Filibuster this.

mushroomcloudTo all of the very worried Democrats and Republicans fretting and rubbing their hands about the possible end of the filibuster: who cares?

The filibuster is a patently anti-democratic parliamentary tactic that should never have existed. The senate is anti-democratic enough to begin with that we don’t need to include all of these bullcrap measures that are about as timely and as fashionable as spittoons and antimacassars.

To liberals on fainting couches: have you reviewed the history of the filibuster? To conservatives huffing and puffing like the Big, Bad Wolf: go ahead and blow the senate down. You won! You get your pick for the Supreme Court!  That’s how it works!  That’s about all you’re going to get out President Human Stain, so enjoy your new Associate Justice of the Supreme Court–those Trumpstains probably won’t come out of your Federalist Society lab experiment, but I’m sure you’ll live happily with the shame. Continue reading

Happy birthday Esther Wheelwright, with remembrances of other American ladies on this date in history.

Esther Wheelwright, c.1763 (oil on canvas), 55.7×45.5 cm; © Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

It’s Esther Wheelwright’s 321st birthday! She was born March 31, 1696 (Old Style).*  Since Esther has been dead for 237 years, I was thrilled to accept a birthday present on her behalf in the form of a rave review of my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, at the Christian Century!  (H/t to friend and blog reader Susan for passing it along.)  In “Women Who Do Things,” Margaret Bendroth, the executive director of the Congregational Library and author of The Last Puritans:  Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past (among many other titles), gets my book exactly right.  Check out her lede, which is just perfect:

An offhand remark can change everything. I still remember a graduate school professor’s consternation at the idea of “women’s history.” “They don’t do anything,” he protested. The comment passed without notice in a room full of male professors and students, but it took up permanent residence in my head. I was hooked, not just by his attitude problem but by the nagging reality that in the categories this well-regarded historian recognized—wars and politics and all that—he was right.

Writing women into history isn’t easy. It’s one thing to add an occasional sidebar in a textbook or praise a heroine whose brave exception proves the rule, but that doesn’t change the overall story line. The narrative still belongs to men who “do things,” driving the engines of change by waging wars and winning elections.

I am so touched that readers and reviewers really get where I’m coming from, and are moved to share their own stories of alienation and feelings of displacement in graduate school.  The discipline of history isn’t just heedless or careless about women and women’s history–it’s actively engaged in denial and erasure. Continue reading

Oh, FFS! Security theater harassment of U.S. families.

LOLsobs for political blogger and trained historian Joshua Micah Marshall, whose eight year-old son was pulled aside for extra scrutiny at Kennedy airport last night in New York:

Someone either from the airport or perhaps the TSA (I think not actually CBP [Customs & Border Patrol]) kept asking/insisting* repeatedly suggesting that the rest of the family go sit in some separate waiting area while Daniel waited in the line alone. This got me, I confess, somewhat belligerent. We all waited together, obviously.

When we finally got to the CBP officer, the fact that Daniel is eight seemed to put a pretty quick end to the whole thing. Daniel answered a few questions, was asked to sign his passport and we were off.

Recent events have made me increasingly see the CBP as something along the lines of a rogue federal agency. I have a very negative sense of the whole organization. That said, the guy we dealt when we finally got through the line with was friendly, professional and pretty chill.

We learned in a subsequent line that Daniel’s is a “common name” and what had happened was that some law enforcement or intelligence agency had put a hold on someone by that name. (I’m wiilling to believe “Daniel Marshall” is a common name; “Daniel Eytan Marshall” I’m not so sure.) And that’s how we ended up in that situation. Will this happen again if we have to return to the US from overseas? Depends. Depends on what? How long the hold is in place.

It’s nice to know the system isn’t advanced enough to cross check for age.

WTF?

Continue reading

Alert the Media: Spring & summer book talk dates!

Yale University Press. 2016

For your convenience, here’s a list of my spring and early summer North American book tour stops. I hope to meet more of you in person, finally!  Most of these events are free and all are open to the public:

Thursday March 30–tomorrow night!–I’ll be at the Longmont Public Library to give a talk about The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright at 7 p.m.

Thursday April 13 I’ll be at Bryn Mawr College to give a talk about the book.  Stay tuned for more details as they arrive–as you might imagine, this trip will be a sentimental favorite, as it’s my own college and therefore a special honor to be asked to return as a guest.

Thursday April 27, I’m one of five invited authors to participate in a book reading at the opening reception of the Western Association of Women Historians in San Diego, California.  The Strawberries and Champagne Book Launch runs from 7-9 p.m. at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center.

Saturday May 6, I’m doing a book talk at the Morrin Center in Québec.

And finally, on Wednesday June 28 at 6 p.m., I’m going to present my book talk at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.  Come early for cocktails and snacks at 5:30, and stay to get your book signed afterwards!

 

“Complete with lasagna!”

