========================================================================= Date: Sat, 5 Oct 2002 11:27:15 -0400 Reply-To: "History of Feminist Movements in the U.S."
Sender: "History of Feminist Movements in the U.S." From: Jane Gerhard Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed" Given the threads have quieted down of late, I thought I might introduce a new subject. I often puzzle over the implied and explicit connections between women's history and feminism. We all know the literal connections between waves of feminism, increases of women entering professions, and more historical work on women being produced. But I'm thinking more along the lines of feminism as a politically engaged project about expanding women's opportunities and its place in a field called women's history. I wrestle with some of the foundational assumptions of feminism when I teach women's history-- for example, the story of the uncoupling of sex from reproduction, the movement of more women into paid work, women taking on more public and publicly political roles. These are some of US feminism's primary objectives. These can be cast as part of a history of feminism. but they also act as paradigms for the telling of US women's history. I wonder about that slippage. To put it another way, are we always writing feminist histories of women? Jane Gerhard This forum is sponsored by History Matters--please visit our Web site at http://historymatters.gmu.edu for more resources for teaching U.S. History. ========================================================================= Date: Mon, 7 Oct 2002 09:54:27 -0400 Reply-To: "History of Feminist Movements in the U.S." Sender: "History of Feminist Movements in the U.S." From: John McClymer Subject: feminism and women's history Date: Sat, 5 Oct 2002 12:30:27 -0700 To: FEMINISMFORUM@ASHP.LISTSERV.CUNY.EDU From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John McClymer) Subject: feminism and women's history I am writing to applaud Jane Gerhard's post on this topic. The issues she raises were brought home to me in an especially acute way recently. I am co-directing an NEH education project on American History and Culture and the Web which focuses upon the 1770s, the 1850s, and the 1920s. Its unifying question is the famous "Who Is This American?" + How Do Various Groups and Categories of People, Previously Excluded from the Category "American," Manage to Get Themselves Included, If At All? I apologize for the clumsiness of the second question but I am confident everyone reading and contributing to this forum will understand what we are getting at. In working on the 1920s, in the context of a project which also looks at the 1850s and which hopes to include the 1960s in a subsequent iteration, I was struck by how the histories of women and of woman's rights (as the phrase then was) converge in the 1850s to a truly remarkable extent but do NOT, to anything like the same degree, in the 1920s. The twenties were a tumultuous time, including in women's history. But the relationships between the changes that charged the debate over the flapper and, later, the modern young woman, so-called, and feminism are highly complicated. Many women of the 1920s saw themselves as seeking, and achieving, new sorts of freedoms, especially behavioral, that bore little resemblance to the agendas advanced by women's rights activists. Further, these women often showed little interest in women's rights organizations. Yet many contemporaries saw the flapper as a product of the women's suffrage campaign, at least in part. Given all of this, I hope we spend some time discussing Gerhard's post. John McClymer Assumption College This forum is sponsored by History Matters--please visit our Web site at http://historymatters.gmu.edu for more resources for teaching U.S. History. ========================================================================= Date: Fri, 11 Oct 2002 20:21:31 -0700 Reply-To: "History of Feminist Movements in the U.S." Sender: "History of Feminist Movements in the U.S." From: Estelle Freedman Subject: Re: feminism and women's history In-Reply-To: Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed Dear Forum, Before we official move from active to archives, I wanted to thank all who participated, especially those who offered their thoughts in writing for the group. We leave a thread hanging: what is the relationship of feminism to women's history? When does our treatment of women's history focus on feminism (e.g., the convergence in the 1850s that John McClymer mentions) and when does it diverge (I would question the 1920s on this point - see Nancy Cott's GROUNDING OF MODERN FEMINISM and my discussion of the "seedbed" era in NO TURNING BACK)? By telling the history of women's movement into the public sphere, are we telling only the "feminist" version of women's history, as Jane Gerhard suggests? These are challenging questions, worth pondering. It strikes me that perhaps only in U.S. history can we slip so easily into this convergence, since our national history and the history of feminism coincide so closely. Clearly, there are many centuries of women's history before feminism, whether in the Americas or in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Historians who study the complexities of gender and gender relations in these "pre-feminist" periods have shown that (in contrast to the rhetoric of the Declaration of Sentiments), we cannot generalize about this long past as an era of male tyranny over women! And for both pre- and feminist eras, public sphere activity is not the only focus of women's history, nor the only valuable activity to be studied historically (as the social historians who pioneered the history of "private" life illustrated). We can, of course, ask feminist questions of the past, and of the relation of public and private. But a theme that runs through our forum, I think, is that we have to be careful about judging the past in terms of contemporary politics. But asking of the past "how have we come to debate these feminist politics in our time?" can keep us all very busy as teachers and scholars. Again, my thanks for taking the time to think about teaching the history of feminism. A reminder that I have placed historical documents and contemporary web links on the Feminist Resources pages at: http://noturningback.stanford.edu. You can send ideas for other links and documents on the page. Have a great academic year. Sincerely, Estelle This forum is sponsored by History Matters--please visit our Web site at http://historymatters.gmu.edu for more resources for teaching U.S. History.