I’ve been asked by the authors of this statement by the Coordinating Council for Women Historians at the American Historical Association to republish their response to the #StanfordSausageFest published yesterday at History News Network. The authors link the specter of a return to “history’s dark age as a gentlemen’s protection society” to recent consciousness-raising efforts to address sexual harassment and assault in academia and in the wider world. Read on, and scroll all the way down for a brief note on my lengthy absence from this space.
by Sasha Turner, Barbara Molony, and Sandra Dawson
In December 1969, a group of historians organized the Coordinating Committee of Women Historians in the Profession, which, in 1995, joined forces with the Conference Group of Women’s History to become the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH). Both organizations arose from divergent, but overlapping goals to support women students and faculty and to secure greater inclusion of women in the research and teaching of history. At the time of these organizations’ founding, the American Historical Association (AHA) and the history profession in general were deemed “a gentlemen’s protection society… openly supporting practices of sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, and anti-Semitism.” With a woman historian and a scholar of women’s history now at the helm of the AHA (Mary Beth Norton), and more broadly, the addition of women historians and women and gender history to departments and curricula across the country, few would dispute that the AHA and the history profession have become more inclusive.
Yet, the recent all white male history conference held at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University seems to suggest a return to history’s dark age as a gentlemen’s protection society. Happily, the strong and growing presence of and disciplinary focus on women in history as well as the sharp criticism and condemnation (and rightly so) of the exclusive conference make clear that a return to great white men history and historians is a fantasy. Even so, the holding of this conference and others of its kind reflect the ongoing challenges women historians and women history face.
Conference organizer and senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution Niall Ferguson defended that the exclusion of women was not deliberate and that the women invited to participate in the panel had declined to do so. Yet, it seems that the lack of diversity stemmed less from packed schedules to a deliberate omission. One is hard pressed not to view the conference Ferguson organized through the lens of his acceptance speech for the 2016 Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contribution to Liberal Arts Education. While admitting that various social and economic reasons account for the decline in history in the last several decades, Ferguson argued that the changing content of history is the “best explanation.” Continue reading →
This isn’t an accident. This is the playbook for sexualizing people and workplaces as a part of the process of marginalizing and alienating the junior folks who get caught up in these relationships, whether they’re consensual or not. This is also a primary means by which men re-create the hierarchy of men over women, again and again. Exploiting younger women (which is the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment and abuse cases) is a win-win for these guys, because they can get their rocks off, and–here’s the beauty part–you keep junior women from becoming senior women who might step on your nuts about all this because you’ve created an sexualized environment in which the junior women must either become victims or collaborators. Most of them will quit eventually, and the ones that hang on are compromised because they’ve been drawn in as collaborators (or heck, even apologists for the abuse of younger women.) Continue reading →
Friends, I know it’s been a quiet month on the blog. What can I say? The news moves at the speed of light these days, and it’s difficult for me sometimes to conceptualize anything to add to the frantic online conversations. I wrote up a short article, “The Captivity of Otto Warmbier: Outsiders, Insiders, and Mad Kings,” for Public Seminar a few weeks ago, just before his death in Cincinnati was announced. I try to put his ordeal into context with the long centuries of North American captivities locally and globally. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Call For Papers: Women and Religion in the Early Americas
For a special issue in honor of the life and career of Mary Maples Dunn, Early American Studies seeks article-length contributions from scholars working on the history of women and religion in the early Americas. Mary Maples Dunn (1931-2017) was a leading practitioner of women’s history, as a scholar, as a teacher, and in her life as a university leader. She worked in a variety of fields from early American women’s history; to colonial Latin American history; to the history of religious women; to the history of women’s education as well as, of course, the worlds of William Penn and early Philadelphia.
The editors invite essays that consider the history of early American women, early American religion (or both) and are especially interested in work that makes cross-cultural comparisons or integrates multiple Atlantic orientations: North and South (French, British, Dutch, Spanish and/or Portuguese) East and West (from European and/or African links to Native American perspectives). We are interested in both formal article-length contributions (10,000 words) and in shorter essays on “Notes and Documents” that highlight innovative or creative ways of reading/using primary-source documents (3,000-5,000 words).
To submit, please email a 3-page CV and a 1,000 word summary of the contribution you propose to write by September 30 to Ann Little (email@example.com) and Nicole Eustace (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please use the subject line “Mary Maples Dunn Special Issue Submission.” We will notify you of your preliminary acceptance by October 31, 2017 and final essays are due on April 30, 2018. Articles are to be published, subject to peer review, in 2019.
Racially charged, anarchic protests have engulfed Evergreen State College, a small, public liberal-arts institution where I have taught since 2003. In a widely disseminated video of the first recent protest on May 23, an angry mob of about 50 students disrupted my class, called me a racist, and demanded that I resign. My “racist” offense? I had challenged coercive segregation by race. Specifically, I had objected to a planned “Day of Absence” in which white people were asked to leave campus on April 12.
Day of Absence is a tradition at Evergreen. In previous years students and faculty of color organized a day on which they met off campus—a symbolic act based on the Douglas Turner Ward play in which all the black residents of a Southern town fail to show up one morning. This year, however, the formula was reversed. “White students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave the campus for the day’s activities,” the student newspaper reported, adding that the decision was reached after people of color “voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.”
In March I objected in an email to all staff and faculty. “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles . . . and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away,” I wrote. “On a college campus, one’s right to speak—or to be—must never be based on skin color.”
My email was published by the student newspaper, and Day of Absence came and went almost without incident. The protest of my class emerged seemingly out of the blue more than a month later. Evergreen has slipped into madness.You don’t need the news to tell you that—the protesters’ own videos will do. But those clips reveal neither the path that led to this psychosis, nor the cautionary nature of the tale for other campuses.
First, this seems to be a pretty venial sin compared to the heights of grifting and inept spycraft that he and his administration have reached in just 125 days in office, but okay: more evidence of unscrupulous douchebaggery. We get it!
But second, and my real point here: historians know that coats-of-arms are all bull$hit, don’t we? We know that all titles, knighthoods, and the like are all made up at some point or another, so who cares? Someone was knighted or ennobled because he agreed to fight with the king, or let the king screw his wife, or loaned him money, or performed some such base and ignoble service to the crown, and that’s it. That’s all titles and coats of arms mean! Continue reading →
Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1973), Republican U.S. Senator from Maine from 1949 until her death and the subject of numerous biographies.
Peggy Noonan’s column in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, “Why History Will Repay Your Love” (sorry–paywalled!) is an extended advertisement for David McCullough’s latest book, and only secondarily an advertisement for McCullough’s totally original observations about history and its importance. (Get this! John Adams and Thomas Jefferson lived in their present, not our past! Also, “nothing had to happen the way it happened,” and “knowing history will make you a better person.”)
I pretty much agree with all of McCullough’s bromides, but this one set off my B.S. detector:
We make more of the wicked than the great. The most-written about senator of the 20th century is Joe McCarthy. “Yet there is no biography of the Senator who had the backbone to stand up to him first–Margaret Chase Smith,” a Maine Republican who served for 24 years,