Women and fashion: can’t win for losing, turn of the 19th century-style

I’ve been inspired by the recent coverage of the fall 2017 collections during New York and Paris fashion weeks to think about the many ways fashion is deployed as a critique of women’s vanity.  Here are a couple of brilliant prints I came across recently that are great to consider together.  First, we have “The Inconvenience of Dress” (1786), which mocks the late-1780s demand for “false rumps” or “cork bums” to fill out the rear portion of women’s skirts.  The poor dear needs help from a false rump because she can’t get consume enough calories to build her own, given the fashion for generous neckerchiefs in women’s wear in this period, too.  Aye, but “Who’ll not starve to lead the Fashion?” as the ditty below asks:

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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

More process, more complicated product? Monica Green on Twitter, digital (dis)information, and Women’s History Month

Monica Green, Professor of History, Arizona State U.

Monica Green, Professor of History, Arizona State U.

Today I bring you a guest post by eminent historian Monica Green, a European medievalist and historian of women, gender, and medicine.  Those of you who follow her on Twitter have probably noticed that she’s had a bee in her bonnet this week about Trota, a medieval healer, and her book the Trotula.  I asked her to write up a short blog post to talk about her late Tweet storms and other efforts to ensure that information being shared about women’s history was correct and adequately contextualized.  

Professor Green argues here that by only focusing on a superficial takeaway fact or two, non-historians may be distorting the fuller story or even seeding the ground with new falsehoods.  What are we to do as historians who see our work used simplistically, or even incorrectly?  The answers are even more difficult when you see journalists drawing attention to feminist causes like recognizing women in history who have been systematically written out of the story.

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No Free Lunch? Or, how much work do we have to do to be collegial & promote our work?

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I *love* getting letters!

Friends, this semester is busybusybusy for me–I’m doing a lot of talks for the book, in addition to the usual teaching and service.  I’ve just given up entirely on that little thing called “scholarship” until the spring semester is over.  (How many more weeks to go is that?  Oh, lord.)

Fortunately, a troubled soul wrote a letter asking for our advice.  That’s worth at least 20 minutes of work avoidance, don’t you think?  Give a broad a break–I’ve got a few ideas, but let her know what you think, especially if you’re a fellow scientist and have a better grasp of the traditions and etiquette of academic culture in the sciences.  Read on, friends–the highlights in the letter below are my own: 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

From the mailbag: it’s an old-fashioned, Historiann round-up!

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A belated Valentine to all my readers!

Oh, my friends:  so much is happening globally, nationally, regionally, locally, and even here at the Black Cat Ranch that it’s hard to find time to blog even just one little bit these days.  My apologies!  Over the weekend I saved up some bits and bobs of oakum, old yarn, and loose string that might distract you from that sense of impending doom that weighs on so many of us these days.  Who knows?  It might help, and it surely can’t hurt, right?  So, andiamo, mi amici–

  • First, a request from a reader, Catherine Devine, who writes:  “I’m designing a ‘NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED’ banner, and I want to have the names of women across time, occupation and location in the background. Esther Wheelwright’s definitely there 🙂 I have the beginning of a  list, but I’m white and not a historian. Your readers are sane and and well informed. I’m looking to politics, art, science, literature – anywhere. There will be plenty of room on the banner.  If you’re willing, please have people send me names & references to catherinedevine at mac dot com with ‘Persisted’ in the subject line. I’m hoping to create one of the only footnoted banners ever. Oh yeah, I’m not doing this for profit. I will share the file for printing.”  Readers, can you help?  You can also leave suggestions in the comments below–I’ll be sure to let Devine know when this post goes live so she can check in there, too.

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