Portrait of Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814), by John Singleton Copley, 1763. In her correspondence with Abigail Smith Adams and John Adams, Warren called herself “Marcia,” and Adams signed herself “Portia.”
Do women historians exist? If we exist, do men historians know it? Going by the antics of the editors of the Journal of the American Revolution, the answer to both questions is an entirely nonsensical no! Which you must admit is pretty hilarious, especially considering that the very first historian of the American Revolution (yes, that one!) was, in fact, a lady! It’s true! Mercy Otis Warren’s Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (3 vols., 1805) is widely recognized as the first, and for probably more than a century the only authoritative history of the American Revolution.
For a historical subfield invented by a woman, you’d think there would be a little more remembering of the ladies happening in this list of the “100 Best American Revolution Books of All Time.” You’d think that, but you’d be so very wrong. Tragically wrong, in fact. Of the 114 separate books they list, there are only 11 by women, and one co-authored by a woman. And of those 11 single-authored books by women, fully three are by the great Pauline Maier, so the list includes only ten women historians in all. TEN women, and eleven and a half books. Take that, Marcia! Continue reading
“No man’s ignorance will ever be his virtue.” Seriously.
It’s also difficult to beat this version of George Washington’s farewell address:
Yo yo—What 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
Why were these ever popular?
UPDATED AGAIN, 1/15/16, 5:05 P.M. MST
AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN, see below.
How are you? To be honest, I’m not good. 2016 look like it’s ending as it began for me. It’s grief and fear, full stop. (At least last winter when I was grieving the deaths of friends, I wasn’t fearful of the future, just really sad they’d no longer be with us to enjoy it.) I keep bursting into tears randomly through the day. What a schmuck I am!
My undergraduate students last week wrote me sweet emails wishing that I felt better after I bawled in class right in front of them. I asked them to look out for members of our community who may be feeling vulnerable. I was lecturing about women and the American revolution, and ended on a slide quoting the Declaration of Sentiments (“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal. . . “), which ordinarily I would read out loud to let the class hear clearly that ringing Jeffersonian language, but instead last Wednesday I just dissolved into tears. My students told me they liked my honesty–as though it were a strategy! As though I had any self-control.
I’m busy and tired too, so here’s an interesting roundup of opinions from (mostly) smart people. Caveat: too many white ppl. in these commentaries. I’ll revise and expand as I find commentaries like this that expand the pool. Also, please note that in this roundup it’s only women (except for David Frum! Go figure!) who talk about gender or misogyny and their influence on the results last week:
- How Historians of Tomorrow Will Interpret the Human Stain’s Election (watch out for Lynn Hunt’s stemwinder. She is pi$$ed!)
- We Are Witnessing the Politics of Humiliation–American women reflect on the election. (Spoiler alert: in this round-up, Maya Jasanoff says what I said last February in my post on women and political leadership in the longue durée.)
- David Frum, “Let’s have a fresh start. . . “
- UPDATE: Marie Henein, “Thank you, Hillary. Now women know retreat is not an option,” from the Toronto Globe & Mail. Sent to me by a friend over the border–
- ANOTHER UPDATE, 11/14/16 12:43 P.M. MST: Kurt Eichenwald: “A certain kind of liberal makes me sick. These people traffic in false equivalencies, always pretending that both nominees are the same, justifying their apathy and not voting or preening about their narcissistic purity as they cast their ballot for a person they know cannot win. I have no problem with anyone who voted for Trump, because they wanted a Trump presidency. I have an enormous problem with anyone who voted for Trump or Stein or Johnson—or who didn’t vote at all—and who now expresses horror about the outcome of this election. If you don’t like the consequences of your own actions, shut the hell up.”
