History 597 -- Women in American History

Maryville University of St. Louis
Dr. Linda Pitelka

From: Linda Pitelka, INTERNET:pitelka@maryville.edu DATE: 5/30/97 12:40 AM

Maryville University of St. Louis
Dr. Linda Pitelka
Email: pitelka@maryville.edu
NOTE: This course is an intensive three week summer graduate course intended primarily for social studies teachers. The course meets three hours per day, four days per week for three weeks. To make the requirements more manageable, students have the opportunity to begin reading before the course begins and to turn in final papers/projects three weeks after the course ends.

Putting women at the center of interpretation, this course explores the impact of historical events on the lives of American women and the varied roles women played in shaping American history. A major focus will be to understand how class, ethnicity, and race influenced American women's work, family life, and organized activities from the invasion of North America by Europeans to the 1990s. Topics include: Native American women's lives; gender and family life under slavery; the impact of industrialization on women of different classes; the ideology of separate spheres; women's political activities including the antislavery movement, the suffrage movement, the 19th Amendment, and the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s; and transformations in the lives of modern women including work, politics, sexuality, consumption patterns, and leisure activities.


  1. To examine American women's lives across time, paying particular attention to the ways that race, class, and ethnicity shaped their experiences; and to understand the social and political arrangements that structured women's status. The course seeks also to understand how women both resisted and accommodated to this situation.
  2. To gain familiarity with the kinds of sources historians of women use in constructing their interpretations, and to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of those sources.
  3. To analyze and evaluate the various historical explanations for women's past experiences.
  4. To consider how best to incorporate new scholarship on the history of women into the history/social studies curriculum.

Discussion and dissection of assigned readings will serve as the center for class meetings, so preparation, attendance and participation in discussion is mandatory. To ensure the thorough examination of the week's reading, assigned students will undertake the responsibility of leading discussions. Everyone will read core titles listed for the week, although sometimes the reading will be shared among class members. Students will keep a reading journal to be turned in at the end of the course. Journal entries should include discussion of bibliographical information, author information, summary of book or article and main arguments, sources and methodology, theoretical underpinnings, contribution, problems or questions left unanswered. Students will undertake a final project for the course that may be turned in within three weeks of the last class meeting (by July 25). The project may consist of a research paper (10-12 pages) on a topic to be agreed upon or a historiographical paper. If they wish, teachers taking the class may choose to submit a detailed unit plan and set of lesson plans intended to include women's history in the high school social studies curriculum.

Participation 30%
Reading Journal 40%
Final Project 30%

Mary Beth Norton and Ruth Alexander, Major Problems in American Women's History
Vicki Ruiz and Ellen Carol DuBois, Unequal Sisters: Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland
See books for individual reports listed at the end of this syllabus. NOTE: Some readings will be shared among students; not all students will read all readings.

Monday June 16: Why Women's History?/Native American Women Read: Major Problems, Chapters 1-2
Unequal Sisters, Ch. 3: Theda Perdue, "Cherokee Women and the Trail of Tears" Ch. 6: Joan Jensen, "Native American Women and Agriculture: A Seneca Case Study." Ch. 32: Tsoste, "Changing Women: The Crosscurrents of American Indian Feminine Identity"

Tuesday June 17: Witchcraft/American Revolution Read: Major Problems, Chapters 3-4
Book presentation: Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale

Wednesday June 18: The Cult of Domesticity Read: Major Problems, Chapter 5;
Unequal Sisters, Ch. 4: Boydston, "To Earn Her Daily Bread" Ch. 5: Gonzalez, "La Tules of Image and Reality"
Book presentation: Clinton, The Plantation Mistress

Thursday June 19: Women in Slavery
Read: Major Problems, Chapter 6
Unequal Sisters, Ch. 2: "Female Slaves" Book presentations: White, Ar'n't I a Woman? Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from Slavery to the Present

Monday June 23: Women and Activism - 19th Century Read: Major Problems, Chapter 7
Unequal Sisters: Ch. 8: Stansell, "Women, Children, and the Uses of the Street" ; Ch. 7: Paula Baker, "The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920." Book presentation: Rothman, Hands and Hearts: A History of Courtship in America

Tuesday June 24: The West
Read: Major Problems, Chapter 8
Unequal Sisters: Ch. 10: Pascoe, "Gender Systems in Conflict: The Marriages of Mission-Educated Chinese American Women" Book presentation: Schlissel, Women's Diaries of the Westward Journey

Wednesday June 25: Victorian Sexuality Read: Major Problems, Chapter 9
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper website. Browse the information on the website for discussion. Gilman, Herland
Unequal Sisters Ch. 9: Van Kirk, "The Reputation of a Lady" Book presentation: Rosen, Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America

Thursday June 26: The New Woman/Suffrage and Social Reform Read: Major Problems, Chapter 10
Unequal Sisters: Ch. 11: Gordon, "Black and White Visions of Welfare" Ch. 14: DuBois, "Working Women, Class Relations, and Suffrage Militance: Harriot Stanton Blatch and the New York Woman Suffrage Movement, 1894-1909" Ch. 15: Yung, "The Social Awakening of Chinese American Women" Book presentation: Muncy, Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform

Monday June 30: Working Women
Read: Major Problems, Chapter 11
Unequal Sisters: Ch. 13: Tax, "The Uprising of the Thirty Thousand" Ch. 18: Sanchez, "`Go After the Women': Americanization and the Mexican American Woman" Ch. 19: Ruiz, "Dead Ends or Gold Mines? Using Missionary Records in Mexican American Women's History"
Book presentation: Peiss, Cheap Amusements

Tuesday July 1: The Twenties
Read: Major Problems, Chapter 12
Unequal Sisters: Ch. 12: Meyerowitz, "Sexual Geography and Gender Economy" Ch. 23: Dowd Hall, "Disorderly Women: Gender and Labor Militancy in the Appalachian South" Ch. 24: Peiss, "Making Faces: The Cosmetics Industry and the Cultural Construction of Gender"
Book presentation: Giddings, When and Where I Enter

Wednesday July 2: Great Depression/World War II Read: Major Problems, Chapter 13
Unequal Sisters: Ch. 25: Weber, "Raiz Fuerte: Oral History and Mexicana

Farmworkers" Ch. 27: Matsumoto, "Japanese American Women During WWII" Ch. 28: Davis and Lapovsky Kennedy, "Oral History and the Study of Sexuality in the Lesbian Community: Buffalo, NY" Ch. 29: Solinger, "Race and Value: Black and White Illegitimate Babies in the US, 1945-1965" Book presentation: Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment

Thursday July 3: Postwar Era
Read: Major Problems, Chapter 14-15
Unequal Sisters: Ch. 30: Swerdlow, "Ladies' Day at the Capitol: Women Strike for
Peace Versus HUAC"" Ch. 31: Kelly, "To Become an American Woman" Ch. 34: Kessler-Harris, "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. Sears, Roebuck and Company: A Personal Account" Ch. 35: Giddings, "The Last Taboo" Book Presentations: Evans, Personal Politics Douglas, Where the Girls Are

Each student will be assigned one of these books and will present it to the class:
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A MIDWIFE'S TALE Catherine Clinton, THE PLANTATION MISTRESS Deborah Gray White, AR'N'T I A WOMAN?
Ellen K. Rothman, HANDS AND HEARTS
Paula Giddings, WHEN AND WHERE I ENTER Barbara Ehrenreich, THE HEARTS OF MEN

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