Monday, September 26, 2011

Lecture on Gender History

Guest lecture on Gender history

What is gender history?
either A)gender roles and relations throughout history OR B)the history of how people have studied gender. We will talk a bit about both today.

Why gender history and not just women's history - that is really what it is, right?
Well, no, but we'll get back to that.

History as a professional academic discipline was formed fairly recently - Bruni was good, but no, it really started with Ranke, the Joe Friday of History. Not only was he only interested in facts, but he and others wanted the most important facts. These were often about important men and important events on a national scale. Women, unless they were ruling Queens, were not important.

You have seen over the semester how some of this national history or "great men and great battles history" was challenged and rethought, opening the discipline up for inquires of a different kind, considering the local, the representative, and the marginalized.

The changes were not only in the discipline, in the topics and approaches, but in the historians themselves. Until after World War II women working in the discipline of history were few and far between. There were a very few early pioneers both in the United States and European countries, but they were individual efforts in a wilderness, with no attempt at a bigger picture.
EXAMPLES ....Alice Clark, The Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (London, 1919) Eileen Power, Medieval English Nunneries (Cambridge, 1932), Ivy Pinchbeck, Women Workers and the Industrial Revolution, 1750 - 1850 (London 1930).

Then Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan and the whole sixties happened. They claimed that the personal IS political and that voting rights were not enough - women wanted civil rights and social and political power, liberation and lots more. Women starting wondering what had happened before and how things got to be this way - how did male dominance happen in the first place ... remembered the suffragettes and then went past them to women history. Interwoven with this strain of development was the idea that the Hegemony of the white male middle class had repressed the goals of the Progressives and the class consciousness of the labor groups ...

"At the beginning of women's history stood the 'recovery of memory' - that is, remedying the absence of women from historical accounts. This compensatory history celebrated and celebrated outstanding women of the past ("women worthies") in the interest of historical accuracy and as a call to emancipatory action" (Breisach 393).

One of those early women historians, Gerda Lerner, points to three early directions for the history of women. The first she calls "compensatory history" or the history of "women worthies." The lives of women such as Elizabeth I, Eleanor of Aquitane, Joan of Arc and other rulers and warriors showed that women HAD a place even in the traditional historical narrative of "great men". On the other hand, these women could, of course, not be seen as representative of what MOST women could do or had donen.

A second direction Lerner calls "recovery history," recovering less illustrious and therefor perhaps more representative women and their lives. This field of research particularly affected social history, a field that had been heavily focused on statistics - giving demographic information about such things as births, deaths, and population movements. Now family life and domestic concerns became an area of interest and labor history broadened both to consider women in the workplace and to consider the - unpaid - work done at home. Women produce food, clothing, materials - and new workers.This approach depended on the premise that the poor and marginalized were relevant to historical work, something with which not every historian did agree.

The third direction Lerner discusses is "contribution history," that is, exploring the ways in which women have contributed to the traditional historical narrative. One example of this kind of history would be a narrative of the American Revolution that discussed the tea, wool and other boycotts organized by women to protest the British and the women soldiers fighting in the actual war.
Mary R. Bread (1876-1958), mentioned as the inventor of the concept of Women's Studies, wrote her ground-breaking work Women As Force in History in 1945. In this she argued that women were not the subjected race, as maintained by some other feminist historians (and as propounded three years later by Simon de Beauvoir in The Second Sex). On the contrary, what Mary Beard desired was that "the personalities, interests, ideas and activities of women must receive an attention commensurate with their energy in history." She believed that women were a force in history, and she conceded this force generally as a civilizing mission. ( The issue with this approach is that it looks at women entirely from a male perspective, retaining male priorities - asking the question "what have women done that is important to men," rather than "what have women - and men - done that is important to women.

A startling number of women were (re)discovered, and the traditional historical narrative burst at the seams to encompass all these new stories. But the impact went much further than that. By their questions they changed what we consider important about history - why we do it, but also what history is .... Do we do history to find the facts, or to understand how things came to be as they are? Do we want to get to know how most people lived in that country we call the past or are we learning about proud moments in our nation's past? We question whose history is THE history; the history of the most important people or the history of most of the people? What do we do when those histories disagree? What are the assumptions we make when we use traditional period markers (Renaissance). The Renaissance is celebrated as re-birth of learning and perhaps the birth of the individual - Joan Kelley asked (1977) "Did Women have a Renaissance?" arguing that women in that age were deprived even of whatever opportunities of learning they used to have in the earlier times. Other disciplines too have changed with the consideration of women - English departments saw a whole new line of classes as Richardson and Defoe were made to share space with Fanny Burney, Hannah More, and Sarah Scott. Today it is no surprise to English majors working in the period that women writers were  more numerous and more popular than their male counterparts at the time.

