Why no women's history? Blame the Patriarchive! (An International Women's Day omnibus spectacular and bee-yatchfest.)

someone was going to have to set a bad exampleWell, we’re a full week into Women’s History Month, but Historiann has been so immersed in one woman’s fate that she hasn’t had time to come up for air–until today.  Apologies, sisters and brothers!  Consider this an “open thread” for any and all random thoughts on Women’s History Month–but just for kicks, here are a few l’il tidbits for your brain to nosh on:

1.  Check out The Patriarchive, which I’ve blogrolled under “History Geek Squad” at left.  Aside from having a most excellent name, this blog is about “gender, libraries, archives, technology, outreach, teaching, the digital divide, and blaming the patriarchy.”  Whew!  And what will she blog about after breakfast?  Who is this young mystery Marxist feminist librarian, and can I read what she’s reading?  We know only one thing about her–that like this dangerous woman she attended a subversive undergraduate college–but I hope we’ll learn more. 

2.  Anxious Black Woman is following up her excellent Black Herstory Month series with Women’s History Month blogging.  Go check it out, especially because today is International Women’s Day.  (Ortho at Baudrillard’s Bastard might be especially interested in her most recent post on Global Lockdown, an edited collection on women in the prison industrial complex.)

3.  Women in medicine:  part of an occasional series on the lives of women professionals around the world.  This is a true story, although some of the details have been altered:  one of Historiann’s college roommates is in academic critical care.  (I know!  Thank goodness no one’s life depends on me!)  She writes:  I’m a meeting for [The Very Important Research Physicians in Intensive Care Conference].  I am approached by an ICU Professor at the University of [Ben & Jerry’s] who introduces himself and then asks, “So what do you do?”  I respond, “I’m here in [Whoville], and I work with [this Division Chief]”.  He looks very puzzled.  “But what do you do??” he repeats.  “I mean, are you a resident or a nurse?”  Uhmmm, no Jerky McJerkface, she’s just like you, an actual professor of this bullcrap, although she apparently has lady parts!  This is just one in a series of insults that she has been offered in partial recompense for her lifelong dedication to her field.  Is it better to get angry every time this happens, so that one doesn’t get become blase about these things, or is it better to take happy pills and say, “whatevs, Last Century Dude.”  (Or, in l’esprit de l’escalier, should she have said, “I’m an attending physician dumbass, are you looking for the Senile Dementia conference?”  What say you, PalMD?)

4.  Do any of you have recommendations for a good picture book (ages 3-8-ish) that would serve as a good introduction to women’s history for the preschool/kingergarten set?  Perhaps a moving story about a little girl in history?  (Example of something like what I’m looking for:  there’s a very good book for preschoolers that introduces the concept of slavery and emancipation called Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, about Henry “Box” Brown.)

 5.  Et vous, mes amis?  What’s happening around your council fire?

Identity politics and presidential politics


This post is just a brief follow-up to a comment by David to the Ay-O Way to go, Ohio post below.  In it, he writes that while talking to an older woman colleague who has a granddaughter, “she started talking about how proud she is that she has a granddaughter who can play Little League, about how when she was a kid she was never allowed to play. And then she added: And now we could have a woman president, now that Hillary has won Texas and Ohio!”  David then writes, “When I hear comments like these, I think I understand better why so many women support Hillary.”

Related to this, I wanted to share a story about something that happened to me and a four-year old girl of my very close acquaintance.  I was out grocery shopping with her last week, and she was wearing a tee-shirt from the Henry Ford Museum that says, “FUTURE PRESIDENT” (see the image above–sorry it’s such a blurry photo.  You can see a clearer image here.)  Now, she doesn’t have long hair, and is often called “he” by people who don’t look beyond the haircut.  But that day, despite also wearing a skirt on top of pink tights and shoes with pink and orange flowers on them, she was called “he” by three different people who noticed “him” or made a comment about “him.”  I’d like to think it was just the short-hair mistake, but getting called “he” or “him” three times in twenty minutes suggests that it’s not just the haircut, but an avoidance of the category mistake that a “she” might be a “future president.” 

This is an exciting time for Democrats, because whomever we select as our candidate will help enlarge our vision of who can be president, and what a president looks like.  I think that’s one thing that unites all of us, whomever we support in the primary. 

Friday Barbie Blogging


It’s been a while since I’ve posted any photos of dolls, creepy or otherwise.  Here’s the Historiann Barbie family lineup, from left to right, according to the copyrights stamped on their bums:  Barbie 1958 (the original!), Barbie 1962, Barbie ca. 1977, and Malibu Barbie 1966.  (They’re not in chronological order, because Malibu Barbie is missing a leg and had to be propped  up against the window frame.  Malibu B. has other health problems–like the creeping melanomas that she’ll surely suffer now that she’s in her 40s and still sporting that kind of a tan.)  Barbie 1958’s skin has become discolored by the copper posts of the real earrings she’s worn for 50 years now, and her hair has to be worn on top of her head because she looks rather bald otherwise.  (Note her resemblance to Dare Wright and Wright’s creation, Edith, in The Lonely Doll.)  Barbie 1962 is holding up better than all of them–she’s a survivor.

