I’ve been asked by the authors of this statement by the Coordinating Council for Women Historians at the American Historical Association to republish their response to the #StanfordSausageFest published yesterday at History News Network. The authors link the specter of a return to “history’s dark age as a gentlemen’s protection society” to recent consciousness-raising efforts to address sexual harassment and assault in academia and in the wider world. Read on, and scroll all the way down for a brief note on my lengthy absence from this space.
by Sasha Turner, Barbara Molony, and Sandra Dawson
In December 1969, a group of historians organized the Coordinating Committee of Women Historians in the Profession, which, in 1995, joined forces with the Conference Group of Women’s History to become the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH). Both organizations arose from divergent, but overlapping goals to support women students and faculty and to secure greater inclusion of women in the research and teaching of history. At the time of these organizations’ founding, the American Historical Association (AHA) and the history profession in general were deemed “a gentlemen’s protection society… openly supporting practices of sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, and anti-Semitism.” With a woman historian and a scholar of women’s history now at the helm of the AHA (Mary Beth Norton), and more broadly, the addition of women historians and women and gender history to departments and curricula across the country, few would dispute that the AHA and the history profession have become more inclusive.
Yet, the recent all white male history conference held at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University seems to suggest a return to history’s dark age as a gentlemen’s protection society. Happily, the strong and growing presence of and disciplinary focus on women in history as well as the sharp criticism and condemnation (and rightly so) of the exclusive conference make clear that a return to great white men history and historians is a fantasy. Even so, the holding of this conference and others of its kind reflect the ongoing challenges women historians and women history face.
Conference organizer and senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution Niall Ferguson defended that the exclusion of women was not deliberate and that the women invited to participate in the panel had declined to do so. Yet, it seems that the lack of diversity stemmed less from packed schedules to a deliberate omission. One is hard pressed not to view the conference Ferguson organized through the lens of his acceptance speech for the 2016 Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contribution to Liberal Arts Education. While admitting that various social and economic reasons account for the decline in history in the last several decades, Ferguson argued that the changing content of history is the “best explanation.” Continue reading
I know it’s been a long blog-silence around these parts. More on that later, but I’ve got something to say and I think we all need to hear it.
It’s gotten so a bish can’t look at the internets or the cover of the Rolling Stone without more news about scummy scumbag men using their professional authority to coerce younger women (and a few young men) to perform or witness specific sexual acts by these creeps. Given the conversation all this autumn about sexual assault and sexual harassment at work in Hollywood (Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey), journalism (Roger Ailes, Mark Halperin, Michael Oreskes, politics, and literally every other workplace in the United States, I’ve been thinking back on a little post I wrote about this the summer before last, after another in which I argued that the American Historical Association needs to take a stand against the sexualization of the workplace, because 95 times out of 100, it’s young women who pay the price (along with a few young men), and the status quo serves only the interests of older men (and maybe a few older women too).
This isn’t an accident. This is the playbook for sexualizing people and workplaces as a part of the process of marginalizing and alienating the junior folks who get caught up in these relationships, whether they’re consensual or not. This is also a primary means by which men re-create the hierarchy of men over women, again and again. Exploiting younger women (which is the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment and abuse cases) is a win-win for these guys, because they can get their rocks off, and–here’s the beauty part–you keep junior women from becoming senior women who might step on your nuts about all this because you’ve created an sexualized environment in which the junior women must either become victims or collaborators. Most of them will quit eventually, and the ones that hang on are compromised because they’ve been drawn in as collaborators (or heck, even apologists for the abuse of younger women.) Continue reading
Yale University Press. 2016
Friends, I know it’s been a quiet month on the blog. What can I say? The news moves at the speed of light these days, and it’s difficult for me sometimes to conceptualize anything to add to the frantic online conversations. I wrote up a short article, “The Captivity of Otto Warmbier: Outsiders, Insiders, and Mad Kings,” for Public Seminar a few weeks ago, just before his death in Cincinnati was announced. I try to put his ordeal into context with the long centuries of North American captivities locally and globally. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Esther Wheelwright, c.1763 (oil on canvas) 55.7×45.5 cm; © Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA, USA
I thought I’d also check in today to let you know that I’ll be in Boston this Wednesday night, June 28, at the Massachusetts Historical Society to talk about my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright (Yale University Press, 2016). I’m really looking forward to my visit to the MHS again, because that’s where the portrait of Esther on the cover of the book now resides. The talk starts at 6, but come for the reception at 5:30 to say “hi” and have a drink–both the reception and the talk are free for members, and only $10 for non-members. You can register online here. I’ve got lots of beautiful, full-color slides of images that I could only reproduce in black and white in the book, so come for the wine, and stay for the polychromy. Continue reading
Mary Maples Dunn, 1931-2017
Howdy, friends–I’ve got a big announcement today! Many of you may know that Mary Maples Dunn, a prominent early American women’s historian, died in March. Nicole Eustace of New York University invited me to co-edit a special edition of Early American Studies in her honor. Here are the details:
Call For Papers: Women and Religion in the Early Americas
For a special issue in honor of the life and career of Mary Maples Dunn, Early American Studies seeks article-length contributions from scholars working on the history of women and religion in the early Americas. Mary Maples Dunn (1931-2017) was a leading practitioner of women’s history, as a scholar, as a teacher, and in her life as a university leader. She worked in a variety of fields from early American women’s history; to colonial Latin American history; to the history of religious women; to the history of women’s education as well as, of course, the worlds of William Penn and early Philadelphia.
The editors invite essays that consider the history of early American women, early American religion (or both) and are especially interested in work that makes cross-cultural comparisons or integrates multiple Atlantic orientations: North and South (French, British, Dutch, Spanish and/or Portuguese) East and West (from European and/or African links to Native American perspectives). We are interested in both formal article-length contributions (10,000 words) and in shorter essays on “Notes and Documents” that highlight innovative or creative ways of reading/using primary-source documents (3,000-5,000 words).
