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
I know it’s been a long blog-silence around these parts. More on that later, but I’ve got something to say and I think we all need to hear it.
It’s gotten so a bish can’t look at the internets or the cover of the Rolling Stone without more news about scummy scumbag men using their professional authority to coerce younger women (and a few young men) to perform or witness specific sexual acts by these creeps. Given the conversation all this autumn about sexual assault and sexual harassment at work in Hollywood (Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey), journalism (Roger Ailes, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, politics, and literally every other workplace in the United States, I’ve been thinking back on a little post I wrote about this the summer before last, after another in which I argued that the American Historical Association needs to take a stand against the sexualization of the workplace, because 95 times out of 100, it’s young women who pay the price (along with a few young men), and the status quo serves only the interests of older men (and maybe a few older women too).
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
Mary Maples Dunn, 1931-2017
Howdy, friends–I’ve got a big announcement today! Many of you may know that Mary Maples Dunn, a prominent early American women’s historian, died in March. Nicole Eustace of New York University invited me to co-edit a special edition of Early American Studies in her honor. Here are the details:
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Nicole Eustace (email@example.com). 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.
It’s International Women’s Day. What are you not going to do today?
That old snag again?
I’m just back at the ranch after half a week at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting 2017. I didn’t have a minute to blog or tweet about much of anything, seeing as I wanted to take full advantage of having so many friends and colleagues in Colorado. Blogging and tweeting is what I do when I’m back here all by my lonesome–so expect to hear plenty from me now that everyone has cleared on out! As you may recall, the Longhorn Parade for the 2017 National Western Stock Show was cancelled because of cold and snow, but the historians converged upon Denver fearlessly last week.
It was wonderful to see so many of you, and I’m grateful to those of you #twitterstorians whom I didn’t know in person who took the time to grab my elbow to say hello. It was particularly fun to meet finally some of the young scholars like Rachel Herrmann and Erin Bartram, with whom I have corresponded and grab-assed over Twitter. I’m just sorry that I only got to see or talk to most of you for a minute or two in-between conference sessions or at a busy cocktail party. I did get to have several nice lunches and dinners on the town with old friends. How did we get to be the old people at the conference? Some of my age peers are starting to look like they were rode hard and put away wet. Continue reading
WARNING: Inflammatory post ahead. This is a follow-up post to yesterday’s post, A woman’s work is never done, part I: the daily churn.
My return to blogging yesterday was inspired by a recent conversation over winter break with a former student of mine who’s now enrolled in an impressive Ph.D. program. She was telling me all about the interesting syllabus she read through for a readings course in early American history, a version of which she took eight years ago as a master’s student with me at Baa Ram U. As she was telling me about the books she read and her opinions about them–it was an interesting list and she had worthwhile and frequently spiky opinions–I was gripped by a horrible dread. I hadn’t heard her mention any books that featured women or gender as either subjects or authors. So I asked:
“Did you read any books about women’s and gender history, or the history of sexuality?”
“No,” she said, “and come to think of it, I don’t think we read many books by women, either.”
A popular meme I’m repurposing here.
Ursuline chapel and convent, Quebec City, 2015
I know I’ve been very quiet lately. I’ve been traveling for nearly three weeks, mostly tending to family affairs and doing a little research along the way. I’ve also had the chance to spend valuable time in conversation with friends in Michigan and New England, a rare pleasure all the more precious because of current events, which utterly bristle with hostility and violence now. I feel very sheltered and cared for by all of you, in comparison to so much of the rest of the world.
Although I’ve blogged extensively about the peculiar ferocity and gendered nature of gun violence in the United States over the past 8-1/2 years, I must admit to being completely hollowed out by the horrors of the mass murders in Orlando 10 days ago. What does it matter what I or any of us write here, with that kind of nihilism plus access to semi-automatic weaponry living among us? Unsurprisingly, the killer was a 100% homegrown American man, and like so many other American men, he was deranged by anger, misogyny, and his own sexual desires.
I may have more to say about this, especially the fact that the murderer targeted a largely LGBT and Latinx crowd, something that’s been lost in the panic about his supposed motivation to join ISIS/ISIL. I’ve been happier living in my imagination in some of the more peaceful corners of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for the past few weeks. We all must consider how we can take the best of the past and make it a living tradition, and leave behind the worst: injustice, brutality, corruption. Historians struggle with these issues more than most people, I suppose.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by Edward Carson (@ProfCarson44) of the Christian Century to write something for their history blog, Then & Now. Here’s an excerpt from “What future is there for religious women in the west?” Continue reading