Women in America, 1607 to the Present

History 229

Fall 2015

Sarah McNair Vosmeier


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Course Description

Exploring the history of American women from the colonial era to the present provides both pleasure and practical benefits. Getting to know women from America's past is as much fun as meeting an interesting new person or learning more about an old friend. And, often, you learn about yourself as you get to know other people. Reading, discussing, and writing about women's history also offers the practical benefits of all history courses: honing your ability to analyze and make arguments, helping you see connections between small details and the big picture, helping you understand change, and furthering your ability to understand other points of view.

As we pursue women's history, we will also consider its meaning. Is women's history the history of feminism? Is it a chronology of female "firsts"? Should women's history concentrate on those experiences (like childbearing) that are exclusive to women, or should it give equal attention to women's experience of national events like presidential elections and wars? Should studying women alter the way we understand the larger story of America's history?

Calculating Final Grades

Preparation & Participation 20%

Primary Source Analysis 15%

Book review 15%

Midterm 23%

Final 27%

Nota Bene

Our class time provides an opportunity, rare in modern life, to focus for an extended time on a single task and conversation. Please do not multitask - to avoid distraction for others and temptation for ourselves, we will not use laptops, tablets, cell phones, etc. in our classroom.

Late papers will be penalized, and in-class assignments cannot be made up. Students with emergencies who wish to request an exception to this rule should contact me before the due date.

About Preparation, Participation, Papers, and Exams:

Preparation and Participation:

Good discussion depends on everyone's preparing and participating fully. People who excel in participation read carefully and come to class with effective reading notes; they make useful comments in class or ask helpful questions; and they adequately complete all the brief assignments, handing them in on time. Occasional brief assignments - such as marginalia checks or study guide contributions - allow you to demonstrate careful preparation for class.

Two assignments included in this category allow you to teach your classmates and learn from them: the Postwar Magazine Project (a written visual analysis) and the Article Presentation (an oral presentation of a scholarly article). Transcribing part of a manuscript letter will help your classmates (and other interested scholars around the world) understand Harriet Beecher Stowe better.


Primary Source Analysis: Students will make a historical argument, supported by evidence from primary sources. This year's topic is Harriet Beecher Stowe. (1400-2500 words).

Book review: Students will concisely analyze a scholarly book on American women's history (600-1000 words).


Exams will include identification items and essay questions.

About items needed for this class

Our discussions will be based on close readings of the texts, and so you will need to bring them to class (ie the book, photocopies, print outs, or your own extensive notes). Thus, you should budget appropriately for printing and photocopying.

The following are available at the bookstore:

Linda K. Kerber et al., eds., Women's America, 8th edition.

Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers, 7th edition.

Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968)


Note that the excerpts of scholarly articles and monographs found in Kerber, De Hart, Dayton, and Wu's Women's America (identified below as KDDW) are cited here by their original titles.

Introduction to Women's History and Feminism.

Sep. 7, 2015 (Mon.) Lecture: "Defining Women's History and Feminism." For review: Kerber et al., "Introduction," 2015 (KDDW 1-9).

Sep. 9, 2015 (Wed.) Vosmeier, "On Marginalia," 2015 (online); Stowe to Follen, 1853 (online); Kerber et al., "How to Read Women's America," 2015 (KDDW 6-7). Transcription workshop: Harriet Beecher Stowe letters. Meet in the Duggan Library computer lab.

Sep. 11, 2015 (Fri.) Watson, "I am a feminist," 2014 (online); Offen, "Defining Feminism," 1988 (pp. 119-39, 150-57, online).

Colonial and Revolutionary America.

Sep. 14, 2015 (Mon.) Lecture: "Colonial and Revolutionary America." Colonial laws relating to women, 1643-1705; Phillips, "Form of a Negro-Marriage," 1700s; patriotic broadside, 1780; Osborn deposition, 1837; Wells petition, 1786 (KDDW 84-86, 106-114).

Sep. 16, 2015 (Wed.) Brown, "Anglo-Algonquian Gender Frontier" (KDDW 12-23).

Sep. 18, 2015 (Fri.) Karlsen, excerpt from Devil in the Shape of a Woman, 1987 (KDDW 53-66).

Sep. 21, 2015 (Mon.) Gordon-Reed, excerpt from The Hemingses of Monticello, 2008 (KDDW 97-105).

Sep. 23, 2015 (Wed.) "Use of Sources" workshop. "Style Sheet for Chicago Manual Footnotes" (online); Hacker, ch. 55, 57. Meet in the Learning Center.

Antebellum and Civil War America and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Sep. 25, 2015 (Fri.) Lecture: "Antebellum and Civil War America." Keckley, excerpt from Behind the Scenes, 1868 ( online); Sarah and Angelina Grimke documents, 1830s; Kendall letter, 1839; New York's Married Women's Property Acts, 1848, 1860 (KDDW 238-44, 250-51).

Sep. 28, 2015 (Mon.) Welter, "Cult of True Womanhood," 1966 (online).

