Feminist Historians for a *New* New Deal update

In case you missed last week’s post, “Actual progress for the new Obama WPA?,” you can now just go to “Feminist Historians for a New New Deal” at the Center for Research on Women & Social Justice.  From the press release:

An open letter to President-elect Barack Obama, initiated by several historians specializing in the New Deal, urges Obama to avoid the discriminatory components of Franklin Roosevelt’s programs in designing a stimulus package to address the current economic crisis. The letter has collected more than a thousand signatures from scholars of American history.

Noting that today’s stimulus package may focus heavily on construction to address the nation’s crumbling material infrastructure, the historians point out that American social infrastructure is crumbling just as badly. They call for jobs in education, health care, child and elder care, and point out that green and sustainable energy policy requires educators as well as construction workers.

The letter recalls both the achievements and weaknesses of New Deal stimulus programs, focusing particularly on discrimination against women in the public jobs programs (see below for full text of the letter).

“For all our admiration of FDR’s reform efforts,” the historians write, “we must also point out that the New Deal’s jobs initiative was overwhelmingly directed toward skilled male and mainly white workers. This was a mistake in the 1930s, and it would be a far greater mistake in the 21st century economy, when so many families depend on women’s wages and when our nation is even more racially diverse.”

With so many female breadwinners, the country cannot afford an exclusive emphasis on construction, which remains a heavily male-dominated field. All jobs need to be open to a diverse workforce, they agree, but a more diversified jobs strategy will create immediate opportunities for all, they add.

The letter, from Feminist Historians for a New New Deal, can be accessed on line at

Click here (or on the link above) to read the letter drafted by Eileen Boris, Linda Gordon, Jennifer Klein, and Alice O’Connor, and learn about other ways to take action.  Over 1,000 of us signed on. 

Thanks everyone, and happy end-of-the-semester!  I’ve got to get back to my little red (cook) book to finish up all those delicious holiday cookies and treats.  (Do those little holly cookies that you make with butter, marshmallows, cornflakes, green food coloring, and red hots count as cookies or candy?)  Rose at Romantoes and Erica at the good old days have already posted about some culinary sentimental journeys–divinity and Grandma’s fruitcake!  Bon voyage, and bon apetit, time travelers–let us know more about what the 1940s tasted like!

Senate stealth campaign update: campaign buttons!

Historiann blog friend Bing McGandhi from Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes has made some campaign buttons for my bid to replace Ken Salazar in the U.S. Senate.  Thanks so much to all of you who have expressed support for my campaign in the post below–so far as I can tell, only two of you are actual Colorado voters, but of course campaign contributions can cross state lines, so give early and often, friends!

In other news:  most newspapers are running variations on the story that Caroline Kennedy is the front runner to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.  But, most newspapers are also running with the idiotic line that “Kennedy . . . helped to defeat [Clinton] in this year’s Democratic primaries.”  Uh, no.  After Caroline and Ted Kennedy rolled out their big endorsements before Super Tuesday, which is when the Massachusetts and New York primaries were held, and after Caroline K. campaigned for Obama in California, all three of those states went by an overwhelming margin for Clinton, not Obama.  Kennedy magic, much?  Maybe not in New York, Massachusetts, and California when it counted.

Anyhoo, print up these babies and pass them out freely at the American Historical Association’s annual conference.  I won’t be there, seeing as it’s not in Denver this year (or, like, ever!), and that’s where I’ll be most of the rest of the month lobbying the Governor when I’m not on my “listening tours” on the Eastern Plains and the San Luis Valley, talking to clean, green energy researchers at Baa Ram U., and attending boffo fundraisers in Aspen, Vail, and Beaver Creek.  Laterz!

Historiann for the U.S. Senate!

I’ve thought it over today, and I take back most of what I wrote about Caroline Kennedy’s bid for the special appointment to fill the Senate seat that will be vacated when Hillary Clinton is confirmed by the Senate to become Barack Obama’s Secretary of State.  Now that it looks like we’ll have a Senate seat in need of a special appointment here in Colorado, I’ve asked myself:  why should experience in politics count for anything?  After all, various politicians in Colorado have expressed a great deal of interest in serving as top administrators in higher education without terminal degrees or any experience whatsoever, why shouldn’t I, a humble History professor with no experience in politics, throw my hat in the ring?

