Historiann wonders: jealous, much?

attack50ftwomanPer Thursday’s post at Tenured Radical about the silly panic at the New York Times that “traditional” history is imperiled because, well, cherchez la femme, here’s another take by Mary L. Dudziak at Legal History Blog (and h/t to Mary for the most excellent graphic, at left!).  She asks, “[w]hy a backward-looking article about the way the pie should be divided, when the more pressing news story is the impact of the economic crisis on the next generation of historians, regardless of field?”

“Anonymous” asks a similar question back in the thread at Tenured Radical, to wit:  “What’s up with the NYT and its shoddy coverage of everything that related to academia? What’s the source of its hostility/ ignorance?”  (Remember this little fracas, friends?)  Historiann would like to propose an answer to that simple question, which I think can be applied to most people working in print journalism these days: Continue reading

Thursday round-up: Wasatch Front edition, giddyap!

cowgirlwagonWell, we’re getting ready to start the fun tomorrow morning at the Fifteenth Annual Omohundro Institute Conference at the University of Utah.  We had a wild ride across Wyoming yesterday–stormy but beautiful, and it’s pretty rainy here, too–seems more like Seattle than Salt Lake, but fortunately, I’m ready for anything.  Here are a few little tidbits and bon mots to keep you amused while I’m otherwise engaged tomorrow:

Bootin' up and scootin' West

cowgirlrarintogoLa famille Historiann is on its way into the western desert this morning–for a little fun, a lot of sun, and oh yeah–an “eastern” history conference in the intermountain West–remarkable!  When I moved out to the Colorado territory, I figured that I dropped off the edge of the known world according to early Americanists.  (A girl can dream, can’t she?)  Well, we like to support our friends at the University of Utah, Brigham Young, and Weber State–and I hope to see some of you there, too.  Be sure to introduce yourselves if we haven’t met.

I’ll be checking in from the road when I can–now all y’all behave yourselves, and don’t do anything Historiann wouldn’t do!  That should leave you a sufficiently long to-do list, friends.

Lesson for girls: if you don't ask, you don't get.

moneymoneymoneyBavardess has posted another lesson for girlsIf you don’t ask, you don’t get.  As in, negotiate your salary, don’t just take the first offer like a chump.  She writes:

Money is not inherently dirty and it is not a character flaw in women to want more of it. . . Asking to be properly remunerated for what you do doesn’t make you arrogant or selfish or greedy. Dealing fairly but firmly in pay negotiations does not make you an aggressive b!tch. It makes you smart.

Right on!  Except–as I noted when Dr. Crazy posted about this a few months ago–pay inequities will still exist even if every woman in the world negotiates her salary just like her male peers.  (What–you thought that patriarchal equilibrium was due to women not driving a hard bargain with job offers?  Sorry, darlings!  Patriarchal equilibrium stops for no woman.)  While negotiating is absolutely the right way to go, the fact remains that women are still expected to work for less money or for free not because they didn’t negotiate, but because they’re women.  And, women who act like professionals and negotiate their salary may be treated poorly and have it held against them, as my own experience bears out.  (Remember Mister “This isn’t a game to me!” ?)  I still think it was worth it to negotiate–but the fact is that while individuals and institutions expect men to negotiate, negotiating in women is gender queer, and is likely to be read as more “aggressive” and “pushy” in women than in men, so it’s not likely to be rewarded in the same way that it’s rewarded in men.  Mission accomplished!  Salary gap preserved.

Interestingly, when  Bavardess’s post came across the transom, I was already planning to highlight this question at Inside Higher Ed’s “Survival Guide” advice column from a senior woman scholar about how to achieve salary parity with the men in her department: Continue reading

Sister Agnes explains why you still need to visit the archives


Sister Agnes schools us on the archives

Like many historians, I have more than once discovered that the published version of a primary source is incomplete or even misleading when checked against the archival source.  One of my first missions as a graduate student was locating the archival court records for a New England colony whose records were published except for some cases of adolescent boys and young adult men who were convicted of sodomy.  (The sensibilities of the Victorian-era editor of the town court records were too delicate to include the details of those cases, and those cases only.) 

Indeed, the intimate details of historical documents–the marginalia, the burn holes, the water stains, the ink splotches, few of which are reproducible in published form or legible on microfilm or even in digitized versions–are some of the greatest pleasures of being a historian, archivist or librarian.  I have long felt that intimacy with the documents is not just desirable, but necessary–not just to be sure that published records haven’t introduced errors in my research, but because I like to touch things that the people I write about have touched.  I like seeing whose handwriting is clear and the product of an educated hand, and whose handwriting is crude and full of non-standard or phonetic spellings.  The rare letter from a desperate Anglo-American woman on the Maine frontier looks a lot different than an official dispatch from Governor Dudley, and those differences are flattened when the documents are published in books or transcribed digitally.  That stuff matters to me.

