Tom Noel, who teaches at the University of Colorado, Denver, and is known locally as “Dr. Colorado,” has a nice overview of the 1908 Democratic National Convention the last time it was in Denver. There, Democrats officially nominated William Jennings Bryan for the third time, only to see him go down to defeat again in November. Noel notes in his article that women’s suffrage was a major issue at the convention, since Colorado white women’s right to vote had been recognized since 1893. Women from Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming attended the 1908 convention for the first time as delegates.
Apparently, historical talent runs in the Noel family, as his sister Jan Noel is a leading Canadian women’s historian at the University of Toronto, and one of the few who works on Francophone and pre-Confederation women’s history. She’ll be on a panel at the Berkshire Conference next month called Women and Work in Preindustrial Europe and America, presenting a paper called “Alice (Clark) and the Looking Glass: Searching for ‘Golden Ages’ among French, English, and American women, 1600-1800.” English feminist Alice Clark (1874-1934) was one of the first women’s historians ever–her Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century was first published in 1919, and because it was so highly regarded (and the bibliography on women’s history remained so thin for 50 years) it was reprinted in 1968, 1982, and 1992. (Thanks to Early Modern Notes for this excellent overview of Clark’s life and work.) Along with Ivy Pinchbeck (1898-1982), whose Women Workers and the Industrial Revolution, 1750-1850 was first published in 1930 but reprinted again in 1969 and 1981, these pioneering authors owned the topic of English women’s labor history in the early modern period. I read their books in graduate school in the early 1990s, and anyone working in early modern European women’s labor history has to grapple with them, so Noel’s re-visitation of Clark’s work is highly appropriate given the theme of the 2008 conference, “Continuities and Changes.”
I wonder if many women’s history researchers are (like me) indebted to women historians of Clark’s and Pinchbeck’s era. Most of these women weren’t professionally trained, but with great intelligence and sensitivity, they invented social and cultural history in the late nineteenth century, and were arguably more widely read and are still better remembered than male historians writing within the conventions of the academy. (See Bonnie G. Smith’s The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice for an eye-opening review of historiography and historians over the past 250 years.) I could not have written my books* without the dogged research and guidance of amateur historians like C. Alice Baker (1833-1909, pictured at right), her younger protege Emma Lewis Coleman (1853-1942), and the unbelievably prolific Alice Morse Earle (1851-1911). When my first book received its Library of Congress call number (F7.L68), I was extremely gratified and proud that my book will be shelved very near many of Earle’s books. (She owns the F7.E section!)
*(The second book is still a work in progress–alas!)