The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright gets a rave review in this morning’s Maine Sunday Telegram (the Sunday edition of the Portland Press Herald, FYI):
Ann M. Little’s telling of Esther Wheelwright’s story illuminates issues of class, status and gender through the 18th century and across continents.
In her intriguing new biography, “The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright,” Ann M. Little asks a rhetocial question: Why would the portrait of this Ursuline nun be there in the Massachusetts Historical Society collection “amid this collection of prominent Puritans and wealthy merchants, in the company of men she would have disagreed with on nearly every issue, great or small?”
“And yet, there she is,” writes Little, associate professor of history at Colorado State University, “the pink face floating in the glowing white wimple, wearing that determined look.”
For the past year, I’ve wondered if my choice to put her portrait on the cover was the right one. My initial rationale was, “hey, biographies of the so-called “Founding Fathers” always feature one of their many oil portraits on the cover–my argument here is that Esther Wheelwright is worthy of the same treatment, so of course!” On the other hand: what do Anglophone Americans think when they see a nun on the cover of a book? They probably don’t see “Important Early American,” but rather “representative of subculture” or even “flashback to Catholic school thirty, forty, or fifty years ago!”
This review by William David Barry ratifies my decision to put the portrait on the cover and to write about it on the first few pages. (Nevertheless, I still wonder: I just found out yesterday that the book’s Library of Congress call number is in the BX section, with other biographies of famous Catholic religious people. The portrait of the nun right on the cover probably overdetermined this, but I had wondered if my book would be in the F1-100 section (New England History) or the F1000s (early Quebec). I never thought I’d have a book in the religious history section, but I understand. Continue reading
Today’s mailbag brings us a thoroughly modern problem from Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) and new Ph.D. Millie, who wonders if she should rush to get a book contract:
I’m a VAP, on the job market, and trying to conceptualize the dissertation-to-manuscript process (I graduated this past academic year).
That intellectual labor aside, the thing that’s really making me anxious is the timing of the process itself. On the one hand, lots of people say “write a book proposal, get a contract, write the manuscript” and I see fellow junior faculty doing that on Twitter all the time. On the other hand, other people (including my adviser, who is wonderful but also wrote his first book in the late 60s) tell me to write the manuscript first because a contract doesn’t mean that much at this stage in my career.
Obviously one of those has to be the right path, but I don’t know which one it is! I also feel like everyone else understands this but me. Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.
–Thoroughly Modern Millie
Thanks for writing in. Increasingly over the past decade, I’ve seen more and more junior scholars applying for assistant professor jobs with book manuscripts under contract or even published, so your question is a very important one for many in your cohort of recent grads. I’ll be interested to hear what my readers have to say about this, (FYI, Millie’s Ph.D. and current VAP is in a book-intensive humanities discipline.)
Believe me, I understand the lure of snagging a book contract ASAP. I’ve fallen under that spell myself on occasion, but in the end I think spending some time thinking about the book you want to write and getting some major revisions done is the way to go. In other words, I think your advisor is right. (Maybe that means I’m an old fart too, although I see that I was a wee infant the year he published his first book. Old fartitude sneaks up quickly on you–one day you’re all like “hey, I’m 32, burn the candle at both ends!” and then you’re all like “two beers and I can’t get out of bed the next morning, srsly?”–so watch out.) Continue reading
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)
Some 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
The 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
Up on my hobbyhorse again!
UPDATED ALREADY! See what happened below.
I was contacted by an editor at The Huffington Post this week about re-publishing the blog post I published after last week’s primary elections, “A revolution happened last night and no one noticed,” in which I commented on the ignoring or merely grudging acknowledgement of Hillary Clinton’s pathbreaking, historic achievements by journalists and commentators covering the 2016 election. No woman of either major American political party has ever led in the primary delegate race or been selected as its running mate, and she’s totally owning states that overwhelmingly voted for her opponent in 2008, Barack Obama. Considering the awesome weight of history against which Clinton is working, you’d think this would be the political story of the year–but no, it’s all Donald Drumpf, all the time, with his ground-baloney complexion and his Cheez-Wiz coiffure.
My regular readers probably don’t realize this, but that post brought this blog record traffic late last week and over the weekend, when someone posted it to some Facebook page somewhere. (It was surprisingly popular in Great Britain Saturday morning Mountain time, for some reason–my peak traffic was at 3 a.m.!) So far, it’s had nearly 38,000 page views, which is pretty huge for a blog that these days is lucky to get 1,000 clicks from 700-850 visitors a day. Saturday, March 18 was my highest-traffic day ever in eight years, with 17,603 page views and 16,465 unique visitors. Continue reading