Over time women's history has shifted emphasis toward gender history, partly as a result of or causing the cultural turn - moving from questions about how women lived to questions about how society was gendered during different time periods and how people thought about masculinity and femininity. The cultural shift has also broadened to encompass a new focus on  medical history, the body, and sexuality, e.g. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality (1976-1985, transl, 1984-86); Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Harvard University Press, 1990); and Roy Porter, Flesh in the Age of Reason: The Modern Foundations of Body and Soul (2005). 

Historians still focusing on women, such as Amanda Vickery and Rosemary Sweet, have problematized the history of women's lives - showing that the oppression was not even, and that there is usually a marked difference between theory and practice. Vickery (The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England, 1998) shows how the sharp delineation of separate spheres usually attributed to industrialization) was a lot more complex with women producing in the home, bringing the world to them and taking an active part in the public sphere although in different ways and places. Elaine Chalus (Elite Women in English Political Life, 2005) showed that women owned 10% or real property during the 18th c and acted as stewards of their estates both in private and public participation of women in local and national politics , and Rosemary Sweet (Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth Century England, 2003) looked at women in business and found that early modern English women owned, and often operated, between 6 - 8 % of businesses.
The recovery process has found not only spaces where women had influence, but even early women historians, women writing biographies as well as bona fide traditional historical texts (Macaulay, Otis Warren). There is still  debate over whether we should focus on uncovering the history of oppression or on the history of women negotiating the rules to their own benefit.
Scholars like Nina Baym have questioned the whole project - pointing to a problem in the very use of women as a category, where "all current [feminist] theory requires sexual difference as its ground (1984, 46)" As Joan Scott put it recently " looking at how women have been oppressed or treated differently because they are women, scholars have ended up forgetting that the definition itself is a historical artifact" (Scott 2008, 1424). This points to one of the main challenges ahead, both in gender history and history at large - however many hitherto suppressed narratives we give a voice, whatever categories we use, just the use of a category limits what we can see. By focusing on women as a category, we ignore how individual women were perhaps using other markers of identity to negotiate their lives. On the other hand, if we try to tell all the stories, from all different perspectives, looking at the individual trees will blind us to the forest.

Gerda Lerner, The Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History (1979); Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850 (Chicago, 1987); Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America, (1980) - first discussed in Kerber, Linda K. "The Republican Mother: Women and the Enlightenment-An American Perspective," American Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 2, (Summer, 1976), pp. 187–205; Joan W Scott, "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis," American Historical Review 91:5, 1986, she also wrote Women, Work and Family (coauthored with Louise Tilly); Joan Kelley, Women, History, and Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelley (Chicago 1986).

Gerda Lerner: Born in 1920 to a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria, Gerda Kronstein was a young girl when Adolph Hitler began his rise to power. In protest of Hitler’s efforts to eradicate Europe’s Jewish population, a courageous teenage Kronstein joined the underground resistance to the Nazi occupation. However, she and her family were caught and forced into exile in 1938. Gerda came alone to the United States in 1939 at the age of 18. Her immigration was dependent upon an arranged marriage that soon failed. She divorced, remarried noted filmmaker Carl Lerner, and moved to Hollywood. There, in 1946, she joined the American Communist Party. During the McCarthy period, Carl was blacklisted and unable to find work in California. The Lerner family moved to New York where Gerda began her career as an academic, historian, and activist. By the early 1960s, the couple had distanced themselves from the CP and joined the struggle for civil rights. In 1963, Gerda Lerner earned her B.A. from the New School for Social Research in New York. She then received her Ph.D. in American History from Columbia University in 1966. Lerner returned to Columbia to pursue women’s history, a field not yet considered a formal area of study. There she began her battle to gain recognition of women’s history as a separate specialized discipline. That same year Lerner joined fellow activists Betty Friedan, Pauli Murray, Aileen Hernandez, and others in founding the National Organization for Women (NOW). Upon receiving her doctorate, Lerner began teaching at Long Island University. She is credited with teaching the first post-World War II college course in women’s history. Lerner soon moved on to Sarah Lawrence College, where she founded the first graduate program in women’s history in 1972 and served as its director from 1972-76 and 1978-79. In 1980, she began teaching at the University of Wisconsin and remains there today as Professor of History Emerita. At Wisconsin, she established a Ph.D. program in women’s history and continued to help similar fledgling programs at universities throughout the country. In 1981, Lerner became the first female President in 50 years of the Organization of American Historians.