Something that we girls of the 1970s and 1980s missed out on was the quality, high-fashion Barbie clothing that was the doll’s signature from her introduction in the U.S. in 1959 until the late 1960s.  These Barbies are wearing items from a hand-knitted couture collection from the early 1960s, courtesy of a co-worker of Historiann’s grandmother, whose name is lost to history but whose remarkably detailed handiwork has survived nearly 50 years of children tugging and pulling the garments on and off.  (She must have used Barbie-scale knitting needles!  And these items are less than a fifth of the entire collection, which includes a bathing suit, an ice-skating outfit, a peignoir, a caftan, and multiple skirts and tops.)  Of course, as a child I thought these clothes were dorky and old-fashioned compared to the sleazy, poorly manufactured but more contemporary fashions that Barbie ca. 1977 and Malibu Barbie came with, but then, I used to think Sean Cassidy and Leif Garrett were pretty great, too.

A good day for prodigies

eustace-tillarybama.JPGIt’s a good day to be a boy genius:  Barack Obama once again swept two big primaries and overwhelmed Hillary Clinton yesterday in a Southern state primary.  Now all eyes turn to the Eastward, to see which way the Maine caucus will go.  UPDATE:  As the nation goes, so goes Maine, at least this weekend?  Obama wins another caucus in a walk–so far, with 59 precincts reporting, it looks like 57-42 for Obama.

 In other boy genius news:  NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday featured an interesting bit of trivia:  this winter is the 150th anniversary of the popularization of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” as a wedding recessional.  The credit (or blame) goes to the planners of the wedding of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise to Frederick Wilhelm IV of Prussia, on January .  More interesting to me was the fact that Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed the “Wedding March” as part his composition of music to accompany his favorite play, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the age of 17.

But as classical music historian Robert Greenberg says in the interview, Mendelssohn was already an accomplished mendelssohn1.jpgand ambitious composer who between the ages of 12 and 14 had composed four operas, twelve string symphonies, among others.  “He came from a wealthy banking family in Berlin, and his parents wanted only the best for their children,” Greenberg says in the interview.  “They were over-educated by any standards. Mendelssohn could speak multiple languages as a child, reading Homer in the original by the time he was 10. He was also an excellent water-colorist. Music was just another one of those things he mastered as a young man.”  It’s a good thing he accomplished so much at such young ages–he died at age 38 from a stroke.  Tragically, a stroke had killed his sister Fanny the previous year.  Brother and sister were very close–upon hearing of Fanny’s fatal stroke, Mendelssohn allegedly screamed and fainted away.  A rather Gothic flourish for a man known as the first of the great Romantic composers.

Childhood is back, baby

captivity-child-adult.JPG  The recent postings on children’s stories and dolls were not just a lame Gen-X nostalgia trip for Historiann (although they were admittedly that too), but rather part of my current research project, which has required an excursion into the new history of childhood (suggested in the New Year’s Eve entry below). It’s back, and this time the best of it is very intertwined with feminist history’s fascination with developing an archaeology of power in the 1990s and early 2000s. Barry Levy’s excellent review essay in the July 2007 William and Mary Quarterly (sorry–for subscribers only) is a great explanation of the older historiography of childhood as well as an explanation of the issues and concerns of the newer literature. He writes that “the sorrow of most early American children’s experience and their own and their parents’ efforts to overcome haunting memories and events” is an assumption that structures the newer literature on early American childhood. Because I’ve written extensively about the experience of Indian captivity for both English captives and their Indian captors, and the book I’m writing is about an English girl taken into captivity by the Abenaki in 1703 at age seven, this emphasis on trauma makes sense to me. But one doesn’t need to seek out subjects who witnessed or experienced warfare in such an intimate way–consider the daily traumas suffered and absorbed by enslaved children, the indignities of being a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century English orphan, or the dislocation and disease of colonial Indian childhood. The colonial world was all about the violent exploitation of the few by the many, and children were at least witnesses to if not also victims of this harsh reality.

Kriste Lindenmeyer recently informed me that there is a new historical journal devoted to this topic, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, and its inaugural issue is published this month. It features articles on global childhood and a roundtable on “Age as a Category of Historical Analysis,” the title of which is a clear homage to Joan Scott’s signal 1986 article, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis” (sorry–subscribers only, again!) Pioneers of the new history of childhood like Lindenmeyer, Mary Jo Maynes, and Ping-chen Hsiung have contributed to this journal, and it features several emerging scholars as well, notably Leslie Paris and Laura Lovett, whose first books are hot off the presses. I’m pleased to report that many of this journal’s first contributors (and all of the historians specifically mentioned above) are also on panels on the history of childhood and girlhood that will be presented at the Fourteenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, June 12-15, 2008, for which I am a Program Committee co-chair. By my count, we’ve got at least eleven panels that deal wholly or in part with the history of childhood, not counting individual papers that might have something to say on the topic. Check out the program here.