Sep. 30, 2015 (Wed.) Smith-Rosenberg, "The Female World of Love and Ritual," 1975 (KDDW 189-201).

Oct. 2, 2015 (Fri.) Harriet Beecher Stowe letters ( online).

Oct. 5, 2015 (Mon.) Additional primary sources on Harriet Beecher Stowe (online).

Oct. 7, 2015 (Wed.) Seneca Falls Declaration, 1848 (KDDW 247-50); Wellman, "The Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention," 1991 (online).

Oct. 9, 2015 (Fri.) Primary Source Analysis due.

Oct. 12, 2015 (Mon.) T.b.a.

Oct. 14, 2015 (Wed.) Review

Oct. 16, 2015 (Fri.) Midterm

Fall Break

Reconstruction Era through the 1920s.

Oct. 21, 2015 (Wed.) Lecture: "Reconstruction Era through the 1920s." Childs affidavit, 1866; Fourteenth Amendment, 1868; Fifteenth Amendment, 1870; Bradwell v. Illinois, 1873; Women's Centennial Agenda, 1876 (KDDW 288-89,292-97). Muller v. Oregon, 1908 (online); Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 1923 (online).

Oct. 23, 2015 (Fri.) Brumberg, excerpt from Fasting Girls, 1988 (KDDW 420-28).

Oct. 26, 2015 (Mon.) Seigel, "Winning the Vote in Fort Wayne, Indiana," 2006 (online). Minor v. Happersett, 1874; Mackenzie v. Hare, 1915; Nineteenth Amendment, 1920 (KDDW 294-95, 413-17).

Great Depression and World War II.

Oct. 28, 2015 (Wed.) Lecture: "Great Depression and World War II."

Oct. 30, 2015 (Fri.) Weber, "Mexican Women on Strike in 1933," 1990 (KDDW 492-502); Glamour Girls of 1943, 1943 (online).

Nov. 2, 2015 (Mon.) Westbrook, "I Want a Girl, Just Like the Girl that Married Harry James," 1990 (online).

Postwar America.

Nov. 4, 2015 (Wed.) Lecture: "Postwar America."

Nov. 6, 2015 (Fri.) Postwar Magazine Project due.

Nov. 7 - Harriet Beecher Stowe presentation at the Lanier House, Madison.

Nov. 9, 2015 (Mon.) Friedan, excerpt from Feminine Mystique, 1963 (KDDW 606-10); Meyerowitz, "Beyond the Feminine Mystique," 1993 (online); sample book reviews (here and here). For the online items, look for the "pdf full text" button to the left on the page that opens from these links.

Nov. 11, 2015 (Wed.) Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi, 1968 (ch. 1, 10, 11, 13, part of 16 [pp. 184-88]).

Nov. 13, 2015 (Fri.) Moody, ch. 20-23

Nov. 16, 2015 (Mon.) Moody, ch. 24-26, 28, 30

Nov. 18, 2015 (Wed.) Lecture: "Second Wave of Feminism and Beyond." Baxandall and Gordon, excerpt from Dear Sisters, 2000; Civil Rights Act of 1964; Equal Rights Amendment," 1972-1982; Frontiero v. Richardson, 1973; Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 1986 (KDDW 705-18, 745-47, 752-56).

Second Wave of Feminism and Beyond.

Nov. 20, 2015 (Fri.) Book review due.

Nov. 23, 2015 (Mon.) Hanisch, excerpt of "Critique of the Miss America Protest," 1968; Chávez, excerpt from "Women of the Mexican American Movement," 1972; Schlafly, excerpt from The Power of the Positive Woman, 1977 (KDDW 731-35, 610-14). "Women in the Movement," 1964 (online); Mainardi, "Politics of Housework," c1968 ( online); Radicalesbians, "Woman-Identified Woman, 1970 ( online).

Thanksgiving Break

Nov. 30, 2015 (Mon.) Article Presentations.

Dec. 2, 2015 (Wed.) Article Presentations.

Dec. 4, 2015 (Fri.) Mohr, excerpt from Abortion in America, 1979; Comstock Law, 1873; Roe v. Wade, 1973; Weiss, "What Medical Students Learn," c.1975; Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992 ; Kerber et al., "Recent Developments," 2015; (KDDW 202-12, 656-69).

Dec. 7, 2015 (Mon.) "Title IX," 1972; Violence against Women Act, 1994 (KDDW 747-52, 756-58); Dominus, "Getting to 'No,'" 2014 (online); Hanover College documents t.b.a.

Dec. 9, 2015 (Wed.) Loving v. Virginia, 1967; Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965; Defense of Marriage Act, 1996; Kerber et al., "Recent Developments," 2015 (KDDW 669-77). Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015 (online).

Dec. 11, 2015 (Fri.) Cahn, "'Mannishness,' Lesbianism, and Homophobia in U.S. Women's Sports," 1993 (KDDW 550-58). Review.