So here’s a draft of the letter I will send to Governor Bill Ritter to lay out my qualifications to become the next Senator from Colorado (and, not incidentally, Colorado’s first woman U.S. Senator).  Please let me know what you think, and where you would recommend changes!

Dear Governor Ritter,

How have you been?  Did you have a nice summer?  How is your wife?  I have been extra good this year.

I am writing to you to express my strong interest in being appointed to fill the open seat in the U.S. Senate that will be vacant pending Senator Ken Salazar’s confirmation by his Senate colleagues to become the next Secretary of the Interior.  I meet all of the constitutional requirements to serve as a U.S. Senator, but more importantly, I believe that my 22 years in higher education have prepared me very well to serve the people of the state of Colorado in the U.S. Senate.  In addition to education, my other top issue will be the development of clean, green energy technologies and industries, because like you I believe that our state should be a leader on these issues.

I know you probably aren’t getting a lot of telephone calls from other professors about this job.  But Colorado has recently showed itself to be very open to politicians like former U.S. Senators and failed gubernatorial candidates serving as university presidents and chancellors, and it goes without saying that the people of our state would be equally well served by permitting people in higher education to enter politics at the top.  Since our retiring U.S. Senator Wayne Allard has indicated his interest in becoming the Chancellor of Baa Ram U., appointing me to the U.S. Senate would be an even trade, and it would permit politicians in Colorado and in the U.S. Senate to benefit from the experience and wisdom of the academy. 

As an early American historian who regularly teaches on the era of the American Revolution and the writing of the U.S. Constitution, I am well versed in the history and political philosophy of our nation.  (Now that Robert Byrd is geezing pretty badly, the Senate will need another “historian.”)  Furthermore, as a women’s historian, no possible candidate for this Senate seat would understand better the significance of my becoming our state’s first woman Senator.  I am a proven vote-getter, as I have regularly been elected to serve on my department’s Executive Committee, which works much like a combination of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and the Rules Committee.  Additionally, I’ve been elected this year to represent my department on the College Tenure and Promotion Committee, experience that would be applicable to service on the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

I have a great deal of administrative experience for a regular faculty member, earned within my department as the Graduate Studies Chair for one year, and as a Program Committee co-Chair of the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, a triennial event with 1,100 people on the program and which drew more than 1,400 registered participants.  My experience in both of these positions demonstrates that I would be able to assemble a great team of advisers and a crackerjack administrative staff to assist me in Washington and with my re-election campaign.  Additionally, as a Baa Ram U. faculty member, I would have access to some of the finest minds working on environmental issues in the country.

Finally, I would bring some intangible advantages to the Senate and to the Colorado Democratic Party.  I am physically fit and a hiking enthusiast, as are all of my very photogenic family members, so my campaign website and brochures would offer plenty of the pictures that are de rigeur for Colorado politicians:  me and my family embracing each other on top of various peaks in scenic vistas.  While I am not a native Coloradoan–which I realize may be a vulnerability–I would submit that the non-native Coloradoans who have found employment and made happy lives for themselves here deserve quality representation in the U.S. Senate too.

As a faculty member at a state university, I have already demonstrated that I work hard for the people of Colorado.  I would be honored to serve them in the U.S. Senate.

Yours Very Sincerely,


Caroline Kennedy? Really?

Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft makes the case for Caroline Kennedy (whatever happened to “Schlossberg”?)  to be the next U.S. Senator from the state of New York:

Caroline Kennedy is a Columbia Law graduate and co-author of two books: In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action and The Right to Privacy . In addition,

Kennedy serves as a member of the national board of directors for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the vice-chair for the Fund for Public Schools in New York City, and chief executive for the New York City Department of Education Office of Strategic Partnerships.

She co-chaired Obama’s Veep Selection Committee, she’s a director of the Commission on Presidential Debates and an adviser to the Harvard Institute of Politics.

I think she’s more than qualified to be a U.S. Senator and I hope she gets the position. We need more Senators who are cognizant and respectful of our constitutional rights. She’ll be great for education and funding for the arts. 

