“Pocahontas”: an insult, or an inspiring diplomat and politician?

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

I’ve been meaning to write for weeks about Donald Trump’s nickname for Elizabeth Warren.  As a historian who has written a few books that include some Algonquian (Eastern woodlands Indian) history, and a lot of women’s history, it’s been on my mind.

But first, a little background:  last month, Trump started calling her Pocahontas, intending to smear her for once checking a box on an employment form claiming Native American ancestry:  Continue reading

WIZ 301: Defense Against the Dark Arts, or, how universal design improves our teaching

defenseagainstdarkarts

Dump the blue books!

The always-thoughtful David Perry of How Did We Get Into This Mess and on Twitter @Lollardfish) has given his last blue-book, in class, timed exam.  Those of you who know his writing will not be surprised that he’s doing this because of the inequities and exposure in-class exams mean for students with disabilities:

I’ve been inching away from the blue book for years, but it’s time to go cold turkey and match my praxis to my principles. Whatever pedagogical gains the in-class test might bring — and I’ll argue they are few and increasingly less relevant — I can no longer justify forcing people with disabilities to disclose their conditions in order to receive basic test-related accommodations.

Although protections for disabled students date back to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act spurred widespread change throughout academe. Compliance with the ADA and with Section 504 — for any institution receiving federal funds (including financial aid) — requires providing reasonable accommodations to students with diagnosed disabilities. It’s become routine, rather than rare, for students to begin the semester by presenting their professors with documented requests for accommodation.

That it’s become routine is great but far from perfect. Not only do students have to disclose disability to their professors —who are no more immune to ableism than to any other sort of bias — but the most common form of accommodation extends the disclosure to classmates. Many students with invisible disabilities (such as anxiety disorders or ADHD) require quiet rooms and extra time to work on a test. I’m thrilled to provide both. On the other hand, when the whole class gathers to take an exam, with one student conspicuously absent, everyone notices.

Right on, David!  (Be sure to read the whole article.)  He comes to his conclusion about canning the in-class, timed exams based on his understanding of the concept of universal design.  Perry explains, “That term — coined in the 1970s around architecture and public space —advocates that systems be designed to accommodate the widest range of function and ability possible. Universal design asks us to try and build accessibility into the fabric of our institutions and culture, rather than wait until individuals make their needs known.”  I’m sure you’ve seen evidence of it in buildings of recent construction–the extra-wide doorways and hallways, the paddle-handle door pulls that have replaced traditional doorknobs because they don’t require the number of fine motor skills to operate. Continue reading

Restroom panic! The solution is so obvious.

09018TPSweet baby Jesus, please let public restrooms all become inclusive/family restrooms already. They’ve been a problem for many of us (if not most of us, at least once in a while) for years, including folks in the non-transgender majority.  John D. Sutter argues that sexed bathrooms are relics that should be abolished as racially-exclusive public restrooms were fifty years ago.  I agree entirely, especially because there’s such a simple solution right before us!

When I was a first-time mother back in the early 2000s, the “family restroom” was fairly new on the scene, and I thought they were lifesavers.  (Maybe they were there all along, and I just didn’t have occasion to seek them out beforehand?)  Changing a baby in most public restrooms isn’t too difficult–I thought the family restrooms were even more useful when the children become toilet-trainee toddlers and little kids, because that’s when the extra space and time for everyone to go came in very handy.   Continue reading

Wikipedia in the classroom: check out these new bios of early American women!

womanwriting

A Woman Writing a Letter (1680), by Frans van Mieris (1635-1681)

UPDATED 12:30 p.m. MDT, with details from my syllabus below the original post.

I’m now going to do something I hardly ever do:  I’m going to tell you about something my students have done.  I can’t restrain myself!  I’m so proud of my women’s history students this semester.  Six of them have written biographies of previously unrepresented or under-represented women in early American history, and they’re now published on English-language Wikipedia.  Check them out:

Inés de Bobadilla (ca. 1505-43; first woman governor of Cuba)

Alice Clifton (ca. 1772 – unknown; as an enslaved teenager, she was a defendant in infanticide trial in 1787)

Rebecca Dickinson (1738-1815; American tailor and seamstress in Hadley, Mass.)

Elizabeth Hanson, captive of Native Americans (1684-1737; former Wabanaki captive from Dover, N.H. and the author of God’s Mercy Surmounting Man’s Cruelty, 1728)

Sarah Osborn (1714-96; Evangelical Protestant writer in Newport, R.I. and author of Memoirs of the life of Mrs. Sarah Osborn.)

Rachel of Kittery, Maine (d. 1695; enslaved woman murdered by her master whose case set a legal precedent in New England)

Continue reading

The battle over U.S. military history: intellectual limpieza de sangre versus intellectual hybridity

rowlandsonbogusSome of you may remember a few weeks ago when I wrote a response to Bob Neer’s article in Aeon, “The U.S. military is everywhere, except the history books,”  arguing that military history courses were in danger of disappearing from American university curricula.  Paul Huard, a writer for War is Boring, picked up the conversation and has written a nice summary of our points of view in “The Battle over U.S. Military History.”

Interestingly, both in Huard’s article and in recent private correspondence between me and Neer,  we probably agree on more than we disagree.  Neer is not interested in strict definitions as to who qualifies as a military historian, and neither am I.  (Nor am I interested in imposing purity tests on historians whose work engages women’s history, the history of gender and sexuality, or North American colonial history.  I’m a big-tent kind of gal.)

Check out Huard’s article, which seeks to bring us all to a truce in which we agree on the importance of both military history and understanding the role of warfare in North American society over the past 400 years or so.  And yet some military historians seem very determined to draw boundaries and police the borders of their discipline in ways that seem to me to be distinctly against the mainstream of historical practice. Continue reading

Happy Easter/Pesach/Spring Equinox/_your festival here_! Enjoy an ad-free holiday at Historiann.

cowgirlhotstuffThe whole gang here at Historiann HQ wish you and yours a quiet, ad-free holiday of your choice this spring. I’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive reaction about my decision not to provide content for free at sites that are run by advertising dollars that I thought today I’d also direct your attention to other ad-free and content-rich history blogs.  Most of these are group blogs, except for The Way of Improvement Leads Home, which is run by the indefatigable John Fea of Messiah College:

  • Tropics of Meta: historiography for the masses!  Mostly modern U.S. history, California history, media studies, race, and gender.
  • Nursing Clio:  a group blog on gender, sexuality, and the history of medicine
  • U.S. Intellectual History:  big-tent intellectual history as it’s written and taught by junior and emerging scholars.
  • African American Intellectual History:  same as above, with a focus on black intellectuals from the eighteenth century to the present.
  • Religion in American History:  a group blog on the obvious, with contributors who cover the richness of American religious history from the colonial era to the present.
  • The Junto:  a group blog on early American history by historians based in North America and Britain.
  • Borealia:  a group blog on early Canadian history (First Nations/New France to Confederation, 1867)
  • The Way of Improvement Leads Home:  John Fea’s blog on early American history, American religious history, and early U.S. intellectual history.  Fea is apparently a man unafflicted by hunger, thirst, or the need to sleep, as he’s just published yet another book, and he has a podcast now, too!  (I am not worthy, but then, neither of most of you so we’re in good company.)
  • Notches:   A group blog on the history of sexuality, mostly European and North American.

Most of us who contribute to blogs like these have day jobs, or are madly finishing dissertations, or sometimes both.  It’s honest labor, and we do it because we love history and refuse to believe that it’s irrelevant for understanding the world as we have inherited it.  Peace, my sisters and brothers! Continue reading