The immediacy and sheer volume of historical materials available on the world wide (and as it turns out, not peer-reviewed) internets demands our continued scrutiny and vigilance.  Here’s a recent lesson by Sister Agnes, who spent some time in a European archive recently and discovered that the compiler of an on-line series of summaries of medieval monastic charters provided false or incomplete data: Continue reading

Yippee ki yi yay, Mr. and Mrs. Stoltzfus! Hope you like cactus farming.


Photo by Alysia Patterson for the Associated Press

The Amish are coming!  The Amish are coming!  To Colorado, that is:

“The reason we moved out West is the farm land is a little bit cheaper and it’s not as heavily populated, a little more open space and a little more opportunity for young people to get started with their own farms,” said Ben Coblentz, a 47-year-old alfalfa farmer from Indiana.

“The general public seems to have a little slower pace of life than what it was back East. Everybody here respects us.”

Of an estimated 231,000 Amish nationwide, more than 60 percent still live in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana.

But from 2002 to 2008, Colorado’s Amish population went from zero to more than 400, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Pennsylvania’s Elizabethtown College.

The headline of the Denver Post article is “Colo. land prices luring Amish,” and it states that “Cropland is worth an average $1,400 per acre in Colorado, compared with $6,000 in Pennsylvania and about $4,000 in Ohio and Indiana, according to a 2007 census by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cropland values jumped 17 percent from 2006 to 2007 in Pennsylvania, but only 6 percent in Colorado.” 

Uhm, has anyone explained to them exactly why land in the San Luis Valley is so much cheaper than in the East?  Continue reading

Caroline Knapp on professor-student relationships

drinkingalovestoryA good friend of mine recently recommended Caroline Knapp’s Drinking:  A Love Story (1996), which I somehow missed when it first came out.  It was a great recommendation–a funny and touching memoir of alcoholism by a writer for The Boston Phoenix, the king of indy media back in the day.  (Since I too had lived in Boston in my teens and then again in my twenties in the 1980s and 1990s, we shared some of the same stomping grounds.)  She takes you minute by minute into her alcoholic thinking and into her very messed-up life.  For example:  she points out that one of the problems with drinking to excess is the recycling bin, something that had never occurred to me.  But Knapp explains that recycling bins reminded her of exactly how much she was drinking, and describes her elaborate schemes for stashing and then dumping bottles in various trash bins and recycling containers around town in order to hide the extent of her drinking.  This is just one of the ways that drinking came to structure and organize her life.

One of the chapters that really interested me was her chapter 6, “Sex,” in which she describes the way that alcohol served to alienate her from her body and her sexuality.  At first it alleviated teenage anxieties about her developing body and relationships with boys, but alcohol rather than boyfriends is really her primary relationship.  One passage in particular will interest readers who followed the last post, “Just call him ‘Dr. Love‘,” on professor-student sexual relationships.  Knapp writes about an experience she had shortly after graduation:

Brown was famous for its lack of distribution requirements and I’d foundered there for my first few years, taking an absurdly random, disconnected collection of courses before settling into a combined major in English and History, and choosing that not because it tapped into some deep reservoir of intellectual interest on my part but because it was a small, new program in which I could stand out.  A man named Roger headed that program.  He was in his forties, an immensely popular member of the English department, and he had a razor-sharp intellect, and he was the first professor at Brown who made me feel special.

I’d wanted that feeling desperately–it’s another classic impulse among alcoholics, to seek validation from the outside in–and I hadn’t found it in college. . . . Academic achievement was something I’d always sought as a form of reward:  good grades pleased my parents, good grades pleased my teachers; you got them in order to sew up approval.

Roger, whom I met as a junior, gave me precisely that brand of approval, and I’d found it familiar and reassuring:  he gave me a purpose, someone to please.  In my senior year I narrowed my major down to eighteenth-century British literature and history because those were his areas of expertise.  He became my advisor, and under his direction I wrote a prizewinning thesis, graduating from Brown with honors.

Two days after my graduation I went out to lunch with Roger, a celebratory gesture on his part.  He’d suggested this after the graduation ceremony . . . and he’d called the next day and arranged to pick me up at my apartment.

We drove to a small, sunny restaurant about ten minutes away from campus, and he ordered us martinis.  Then he ordered wine with lunch.  We ate lobster salads and talked about writing.  Continue reading