I agree with Merritt that CKS is qualified to run for the senate, but I don’t think that she has earned a special appointment without a background in politics and a proven record as a campaigner and winner.  (This blog has a healthy suspicion of politicians who on a whim think it would be great fun to become the President of a major research university, for example.  Our inclination is to recognize and respect professional expertise.)  Elizabeth Wurtzel speaks for me on this one in her column published Sunday at The Daily Beast.  While I think that Wurtzel doesn’t give Kennedy enough credit for her education and her books on privacy rights (and pushes the “mommy” card a little too far for my taste), I think she is correct to note that she has never developed a professional identity, let alone a political one, outside of her worthy and dignified work on behalf of her family’s legacy:

Kennedy has mostly spent her life as a wife, a mother, and most ceremoniously, a daughter. Nothing wrong with that—who wouldn’t like to raise kids and go to parent-teacher meetings and occasionally pick a Profile in Courage award recipient? It’s not a bad life, and she’s not a bad person. Unlike a couple of her first cousins, she’s has never been accused of rape or caught driving while intoxicated—not that even these indiscretions are preclusions to public office. She has shown good judgment, and it’s no wonder you might want her to serve on your board of directors or help vet the vice president-to-be.

But being a senator—drafting bills, serving and servicing constituents, organizing an office—is the kind of job that involves more than soliciting donations from your wealthy friends and neighbors. It’s filthy and consuming work. If we really want a Kennedy to fill this empty seat, it would make far more sense to choose Robert Jr., who has accomplished a lot as an attorney and activist, though he has taken his name out of the running. Caroline Bouvier Kennedy is glamorous woman with a top-notch pedigree: Her place is not in the Senate.

I would add one caveat:  unless she actually runs for the office in 2010 or 2012.  This is the key difference between Caroline and her cousins Kathleen, Joe, and Patrick, who actually ran for the offices they won (and in Kathleen’s case, lost), and I think it’s critical.  (Even her uncle Ted had to run for his brother’s senate seat in 1962, although that may have been due more to the fact that he wasn’t yet thirty in January of 1961 when his brother was sworn in as President.)  If you want to get into politics, win an election.  She has a fine background for a Senate candidate, but as someone who has never won a single vote from a single New Yorker, she doesn’t deserve a special appointment to the office.

Oh, and by the way:  it would be unseemly for all of of those Sarah Palin haterz to morph into big Caroline Kennedy supporters.  Love her or hate her, Palin won a primary against a sitting governor of her own party, and then she won in the general election.  She put herself out there and gave the citizens of her state the opportunity to say yea or nay, and it seems to me that there are ample numbers of New York politicians–I’m thinking Nita Lowy or Kirsten Gillibrand myself–who have won thousands (and in Lowy’s case, millions) of votes from their fellow citizens.

This is going to be a big issue this year, with President-elect Barack Obama potentially raiding the Senate for many appointees.  For example, it looks like it’s an issue here in Colorado, with local news reporting that our Senator Ken Salazar has agreed to become Obama’s Secretary of the InteriorMerritt reports that “the speculation now turns to who Gov. [Bill] Ritter will name to replace him. Top names mentioned: Rep. Ed Perlmutter , Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and former (Colorado) House speaker Andrew Romanoff.”  What about Denver Congresswoman Diana DeGette?  She’s in a safe seat for Dems, although the concern about her might probably be that she’s too liberal to win a statewide election in 2010 (although the same could be said for the aforementioned three men.)  But, hey, we just elected “Boulder liberal Mark Udall” to the Senate–so anything could happen, right?

Excellence Without Money!

The weather here in the Rocky Mountains is like the economy:  bottoming out and likely to remain in the deep freeze for the foreseeable future.  So after my face-freezing walk across the Baa Ram U. campus, I arrived at work this morning to a flooded department hallway and an office full of wet carpet.  (A colleague of mine 2 doors down got the worst of it–for the second time in two years, the pipes in the heating system in her office burst and flooded half the department.)  Luckily, our decaying, flooding, oddly dead-fly infested building was on a list of buildings to be renovated…before the stock market tanked this fall, and before all of the other harbingers of economic doom that followed in short order.  As the little gingerbread man in that Go Phone commercial says about another crumbling building, in the voice of Steve Buscemi, “I’d like people to stop eating my house…but that ain’t gonna happen.” 

So, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Roxie’s musings on the problems facing public colleges and universities, get thee to Roxie’s World right now to read Moose’s back-of-the-cereal-box history of trends in higher education over the past few decades and her super depression-proof plan for public institutions everywhere

For years, public institutions like Queer the Turtle U have been stuck between the rock and the hard place of declining levels of state support and mounting pressure to keep tuition affordable. Caught in that vise, schools have fought to do more with less while scrambling to catch up to private institutions in the game of fundraising. That strategy worked reasonably well when times were good and the bubbles in stocks or real estate had a lot people feeling rich. Now? The party’s over, public and private revenues have dried up, and schools are desperately trying to figure out how to cut costs without compromising the value of their brand (the ne plus ultra of higher ed under the consumer model).

Moose, who has a healthy respect for academic entrepreneurship, has a slogan for public institutions eager to prove that larger classes, smaller operating budgets, and reductions in advising and other forms of academic support are no threat whatsoever to the quality of education. She’s been using the slogan informally all over campus at Queer the Turtle U this fall, but it hasn’t been officially adopted yet, so, in the spirit of academic capitalism she has decided to auction it off here to one of my legions of loyal fans who works at some other cash-strapped public school. . . .  Are you ready?  Here is Moose’s slogan for hard times in higher ed:

Excellence Without Money

Hey, kids, let’s rent a barn (without money!) and put on a show (for no money)!  Historiann has even developed this generic university seal to symbolize this movement with the Seal Generator at Says-it.com.  You can make your own seal–say it with me nowfor no money!  Can you feel the excellence, my darlings?  Let’s see if the copier company will be happy to to fix our copier–for no money!  How about serving up lunch in the student center to us–for no money!  Maybe Shell Oil will donate gasoline for staff and faculty vehicles so that we can get to campus–for no money!  I wonder if banks and landlords will forgive mortgages and rents for everyone employed in higher education, so that we can house ourselves for no money!  This no money thing could work, just so long as it’s not just people in higher education who are doing it for no money!

Moose’s new slogan leads us directly to a comment by Matt L. on a recent post called “Money, class, and the values of academe” about our curious unwillingness to pay for education.  He notes:

One of my colleagues, who had spent a decade in K-12 education said that all teachers were held to an unspoken ideal: the Roman Catholic Nuns who taught in parochial schools. They were sexless, had few or no material needs, required no pay for their work, and disappeared into the convent out of sight at the end of the school day. The trope of the WASP amateur historian or the celibate scholar in the frayed tweed jacket is similar. People with no visible means of support carrying out a higher cultural mission in the name of virtue, not material gain.

Ultimately, these myths mean one thing. People, that is to say parents, students and legislators, do not value education enough to pay for it. Instead they would like it to be a commodity that costs as little as possible. If you want to know what society really values in a university go look at the salaries of Big 10 football and basketball coaches.  

Yes, indeedy.  Let’s see who’s willing to coach the team for no money!  But no university president would dream of asking the coach to work for nothing–he works in a sector that’s very male dominated and hasn’t traditionally coasted on the volunteer labor of religious women, underpaid secular women, or WASP dilettantes with inheritances. 

At the conclusion of that post, I asked, “Is the meaning of what we do all day long–teaching, research, and service–dependent on how badly we need the paycheck?  Is it not work, regardless of the worker?”  Today’s koan, my darlings, is slightly modified:  Is the price paid for the work dependent on the work, or on the worker?  And, what’s the real price of “Excellence Without Money?”

"Feminist Law Profs" in the WaPo this week

Self-hating woman Kathleen Parker linked to our friend Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Profs this week in a strange apologia in The Washington Post on behalf of Jon Favreau:

The blogosphere the past few days has begun to resemble Durham, N.C., circa 2006 following the alleged Duke lacrosse team/stripper-rape nonincident: Pitchforks ready, torches lighted.

Feminists groups such as NOW and The New Agenda are outraged that Clinton — or at least her image — is being treated disrespectfully by the boys. Conservatives are outraged that there’s not enough outrage, as would be the case were the party boys Republicans.

