0 thoughts on “Women's History Month book club: Judith Bennett's "History Matters"

  1. KC, it’s a fast read, and one that (for me, at least, since she’s not in my field) counts as bedtime reading. I’m hoping to hear from a lot of modern U.S. scholars like you, since Bennett’s book decries the profession’s rush to modern history and the dominance of U.S. history!


  2. Bedtime is when I’ve been able to be reading it this week; that and while on a treadmill this morning. It’s both clearly and passionately written, and I appreciated the “hands-on” analysis of what’s being dropped from the journals and conferences in recent years. I was surprised about the part about _Signs_, which I guess means I’m not paying enough attention. (My dept. is constantly being invited by our Library to “help” them decide which journal subscriptions to cancel. Some years back the dept. library liason–a since retired woman who works on 20th C. women–announced almost cacklingly that _Signs_ was at the top of our hit/cut list!). I was also struck by the critique of the Judy Chicago masterwork, for consulting with top-shelf professionals for elements of the material assemblage, but then just sending a squad of amateurs off to the library to bring back some “content.” Ouch. Also, was unaware of the “slowly ascending height of the banquet table.”


  3. I am intrigued enough by what Indyanna just wrote to pick up this book and actually read it instead of adding it to the pile of things I have promised myself I will read.


  4. I hope you will, Susurro! I am eager to hear what WOC/POC scholars will say about this book. I will raise some relevant issues in my post next week about how thinking about the history of the Americas, 1492-2009, may add to or compete with some of Bennett’s ideas and goals.


  5. Thanks for getting this great book/blog discussion going.
    I loved this book, and had never heard of it before. Since I’ve been out of college for 30 years now, I was unaware of how much feminism had disconnected from herstory. This was a good update on the state of women’s studies.

    We met yesterday at the June Mazer Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles to tell our own stories, and have them recorded for posterity. Over 40 years of lesbian feminist activism was represented in the room, and the power of this was incredible. So there are groups of lesbians in Los Angeles who are attentive to keeping our movement alive, and also preserving it in our own archives. No university controls the archives, it is a true people’s project.

    I hope that academics can continue to get out there and reach people who are not on college campuses. One thing I’m thinking of doing is creating scholars salons, so that feminists out in the world, and academic feminists can come back together again. Remember, the passion of feminism, the excitement of discover, is what created women’s studies in the first place. We will be poorer if we forget this.

    You won’t have millions of people longing to know about the Middle Ages, but if historians tell a very good tale, they will be read.

    What surprises me even today, is how women are still afraid of the word “feminism” and “woman.” I don’t much like gender studies / blender studies, because it takes and erases “women.” Even using the word “woman” is still a radical thing, and so this book is must reading.

    What made feminism so exciting to me in the first place, over 30 years ago, was the herstory, the sense of discovery of how influential women were worldwide. And of course the heroines were the great lesbian herstorians, the Lillian Fadermans and others. We didn’t separate activism from academia back then. The historians and philosophers of our movement created a living powerful tool– like the Secret Garden, it was a magic key to women of the past! Magic, enlightening, inspiring.

    On another note, I found it fascinating that Judy Chicago didn’t consult with historians when she did The Dinner Party, but at the time, when I first saw it displayed in the city of Chicago in the fall of 1981, it was a dramatic representation of the greatness of women throughout time.

    Maybe young feminists are mired in “presentism” as Prof. Bennett describes, but those women who chose to know the past, and bring it dynamically into the present, will have an incredible analytical advantage. Women can choose to be educated, or they can choose to remain unaware of their own heroic past.

    All I can say is, I love the life of the mind, I love what feminist historians are doing, and I treasured my time in the early women’s studies classes of the 70s.

    History is hard work, and feminist history is even more challenging, because it is still being attacked by patriarchal forces who really want women back in the kitchens of America. And I would challenge straight feminists here to really go for it, to use the word feminist proudly, and to focus this passion on women’s freedom that seems to come so naturally to us lesbian pioneers.


  6. Satsuma (and everyone)–I’m glad you liked the book, but please direct your substantial comment/s about Bennett over at Notorious, Ph.D.’s blog–the conversation won’t move here until next Monday.

    It’s very cool that you participated in some oral history–well done!


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