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!

elvgrenmail2

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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Girls! Girls! Girls!

mustakeem

University of Illinois Press, 2016

The Junto is on fire this week!  First, they published Casey Schmitt’s review of Sowande’ Mustakeem’s Slavery at Sea, and then followed it up with Rachel Herrmann’s in-depth interview with Mustakeem about the writing of the book.  Here, Mustakeem reminds us of the importance of thinking critically about the entire population of captured Africans who became our ancestors in the U.S.–it wasn’t just healthy, able-bodied young men, but it included older people, sick people, and of course, girls and women as well as men.

Today, Sara Damiano has published a wonderful guide to assigning and using more primary sources by women in the first “half” of the U.S. History survey.  (I say “half,” because when one starts a class in 1492 and ends in 1877 that’s 385 years; so if the following course begins in 1877 and goes roughly through 2001, that’s only 124 years.  I’m not sayin’–I’m just sayin’.)

Wabanaki red woolen hood with blue ribbon trim and trade silver (detail from image below)

Wabanaki woman in red woolen hood with blue ribbon trim and trade silver. Image from Library & Archives Canada

Damiano says that in making a concerted effort to include primary sources by women throughout the course, rather than limiting their appearance to a sprinkle here and there, meant that she could engage questions about gender across time and space, and that it forced her to rethink the whole purpose of assigning students primary sources in survey classes.  Check it out.  She’s got a nice checklist that outlines her method.

Be sure to take full advantage of every source you see:

Finally, did you know that there is a new blog called the Stars Hollow Historical Society?  This seems totally brilliant, and well-timed to correspond to the Gilmore Girls reboot that debuted over the holidays.  They’re accepting pitches and submissions from anyone who wants to write about “public history and heritage tourism” in the Gilmore Girls.  (I love the concept of the blog but the bright salmon-pink background is just too much.  It hurts to read, whereas anything involving the Gilmore Girls, public history, and representations of heritage tourism in Stars Hollow should be nothing but a pleasure!  I love the pink, but tone the shade down a bit to enhance the contrast?)

More girls, just for fun.  There are some things you can’t cover up with lipstick and powder/Thought I heard you mention my name, can’t you talk any louder?

Take it away, girls and boys–

 

A woman’s work is never done, part II: and even when it is, it’s not on the syllabus.

annetaintorpantsWARNING:  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.”

thisisfinedog

A popular meme I’m repurposing here.

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Teaser Tuesday: missing men & missing trousers! Whaaaaat?

Yo yoWhat time is it?  Showtime!  OK, I’ll stop setting everything that goes through my head to the tune of various Hamilton:  An American Musical songs.  Sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder (why she even brings the thunder!)  Sorry–that was the last one, but as it happens, our subject is the thunder of British cannons that laid siege to the city of Québec in 1759 and set the stage for the British occupation (from 1759-ff, according to Québec!)

The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright spans all of the colonial wars that spanned her life, and no wonder:  her life from start to end was indelibly shaped by war and various invading armies.  Born in 1696 at the end of King William’s War (1688-97), in which many of the Anglo-American towns in what’s now southern Maine were attacked by French-allied Wabanaki, Esther was taken captive in another series of raids conducted in the next war, Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713). Although she found a great deal of security and stability inside the walls of the Ursuline convent in Québec by 1709, war followed her throughout her life from the failed British invasion of that city in 1711 to the successful invasion and occupation in 1759 in the Seven Years’ War to the unsuccessful attempt of Americans to take the city in 1775-76 in an early skirmish in the Revolutionary War.  Aside from these conflicts, Québec was (and still is) a city with a massive military installation, so you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a man in uniform throughout the eighteenth century.

But they weren’t inside women’s religious orders, were they?  After the invasion and occupation begins in 1759, they are!  General James Murray, the occupation governor, surveyed the institutional buildings in the city and saw the advantages of setting up his temporary base of operations inside the Ursuline convent!  But here’s the funny part:  you’d never know it from the Ursuline records.  Thus, the case of the missing men–and their missing trousers!  (I know, 1759 is still squarely in the knee breeches era, with modern trousers being at least 50 years in the future for most men.  But you’ll see a mention of “trowsers” in the primary source quoted below). Continue reading

“I cannot imagine the sheer will it took to endure:” Part II of my interview with Angels of the Underground author Theresa Kaminski

Oxford University Press, 2015

Oxford University Press, 2015

Today we bring you Part II of my interview with Theresa Kaminski, the author of Angels of the Underground:  the American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II.  (You can find part I of the interview here.)  Yesterday when we left off, we were discussing the gender and sexual politics of women’s heroism.  Why can we tolerate imperfection in men and even valorize them, especially when it comes to the history of war, but women must conform to an inhuman standard of virtue for us to remember them as heroes?  

This conversation takes me back inevitably to the last election, in which an admirably accomplished and competent public servant who stored emails on her own (unhacked!) server was seen as less honest than a man who is a celebrity/grifter, a confessed sexual assailant, serial liar and fabulist, and a stoker of toxic and dangerous racial ressentiment.  We must reckon with the question of why we tolerate and even reward this sociopathy in men, but punish any deviance whatsoever in women, even at the hazard of other people’s safety and the security of the republic.  Patriarchy, we just can’t quit you!

In todays convo, Theresa and I talk more about why we love to forget about women’s heroism in war (even when their stories get a Hollywood movie!), and about the environmental history of the invasion and occupation of the Philippines and what it meant in terms of the long-term health of the women in her story.  Andiamo!  Continue reading

For the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we bring you Angels of the Underground, part I

angelscover

Oxford University Press, 2015

Theresa Kaminski, the author of Angels of the Underground:  the American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in World War II, agreed to let me interview her about her recent book for a post to commemorate the beginning of the American war in the Pacific 75 years ago today with the attack on Pearl Harbor.  And boy howdy, this is something to read–the interview here, but of course the book!

I’ve written here before that I just can’t read histories in my field for “fun,” and that I tend to gravitate to 20th century political history and celebrity gossip for my fun nonfiction reads.  Angels of the Underground is an absolutely engrossing read that also taught me a great deal about a period and place I know very little about.  I loved this book, and want to recommend it to you for your holiday gift-giving or (-receiving) needs.  The war buffs will love this book; the people who like women’s history will love this book; and anyone who loves a great story will love this book.

In brief, the book follows the lives of four American women who live in the Philippines before and during the war:  Gladys Savary, the adventurer and restaurateur; Peggy Utinsky, the nurse and organizer of the resistance; Yay Panlilio, the journalist-turned-spy; and Claire Phillips, the nightclub singer and entertainer whose sexual escapades left her vulnerable to charges of opportunism over heroism.  You will be impressed by their adventuresome careers before, during, and after the war.

Once again:  this book demonstrates that women are always there in wartime, always doing important things for the war effort.  Each of these women also published memoirs about their wars shortly after they ended–they didn’t leave their memories in a private diary for a historian to discover.  And yet, I guarantee you that unless you lived in wartime Manila and/or are already an expert on the Philippines during World War II, you’ve never heard of any of these women or their amazing stories.  Why is that?  Why do we have an unlimited appetite for stories about PT-109 and Iwo Jima, but not about the more varied and complex stories like the ones in this book?

Let’s see what Theresa has to say about these questions, and more.  Part I starts now: Continue reading