American Women's History in Ten Weeks? Discussion Jan 1996

[Editor Note: We have had several discussions on this list about texts and materials for U.S. Women's History courses. However, this query raises a more specific question. Can U.S. Women's History be taught in ten weeks, and if so, what are the MOST EFFECTIVE strategies for reaching that objective? KL]

Query From Susan Kullman Puz skpuz@csuPomona.edu 17 Jan 1996

This spring quarter(March-June) I will be teaching a 10 week, 400 level U.S. women's history course. Most of my experience has been teaching this topic over *two* 15 week semesters. I'd appreciate it if those of you who've had experience with this type of time constraint would suggest readings/projects that you've found particularly useful.(One of the projects that I am considering is having students tap into the Internet's women's history resources.)

Responses:

>From Benay Blend blend@alpha.nsula.edu 18 Jan 1996

I'm interested in this topic too, since I am teaching women's history for the first time this spring semester at a boarding school for gifted students; I have a class of fourteen very bright female high school seniors of diverse ethnic origins. Instead of doing a chronological survey covering all the facts, we discuss articles focusing on a single topic from the following texts: Race, Class and Gender, Unequal Sisters and an anthology of autobiographies Women's Lives. For example, this week we read Linda Gordon's analysis of clack/white attitudes towards welfare legislation, a first-hand account by a mother on welfare, and selections from two diaries: one by a woman from Brazil who tells of her raising children in the slums, and the other an excerpt from Daughter of Han, an oral history told to another woman during the early part of the century in China. The focus is to try to get the students to rethink their stereotypical ideas regarding welfare, poverty and women. Any feedback would be appreciated. I have no idea if all of the works will fit together, but so far the students have had some good discussions.

>From Douglas Creemer dcreemer@vaxb.woodbury.edu 18 Jan 1996

I teach a similar course in European women's history within a ten week quarter system. Although I cannot suggest specific texts, I have found that focusing on key texts and documents, with a general textbook to provide context, has worked well. For example, I have my students read Wollstonecraft, Mill, Zetkin, and DeBeauvior as openings into the changing discussions of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. This works as well, as my class size is usually between 15-20. We are able to discuss the content of the arguments, and using supplemental articles, to place these texts in their historical context. I am sure that this textual approach, which by necessity is more topical and less comprehensive, could work as well with women's autobiographies, political tracts, an analysis of changing fashion through a slide show, all of which I use from time to time to balance the intellectual history. Ultimately it comes down to using a sharp editor's eye, choosing one's problems precisely, and leaving oneself to the flexibility to change some content in response to student's interests and issues.

>From Jessica Weiss weissjes@violet.berkeley.edu 18 Jan 1996

I taught American Women's History in 10 weeks using the second edition of Major Problems in American Women's History and Paula Gidding's When and Where I Enter. I had the added difficulty of one meeting a week for 2 1/2 hours. In hindsight, I might reorient the course from a survey approach where I felt obligated to touch on as much as possible to a "topics in American Women's History" approach treating fewer issues with greater depth.

A very effective strategy which I've used in both semester and quarter formats is an oral history assignment. I require that students do a 1 1/2 to 2 hour taped interview and write a 7 page historical essay(not a biography or life story). The idea of being historians gets students excited. Oral history brings up the issue of sources for women's history. And most really enjoy/learn from the experience even if the papers aren't all that great. I have it due towards the end of the term so that they at least read something on the twentieth century when they start. Good luck.

>From Megan McClintock meganmac@u.washington.edu 18 Jan 1996

I am currently teaching a survey of women's history in 10 weeks, for the third time. This quarter I am also covering the colonial era, so it's even more of a challenge. I assign a research paper, but it's difficult in ten weeks to expect very much. I give deadlines for topic, bibliography, draft to keep the students moving. I am using Kerber and De Hart, Women's America which has worked well before. In addition, I've assigned Van Kirk Many Tender Ties; Kathy Pleiss Cheap Amusements;and Anne Moody Comin of Age in Mississippi. Good luck!

>From Theresa Kaminski tkaminski@worf.uwsp.edu 19 Jan 1996

Like Susan Puz is accustomed to, I teach the American women's history survey over two semesters. However, if I ever had to teach it in one semester or less, I would use one of these:

Norton & Alexander Major Problems in American Women's History (2nd ed, D.C. Heath)

Kerber & DeHart Women's America (4th ed, Oxford)

Both combine historical essays with primary source documents, and the selections are wonderful. For a 10 week course, Norton & Alexander would probably work better since it is shorter. My one regret about teaching this course over two semesters is that I can't assign one of these books(constraints of text rental and $$$ limitations on required book purchases).

>From Joan Gundersen jrgunder@coyote.csusm.edu 19 Jan 1996

I have taught American women's history in one semester under a 15 week semester and a 12 week 4-1-4 calendar. The number of weeks is less of an issue than the number of class sessions/contact hours for dividing course research papers. I have tended to use the following kinds of assignments: 3 exams breaking the course roughly into thirds with appropriate readings from two texts and one monograph covered in each exam. One further out-of-class assignment. Most recently it has been a team presentation on an aspect of women's history accompanied by a bibliography. In other iterations I have used either three book reviews on books drawn from structured reading lists(i.e. one book from each of three different lists) or one short research paper(8 pages) with a prior review of topic, preliminary bibliography and final paper.

>From Kriste Lindenmeyer kal6444@tntech.edu 19 Jan 1996

Although not limited to a quarter, my American Women's History course is confined to a single 15 week semester. Similar to others who have responded to this query, I also use a topical approach. I have taught the course as "American Women and Change", "American Women and War", and "American Women Since 1848". There are limitless possibilities using this approach, and at my university students may take my course twice as long as the topic and reading assignments are different.

>From Ann Greene angreene@sas.upenn.edu 19 Jan 1996

At the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. there is a course called "Voices of American Women" taught in the English department. Though an English course, the teacher uses many primary sources. It is taught to bright 11th and 12th graders and therefor has some applicability to college courses.


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