To submit, please email a 3-page CV and a 1,000 word summary of the contribution you propose to write by September 30 to Ann Little (email@example.com) and Nicole Eustace (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please use the subject line “Mary Maples Dunn Special Issue Submission.” We will notify you of your preliminary acceptance by October 31, 2017 and final essays are due on April 30, 2018. Articles are to be published, subject to peer review, in 2019.
Cambridge University Press, 2015
Hello friends–today’s post is just a little bagatelle from my review of Adele Perry’s excellent Colonial Relations: The Douglas-Connolly Family and the Nineteenth-Century Imperial World (Cambridge University Press, 2015) at Borealia: A Group Blog on Early Canadian History. This is a “translocal” history of the extended family of Sir James Douglas (1803-77) and Amelia Connolly Douglas (1812-90) that spans five generations in the Caribbean, Britain, and all of the North American fur trade. To wit: Continue reading
Liberal and left-leaning news orgs are happily publicizing the latest evidence of the dishonesty by the Human Stain (and his family). He has allegedly ripped off another family’s coat-of-arms and rebranded it (you guessed it) as “TRUMP.” I have a few thoughts that may prove unpopular, but here goes:
First, this seems to be a pretty venial sin compared to the heights of grifting and inept spycraft that he and his administration have reached in just 125 days in office, but okay: more evidence of unscrupulous douchebaggery. We get it!
But second, and my real point here: historians know that coats-of-arms are all bull$hit, don’t we? We know that all titles, knighthoods, and the like are all made up at some point or another, so who cares? Someone was knighted or ennobled because he agreed to fight with the king, or let the king screw his wife, or loaned him money, or performed some such base and ignoble service to the crown, and that’s it. That’s all titles and coats of arms mean! Continue reading
Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1973), Republican U.S. Senator from Maine from 1949 until her death and the subject of numerous biographies.
Peggy Noonan’s column in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, “Why History Will Repay Your Love” (sorry–paywalled!) is an extended advertisement for David McCullough’s latest book, and only secondarily an advertisement for McCullough’s totally original observations about history and its importance. (Get this! John Adams and Thomas Jefferson lived in their present, not our past! Also, “nothing had to happen the way it happened,” and “knowing history will make you a better person.”)
I pretty much agree with all of McCullough’s bromides, but this one set off my B.S. detector:
We make more of the wicked than the great. The most-written about senator of the 20th century is Joe McCarthy. “Yet there is no biography of the Senator who had the backbone to stand up to him first–Margaret Chase Smith,” a Maine Republican who served for 24 years,
Esther Wheelwright, c.1763 (oil on canvas), 55.7×45.5 cm; © Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.
It’s Esther Wheelwright’s 321st birthday! She was born March 31, 1696 (Old Style).* Since Esther has been dead for 237 years, I was thrilled to accept a birthday present on her behalf in the form of a rave review of my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, at the Christian Century! (H/t to friend and blog reader Susan for passing it along.) In “Women Who Do Things,” Margaret Bendroth, the executive director of the Congregational Library and author of The Last Puritans: Mainline Protestants and the Power of the Past (among many other titles), gets my book exactly right. Check out her lede, which is just perfect:
An offhand remark can change everything. I still remember a graduate school professor’s consternation at the idea of “women’s history.” “They don’t do anything,” he protested. The comment passed without notice in a room full of male professors and students, but it took up permanent residence in my head. I was hooked, not just by his attitude problem but by the nagging reality that in the categories this well-regarded historian recognized—wars and politics and all that—he was right.
Writing women into history isn’t easy. It’s one thing to add an occasional sidebar in a textbook or praise a heroine whose brave exception proves the rule, but that doesn’t change the overall story line. The narrative still belongs to men who “do things,” driving the engines of change by waging wars and winning elections.
I am so touched that readers and reviewers really get where I’m coming from, and are moved to share their own stories of alienation and feelings of displacement in graduate school. The discipline of history isn’t just heedless or careless about women and women’s history–it’s actively engaged in denial and erasure. Continue reading
Yale University Press. 2016
For your convenience, here’s a list of my spring and early summer North American book tour stops. I hope to meet more of you in person, finally! Most of these events are free and all are open to the public:
Thursday March 30–tomorrow night!–I’ll be at the Longmont Public Library to give a talk about The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright at 7 p.m.
Thursday April 13 I’ll be at Bryn Mawr College to give a talk about the book. Stay tuned for more details as they arrive–as you might imagine, this trip will be a sentimental favorite, as it’s my own college and therefore a special honor to be asked to return as a guest.
Thursday April 27, I’m one of five invited authors to participate in a book reading at the opening reception of the Western Association of Women Historians in San Diego, California. The Strawberries and Champagne Book Launch runs from 7-9 p.m. at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center.
Saturday May 6, I’m doing a book talk at the Morrin Center in Québec.
And finally, on Wednesday June 28 at 6 p.m., I’m going to present my book talk at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston. Come early for cocktails and snacks at 5:30, and stay to get your book signed afterwards!
UPDATED BELOW WITH MEMORIAL SERVICE INFORMATION
As many in the early American community learned Monday morning, Mary Maples Dunn died Sunday in North Carolina. She was a longtime professor and dean at Bryn Mawr College who then served as president of Smith College, director of the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, president of Radcliffe, and the co-executive officer of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.
In one of the emails that started flying around Monday morning, a senior scholar in my field reported that she had been visiting with her youngest daughter and grandchild when she died. She had whooped it up the night before with two manhattans. I’m sure that she and they were glad she was able to make one last trip and enjoy a last visit before her death. Continue reading