- MORE: Jamelle Bouie, one of my favorite political reporters, at Slate: “There is No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter.” Especially this part, white people: “To face [the fact of the Human Stain’s nakedly racist rhetoric and policy positions] and then demand empathy for the people who made them a reality—who backed racist demagoguery, whatever their reasons—is to declare Trump’s victims less worthy of attention than his enablers. To insist Trump’s backers are good people is to treat their inner lives with more weight than the actual lives on the line under a Trump administration. At best, it’s myopic and solipsistic. At worst, it’s morally grotesque.“
- I’m going to paraphrase Margaret Atwood here and say this: Trump voters are afraid Clinton voters might criticize their language or their Halloween costumes; Clinton voters are afraid that Trump voters will hurt or kill them.
David Remnick, “An American Tragedy:”
Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate but a resilient, intelligent, and competent leader, who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled. Some of this was the result of her ingrown instinct for suspicion, developed over the years after one bogus “scandal” after another. And yet, somehow, no matter how long and committed her earnest public service, she was less trusted than Trump, a flim-flam man who cheated his customers, investors, and contractors; a hollow man whose countless statements and behavior reflect a human being of dismal qualities—greedy, mendacious, and bigoted. His level of egotism is rarely exhibited outside of a clinical environment.
For eight years, the country has lived with Barack Obama as its President. Too often, we tried to diminish the racism and resentment that bubbled under the cyber-surface. But the information loop had been shattered. On Facebook, articles in the traditional, fact-based press look the same as articles from the conspiratorial alt-right media. Spokesmen for the unspeakable now have access to huge audiences. This was the cauldron, with so much misogynistic language, that helped to demean and destroy Clinton. The alt-right press was the purveyor of constant lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories that Trump used as the oxygen of his campaign. Steve Bannon, a pivotal figure at Breitbart, was his propagandist and campaign manager.
It is all a dismal picture. Late last night, as the results were coming in from the last states, a friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.
Please look out for one another. As wise people who counsel children in the wake of trauma say, “look for the helpers.” Be a helper.
What a surprise!
Who among us ever would have forseen this? I’m not mocking Rebecca Traister; I truly appreciate her analysis this year and am glad she’s finally getting the teevee time she and her–well, our–ideas deserve. Men’s marital infidelity and sexual adventurism, even sexual abuse, is fundamentally knitted into the spoils successful male pols in our republican (small-r) system have claimed since the U.S. began.
It is totally blowing our collective mind to imagine how a woman could inhabit the most important political role in our system, and our brains are being wrung of all kinds of socio-sexual anxieties around the prospect of Hillary Clinton as the next U.S. president. She doesn’t just represent change because she has a woman’s body. Her presidency would force us to reckon (in good and ugly ways alike) about how political power works here and what we think winning pols are entitled to. Continue reading
On my way to and from work lately, I’ve been listening to the original cast album of Hamilton, which is of course as catchy and terrific as everyone says it is. (Trust me: it’s worth even more than the hype, and I bow to no one in trashing the so-called Founding Fathers, although I do have one misgiving which I describe below.)
It’s especially interesting to listen to alongside the news about the current presidential campaign. In particular, I’m thinking about the middle part of the album, which features several songs about Alexander Hamilton’s affair with Maria Reynolds and its exposure, as well as the revelation of his extortion by Reynolds’s husband.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton illustrates the partisanship at play in this political and sexual scandal by showing Hamilton essentially accused of corruption by Thomas Jefferson (the new Vice President under John Adams in 1797), and his fellow Democratic-Republican allies James Madison and Senator Aaron Burr, who had recently defeated Hamilton’s father-in-law in the New York Senate race.
This is pretty rich, considering that Jefferson and Burr had their own extramarital sexual affairs–Jefferson’s longstanding liaison with Sally Hemings, whom he owned; and Burr’s relationship with his wife Theodosia, which began long before she was widowed in the Revolution. Confronted with the prospect of political ruin, Hamilton published his own pamphlet admitting to sexual incontinence but defending his honor as a steward of the public trust, saying that he paid the blackmail with his own money. Continue reading