Joan Wallach Scott Scott (born December 18, 1941) is an American historian of France with contributions in gender history and intellectual history. She is currently the Harold F. Linder Professor at the School of Social Science in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. Joan Scott graduated from Brandeis in 1962 and received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1969. Before coming to the Institute for Advanced Study, Scott taught in history departments at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Rutgers University, the Johns Hopkins University. At Brown University she was founding director of the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, and the Nancy Duke Lewis University Professor and professor of history. She serves on the editorial boards of Signs, differences, History and Theory and, since January 2006, the Journal of Modern History. In 2010, she helped to found: The History of the Present: A Journal of Critical Theory.[1] Scott has also played a major role in the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) as the chair of its Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Joan Kelley, historian and feminist, was born in New York City in 1928; her father was a policeman. She took night courses at St. John's University, Queens, New York and received her A.B., summa cum laude, in 1953. She received an M.A. (1954) and Ph.D. (1963) in history from Columbia University, having studied with Garret Mattingley, who considered her dissertation to be "the best Columbia dissertation he had ever read"; it became the basis of her first book, Leon Battista Alberti: Universal Man of the Early Renaissance (University of Chicago Press, 1969). The book embodied the theme of her life's work: the interrelationship of ideology and economic and political forces. Joan Kelly joined the faculty of the City University of New York (CUNY) in 1956, teaching first at Baruch College and later at City College (CCNY) and the Graduate Center. In 1963-1964, she was a visiting professor in Renaissance History at Columbia. In the l960s, JK became politically active, joining the movement against the war in Vietnam, lobbying for Black Studies and for day care facilities, and supporting open enrollment at CCNY. She began to study Marxist thought and incorporated it into her teaching. From 1972 to 1974 she was on leave from CCNY and taught at Sarah Lawrence College where she developed her interest in women's history. Together with Gerda Lerner, she developed the first M.A. program in women's history at Sarah Lawrence and was acting director of the women's studies program at CCNY, 1976-1977. She defined herself as a socialist feminist and developed a Marxist-feminist theory of history. Kelley was author of many articles, including: "Did women have a Renaissance?" and co-author of Households and Kin: Families and Flux, a high-school textbook. She completed "Early feminism and the querelle des femmes" in 1982. A collection of her essays, Women, History and Theory was published posthumously (University of Chicago Press, 1984). Kelley served on the executive board of the Renaissance Society of America (1971-1976),was chair of the Committee of Women Historians of the American Historical Association (1975, 1977), was one of the organizers of institutes on the integration of women's history into high-school curricula, 1976-1979,and was on the board of the Feminist Press and on the editorial board of Signs. She was the Clark lecturer at Scripps College, 1978-1979. Kelley married Eugene Gadol while in graduate school; they were divorced in 1972. She married Martin Fleisher, professor of political science at Brooklyn College, in 1979. She died of cancer in 1982.

Butler, Judith, and Joan W. Scott, eds. Feminists Theorize the Political. New York and London: Routledge. 1992.

Downs, Laura Lee. Writing Gender History. Bloomsbury, 2 ed., 2010.

Kelley, Joan. Women, History, and Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelley.University of Chicago Press, 1986.

Lerner, Gerda. Why History Matters. 1997.

Riley, Denise. 1988. Am I That Name? Feminism and the Category of 'Women'
in History
. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Scott, Joan W. "Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis," American Historical Review 91:5, 1986.

-----. Gender and the Politics of History. 1988

Smith, Bonnie. The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,1998.

Gerda Lerner
No Farewell (1955) an autobiographical novel
The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina: Rebels against Authority (1967)
The Woman in American History [ed.] (1971)
Black Women in White America: A Documentary History (1972)
The Female Experience: An American Documentary (1976)
A Death of One's Own (1978/2006)
The Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History (1979)
Teaching Women's History (1981)
Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey (1982)
The Creation of Patriarchy (1986)
Why History Matters (1997)
The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (1993)
Scholarship in Women's History Rediscovered & New (1994)
Fireweed: A Political Autobiography (2003)

Document on gender studies in Russia

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