview and encourage you to go read the whole post over at her place.  First of all, she writes:

You might think that I am a person who would pass over an article about $4,000 suits in the New York Times, but you would be wrong.  Because the thing is, this article has a hell of a lot to say about higher education, I think, at least from my perspective.

Interesting, no?  She quotes from the story, in which the author explains why a guy making $4,000 custom-made suits only makes $50,000 a year himself.  “As I watched Frew work, it became glaringly obvious why he is not rich. Like a 17th-century craftsman, he has no economy of scale.”

[T]he phrase “no economy of scale” sure did stand out to me and ring a giant bell in my head.  And then I glanced back up at the preceding paragraph (the joys of reading on paper rather than electronically: you can return to a thing you otherwise would have glossed over), and I noted the following: “he explained how he customizes every aspect of its design” and then, “Modern technology cannot create anything comparable.”

Does this sound familiar to any of y’all?  ‘Cause it sure does to me.  Wearing non-fancy clothes to do heavy lifting? Check.  Customizing every aspect of the design for the individual?  Um, check.  That is, in fact, the entire pedagogical premise behind “active learning” in the classroom.  The inability of modern technology to create the particular product that Frew is selling?  Um, YES.  Look, I’ve taught online, and I have many students who’ve taken courses online, although not all of them have done so with me.  They and I will tell you that it is not the same fucking thing as doing it face to face. So the question then becomes, does a $4 suit do the same thing that a $4,000 suit does? Continue reading

Ph.D.s from the previous decade need not apply? We ain’t got the do-re-mi!

Via friend and commenter ej, I learned that a job ad run by the English department at Baa Ram U. has raised some questions among job seekers and other academics.  Sisyphus has a post about this, and so does Parezco y Digo, who industriously wrote to the Chair of the English Department Search Committee to ask why they’re limiting their candidate pool to those with 2010-2013 Ph.D.s.  (To his credit, the Chair wrote back and gave permission to print his reply in full.)

When we ran a search in the History department last year, we were instructed that we could not consider applicants who were either tenured or those who had the equivalent experience of a tenured Associate Professor, but we were not instructed to limit our applications pool otherwise.  And indeed, our four campus finalists were people whose Ph.D.s ranged from 2006 to 2011, and they ranged in age from perhaps their mid-30s to their mid-50s.  I don’t think English is interested in age discrimination.  My guess is that English is looking to hire people with less experience instead of more experience, mostly because our salaries are so low and the pre-existing faculty had zero raises–we never get cost-of-living increases, so it was merely a suspension of our merit increases–from 2008 to our paltry raise in 2012.

(That said, I agree with Dr. Crazy’s point that the English department is being lazy and short-sighted here. Continue reading

Western Association of Women Historians: proposals due Friday, September 14

The 2013 annual conference of the Western Association of Women Historians will be at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon May 16-18.  Individual paper and panel proposals are due Friday, September 14!  Get your proposals in soon–the CFP and the forms are available here. The call is utterly broad, and remember:  you don’t have to live in the U.S. or Canadian West in order to join or participate:

All fields and periods of history are welcome, as are roundtables on issues of interest to the historical profession.  In order to foster discussions across national boundaries, we particularly encourage the submission of panels organized along thematic rather than national lines.  All proposals will be vetted by a transnational group of scholars, and preference will be given to discussions of any topic across national boundaries.  That said, single papers and panel proposals that fall within a single national or regional context will be given full consideration. . . [W]e particularly encourage proposols that include premodern time periods.

Who wouldn’t want a trip to Portlandia to round out the academic year?  (Duh!!!)  It’s a great place to meet people, network, and feel supported in your work.  And this year will feature a very much deserved tribute to the career of Lois Banner.  Continue reading

How d’ye like them apples?

This is September in Colorado:  cool nights and warm afternoons with clear, blue skies.  We’re lucky to have an heirloom apple tree in our yard, which this year is absolutely loaded with fruit.  (The hot, dry summer has been perversely great for the Colorado fruit crop.  This tree ain’t exactly an orchard, but it appears to share in the local bounty.)  With any luck, we’ll have enough pies and applesauce to last us until the apple blossoms open next spring.

Maybe it’s due to my huge fangirl crush in the 1970s on Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House series, but I’ve always been inordinately charmed by “free food,” and aggressively motivated to do something with it when I find it.  When I was a little girl, I loved finding those ferny weeds in people’s lawns that looked like Queen Anne’s Lace, but whose roots resembled (and tasted like) thin, pale carrots.  (Maybe they were Queen Anne’s Lace?  I don’t know.)  I remember a scrawny clover whose lemony leaves we used to chew.  My greatest childhood discovery was perhaps a patch of strawberries along a lazy spring that burbled up in the woods by my house. Continue reading

Woodrow Wilson Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies: an update

With love, from Woodrow

UPDATED BELOW, within the hour

After hearing that this fellowship had been suspended and signing a petition to protest this decision, I received this e-mail yesterday from Susan E. Billmaier, a Program Officer for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation:

Thank you for your concern regarding the Woodrow Wilson Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies. The following note was sent to friends of the Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies Fellowship.  As the letter explains, the grants for the 2012-2013 year have been suspended, but the Foundation remains well aware of the importance of this award.  In the coming year, a careful review will ensure its continued strength going forward.  We thank you for your interest and hope you will remain a supporter of the Fellowship in the future.

Dear Friend of the Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship Program in Women’s Studies,

We are sorry to have to report that, as a consequence of the larger economic downturn, the endowment for the Women’s Studies Dissertation Fellowship has generated insufficient funds to cover program costs over the past several years.  The Woodrow Wilson Foundation has thus decided to suspend the competition for the 2012-2013 year while we explore options to ensure that the program will continue to flourish in the future.  During the coming year we will engage in a careful review of the Fellowship’s goals and structure, with a view toward achieving greater financial stability and success in the future Continue reading