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:

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.

Take it away, Professor Green– Continue reading

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–

 

#AHA17: No longhorns, but plenty of splinters up my skirt.

That old snag again?

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.

aha17_programIt 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

Living portraits of the dead and dead portraits of the living: “Posthumous Portraiture in America,” early Tennessee, and artist Ralph E. W. Earl

Baby in Blue, ca. 1845, William Matthew Prior. National Portrait Gallery

Baby in Blue, ca. 1845, William Matthew Prior.
National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Max Nelson offers a fascinating overview of a current exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum in New York, “Securing the Shadow:  Posthumous Portraiture in America.”  I find this subject both touching and horrifying, especially considering the understandable impulse to commemorate lost children.  But as Nelson notes (per the exhibition), the practice of painting or sculpting the recently deceased continued long after the invention of photography and the democratization of family portraiture.  In fact, “mortuary photography”–photographs of the recently deceased, especially babies and children–was a big chunk of the business in early photography.

There’s a painting I’ve been using in my classes to illustrate the changes in how free Americans envisioned marriage and family life from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries.  The Ephraim Hubbard Foster Family presents such a lively contrast to the dour mid-eighteenth century puritan portraits of husbands and wives–the fresh, blushing complexions! The number of children, who appear to have been painted as individuals!  The focus on parental youth and beauty!  I’ve wondered for a long time if the child so extraordinarily costumed on the window sill is in fact a dead child, but having reviewed the online images this exhibition offers, I don’t think this is the case.  Here’s the portrait: Continue reading

So long to 2016, suckers.

My yoga teacher offers super-intense classes on several winter holidays in which we do 108 sun salutations (vinyasas.)  The last 108 class I attended was on Thanksgiving day, when I allegedly announced that “2016 has sucked a bag of d!cks!” One of my yoga buddies–another historian–gave me a little present today in the New Year’s Eve 108 class to help send this year on its way: Continue reading

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