From the Washington Post reportage on the failure of Trumpcare by Robert Costa, Ashley Parker, and Philip Rucker, we note this peculiar detail from the Human Stain’s outreach to Congress:

He cajoled and charmed uncertain members, offering flattery and attention to some and admonishment and the vague threat of political retribution to others. He invited members to the White House for bowling sessions, gave others rides on Air Force One (complete with ­lasagna) and grinned for pictures in the Oval Office, where he reminded lawmakers of his margins of victory in their districts.

Continue reading

Mary Maples Dunn, 1931-2017

UPDATED BELOW WITH MEMORIAL SERVICE INFORMATION

As many in the early American community learned Monday morning, Mary Maples Dunn died Sunday in North Carolina.  She was a longtime professor and dean at Bryn Mawr College who then served as president of Smith College, director of the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, president of Radcliffe, and the co-executive officer of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.

In one of the emails that started flying around Monday morning, a senior scholar in my field reported that she had been visiting with her youngest daughter and grandchild when she died.  She had whooped it up the night before with two manhattans.  I’m sure that she and they were glad she was able to make one last trip and enjoy a last visit before her death.  Continue reading

Does history matter? Part I

UPDATED BELOW

Grab a cup and join me!

That’s the question for today:  what are we historians doing, and does it matter?  I wonder if it’s possible that 20 years after earning my Ph.D. that I might have chosen the wrong academic discipline.  Most historians are way too methodologically conservative for me.  Why has it taken me half a career to figure this out?  Is it history, or is it me?

I always preferred history to literature.  I always took at least one English literature course per semester in college, and toyed for a time with majoring in English, but I never got the hang of writing a literature paper.  You historians can probably guess the kinds of papers I wrote for my English classes, papers that explored the historical context of whichever text or author I was supposed to be writing about instead of the text itself!  I worked with loads of lit students in graduate courses in cultural theory, which were a big deal in the early 1990s at Penn.  I appreciated its insights for history, but was a bit dazed at the thought of applying the ideas just to one or two “texts,” instead of loads of “primary sources.” Continue reading

Quick, someone at a liberal arts college do something the Wall Street Journal can b!tch about endlessly

Do I look like a dangerous leftist to you?

. . . because they can’t complain endlessly about the “illiberal arts” majors at Middlebury College, can they? Or can they?  The amount of ink they have spilled over the shut-down of white nationalist Charles Murray‘s talk there is pretty impressive, considering the shambling embarrassment of a presidential administration and the inability of the governing party to agree on much of anything.  I guess there’s always the antics of a few pissed off students at an elite, private liberal arts college in Vermont, population 2,500 students, to induce panic in the ruling classes.

It’s kind of cute that they seem so fearful of us!  If only we faculty were the diabolically powerful leftist Svengalis that they imagine we are.  Most of us are just desperate to wean our students from fragment sentences, the bizarre use of the word “off” these days (“Based off of. . . ”  What???  What is a “base?”  Is a “base” something you put stuff ON, or OFF OF? Yegads, people.), and to inculcate an appreciation of the subjunctive tense as well as to pass on a little discipline-specific knowledge.  (Just a little!) Continue reading

Marcia! Marcia! Marcia! A member of a Monstrous Regiment of Women pipes up a tune & smokes it.

Portrait of Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814), by John Singleton Copley, 1763.  In her correspondence with Abigail Smith Adams and John Adams, Warren called herself “Marcia,” and Adams signed herself “Portia.”

Do women historians exist?  If we exist, do men historians know it?  Going by the antics of the editors of the Journal of the American Revolution, the answer to both questions is an entirely nonsensical no! Which you must admit is pretty hilarious, especially considering that the very first historian of the American Revolution (yes, that one!) was, in fact, a lady!  It’s true!  Mercy Otis Warren’s Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (3 vols., 1805) is widely recognized as the first, and for probably more than a century the only authoritative history of the American Revolution.

For a historical subfield invented by a woman, you’d think there would be a little more remembering of the ladies happening in this list of the “100 Best American Revolution Books of All Time.”  You’d think that, but you’d be so very wrong.  Tragically wrong, in fact.  Of the 114 separate books they list, there are only 11 by women, and one co-authored by a woman.  And of those 11 single-authored books by women, fully three are by the great Pauline Maier, so the list includes only ten women historians in all.  TEN women, and eleven and a half books.  Take that, Marcia!   Continue reading

The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright TONIGHT in South Berwick, Maine!

Yale University Press. 2016

Yale University Press. 2016

Friends, if you’re in New England anywhere near the Piscataqua River, come out and see me talk about my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright*at the Berwick Academy as a guest of the Old Berwick Historical Society’s Forgotten Frontier lecture series this winter and spring.  Last night, I was a guest of Bowdoin College where I also gave a talk about my book–the audience there will be hard to beat.  They were so attentive and asked so many questions that they kept me more than an hour AFTER my 40-minute talk with their questions and responses.  Whew!  And thank you! Continue reading