An attorney wrote on the Feminist Law Professors blog that Favreau should not be excused for “youthful indiscretion” and questioned Obama’s judgment “in continuing to rely professionally on someone so young and irresponsible and offensively sexist.”

FitzWalter, quickly, my smelling salts! Oh, and dust off the guillotine while you’re at it.

That’s the problem with feminists in this country:  they’ve executed so many men without due process.  With guillotines, and the assistance of their servants, all of whom are named for some reason “FitzWalter.”  Parker finishes her column with another lazy antifeminist jab:

In the meantime, feminists might channel their free-ranging anger toward, say, Iran, where yet another woman recently was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Silly feminists–we should send them someplace where they’d really have something to b!tch about!  Yes, that’s right:  we can’t ever point out injustice or discrimination in the United States, because there are even more oppressive countries for women.  Until women in this country are stoned to death for adultery, or set on fire by their in-laws, or forbidden to appear in public without a male relative as an escort, feminists should STFU.  See Ann Bartow’s specific reply to this lazy and stupid accusation of feminist inaction.

Memo to Kathleen Parker:  since there are more progressive countries in the world when it comes to gender equity, you’re not allowed to complain about American feminists ever again.  You should peddle your antifeminism in countries and regions of the world that need it much more urgently than the U.S.  Quickly, woman, there’s no time to lose:  the men of Canada and Scandinavia need your irrational and “free-ranging anger” at feminism more than ever!

Weekend roundup: boob tube rubes and working class dudes edition

How 'bout some coffee, friends?

Good morning, all y’all tenderfeet and dudes!  Here is a collection of some interesting news and views that Historiann roped up this morning.  I’ll be out mending fences this weekend before the next big Rocky Mountain snowstorm comes in tomorrow–pour yourself a cup of cowboy coffee to ward off the chill of that Alberta Clipper, and read on:

First of all, Judith Warner provides more evidence for the viewpoint that raising your children among the upper middle-class in these United States makes you a bad person.  (Don’t get me wrong–I admire her honesty, but it sounds like she would have been happier if she and her family had stayed in France.)

Here’s an evidence-based argument that the teevee–watching it and appearing on it–makes you stupid:  Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler says that cable TV and Washington village media politics have taken over Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC (see Wednesday’s and Friday’s edition especially.)  Sad, sad, sad.

Am I cynical about the teevee?  You bet!  Historiann has had brushes with TV documentaries:  I appeared in one historical documentary, “Captive:  the Story of Esther” on the subject of my current research.  I was interviewed several times over the course of 18 months before the shoot, and I believe that my ideas were influential with the filmmakers.  Around the same time, I was contacted by the producers of another documentary that wasn’t on my research topic.  When I told them that I had no particular insights to offer or research expertise in the topic and therefore felt that I was unqualified to appear in it, they replied, “oh, you’re very well qualified,” and went on to explain that the sole qualification for the job was basic literacy.  They wanted me merely to read a script, probably in front of a bookcase full of books to prove that I’m a “real” historian.  No, thankee!  That’s a job for a chimp–well, a chimp that reads, anyway.  The only TV gig I dream of is an appearance on C-SPAN 2:  Book TV.  Production values a-go-go, am I right?  (I love it, but it reminds me of community cable access in the 1980s.)

Memo to Tom Daschle:  Health care for all won’t happen if your plan is just giant subsidies for private, for-profit insurance companies.  Remember the $700 billion doled out to the banks this fall?  And how has that worked out for us?  Are you feeling the liquidity, my darlings?

In a related story, Susie Madrak reports on a trip to the University of Pennsylvania dental clinic, where it sounds like the student dentist needs an empathy implant.  (And she provides more evidence that upper middle-class and elite Americans are bad, bad people who seem to have forgotten a little amendment to the U.S. Constitution I like to call the No Slavery Allowed amendment.)

Finally, some good news for working women and men, also via Susie at Suburban Guerilla:  the United Food and Commercial Workers has successfully unionized the Smithfield Packing slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, N.C.

Et vous, mes amis?  How are you planning to de-ice and warm up this weekend?