U.S. Women's History Text Suggested Syllabus

Query: From Debbie Rogenmoser drogenmoser@ucdavis.edu 15 March 1996

I am looking for a new basic textbook for a class on Women in U.S. History. I teach a community college class and the scope is multicultural. I have been using Born for Liberty and Unequal Sisters. I will be changing from Unequal Sisters to the new second edition of Major Problems in American Women's History.

I like Born for Liberty but would like something that is more up to date. Are there any suggestions for a basic text aside from the Woloch text? Thanks for all your help.

Response:

From: Barbara Dobschuetz <U13869@UICVM.CC.UIC.EDU> 15 March 1996

Women's America, edited by Linda Kerber is a much better book than The Problems in Women's History. The latest edition has a lot. Check it out.

From: Evelyn Baldwin 4evelyn@kktv.com 15 March 1996

I would suggest keeping Born--it is so often used it gives women a common reference--I would add U.S. History As Women's History: New Feminist Essays, ed by Kerber, Kessler-Harris and Sklar; Chapel Hill, U of North Carolina Press, 1995. This will give a balance of fact and debate--even taking individual essays out (I hesitate to say photocopy) but perhaps share!

From: Ann K. Wentworth awentwor@sescva.esc.edu 15 March 1996

I have been working on a similar problem, trying to find a general text for a survey course in women's history. I have finally decided to use the new 1996 edition of Woloch's book Women and the American Experience: A Concise History. Have you looked at any of the following?

US History as Women's History, edited by Kerber, Kessler-Harris and Sklar, U of NC, Chapel Hill, 1995. Very good collection for recent periods.

A History of Women In America, by Hymowitz & Weissman; Bantam, NY, 1978. Dated for recent periods, but has lots of material on 18th and 19th centuries & passages from primary documents interwoven which makes it interesting for students.

From Pocahontas to Power Suits: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Women's History in America, Mills, Penguin, NY. Kind of fun book w/lots of information, written by a journalist, no real theoretical base. Hope these suggestions are helpful. Good luck!

[Ed.Note]

Three reviews of U.S. History as Women's History are available on the H-Women website at http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~women/ CM

From: Nina Lerman lermanne@whitman.edu 18 March 1996

Debbie Rogenmoser should beware that Major Problems suffers from the New Endglandization/Eastern bias of much otherwise-wonderful US women's history: the one chapter on the "west" includes documents from 1862-1953, and articles covering the 1820s through the 1930s. In the earlier two-thirds or so of the book, when the collection moves away from the northeast it is usually to the southeast(and then the southern women are almost entirely enslaved or Native American.)

I suspect that community college students in California, like my liberal arts college students in the northwest, may become impatient to find their own pasts and their own places in at least some of their readings. Don't give up on Unequal Sisters too lightly! Although my students have also commented that in general they like the combination of documents and articles in MP...

Perhaps other list members can address this problem? I am using both Unequal Sisters and Major Problems this semester but am not convinced this is the solution.

From: Beth A Mcdermott <bethm@christa.unh.edu> 18 March 1996

Linda Kerber's Women in America is an interesting text as it uses both articles and primary documents focusing on women's history. It covers native american women, slave women spanning first English contact to 1980.

From: Rebecca Edwards redwards@vassar.edu 19 Mar 1996

I avoid using textbooks in ALL my classes, if I can manage it. My students seem to hold the best discussions after reading primary texts, along with occasional articles and books by feminist historians. The textbook-type materials I cover in lectures.

This is on the theory that I, as a Ph.D. in history, remember almost nothing from textbooks I read in college, but do recall key points made by lively lectures. And I vividly recollect certain novels, diary entries, speeches and other source materials. I believe it's best to make student historians by getting them to engage texts directly, rather than give them a pre-processed version.

Texts for my class "Women in the U.S. to 1890" include the following:

excerpt from Mary Jemison's narrative of Iroquois life

Anne Hutchison's trial (edited version)

Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale

women slave documents from the Willie Lee Rose collection, plus Bethany Veney's slave narrative

Harriet Wilson, Our Nig

short pieces on women's Civil War nursing by L.M.Alcott, Emma Edmonds, and Sophia McClelland

Zitkala-Sa, American Indian Stories

Pascoe, Relations of Rescue

excerpts from early catalogues of Vassar College

excerpt from Mary Church Terrell, A Colored Woman in a White World (on her education at Oberlin--as a comparison to Vassar material)

Jewett,Country of the Pointed Firs

excerpts from Buhle and Buhle's Concise History of Woman Suffrage (including coverage of western suffrage referendums

Elizabeth Cady Staton's "The Solitude of Self"

It is my hope, at least, that the interspersed lectures will tie this all together.

From: Joyce A. Berkman jberkman@history.umass.edu 19 March 1996

To add a few more voices: My first semester ends in 1890, second semester, 1890 to present. Though I use an array of paperbacks and copies of short pieces, I do rely on texts as well. Currently I require Norton's Problems and Hewitt's volume of essays for the first semester, along with Glenda Riley(making optional two collections of documents--Woloch's and Russet et. al.'s.) For the second semester I assign Kerber and De Hart, because the bulk of the excerpts concern the period after 1890, Riley(you can order the two-volume arrangement), and Jacqueline Jones Labor of Love.

I am finding particular success this semester with Kerber and De Hart. I also recommend assigning students a media project for the 1920s, requiring that they examine newspaper ads, classifieds, advice columns, etc, or issues of various magazines for gender and female representations. Frankly, I am not wholly satisfied with Riley, the long or shortened version of Woloch, or any other text on US women's history.

From: Judy Giesberg giesberg@bcvms.bc.edu 20 March 1996

Last year I taught Women's History in two semesters, and I relied heavily on course packets: collections of articles,etc. from various sources. Of course, as the recent dialogue on copyright shows, this approach has its own limitations. My packet for the spring semester turned out to be more than $80 with copyright,etc. I couldn't bring myself to ask students to spend that much, so I worked out other less expensive(and less convenient) ways to get the readings to my students.

As for texts, I like Sklar & Dublin's Women and Power because it is divided (it's also a good collection!), Kerber and DeHart's Women's America, and of course Evans' Born for Liberty, with selections from Unequal Sisters. But, once again, you can't ask your students to buy these, and try as I may, I haven't successfully convinced them to share, either. Good luck!


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