Thanks to all of you for helping to build the first part of this intellectual history of early American women. In many ways, this work builds on conversations held at the 2011 USIH conference, and the comments that Ray Haberski kindly gathered and posted here. Now it’s time to crowdsource a bibliography for the second phase, which spans the Victorian period, from 1848 to 1891. For now, I define intellectual history as ideas in action. And so I’m interested in it all: manuscripts, monuments, myths, memorials, biographies, secondary sources, and public history sites that feature/analyze the intellectual and cultural contributions of early American women. Following up on L.D. Burnett’s sage notice of new media’s ability to broaden the realm of traditional academic scholarship, I’m seeking citations for related blogs/posts here, too, in order to form a sound bibliographical foundation. A short list appears below. Paging all historians, librarians, editors, archivists, journalists, and history fans: Please add suggestions in the comments. Continue reading
Embarking on a study of early American women’s intellectual history calls for a strong bibliographical base, and I’m using this post to learn your news and views of useful literature. Hopefully, we can refer to and build on Patrick S. O’Donnell’s excellent list of resources regarding “Women Intellectuals in the European Enlightenment,” published here. Since this nascent project has a public history feel—I’m interested in how women’s lives and intellectual contributions (ca. 1612-1891) are reflected in everything from standard scholarship to city statues and social crusades—I have listed select digital and archival resources for the first phase (1612-1848), below.
This is, of course, only a preliminary list. Paging all historians, librarians, editors, archivists, journalists, and history fans: Please add your recommendations in the comments.
Professor Helen Stuart Campbell could not vote, so she took America to task in print. Between 1881 and 1918, Campbell published books and articles describing women as “prisoners of poverty” and denouncing a widespread low-wage system that privileged men. In The Problem of the Poor (1882) and Women Wage Earners (1893), she upheld a common reform agenda of the day: higher wages, better working conditions, Christian lives. Women bore the brunt of the nineteenth century’s rapid industrial progress, as the professor argued in her novels and newspaper articles. It was past time for high society to recognize urban poverty, she wrote, and “bring order out of the chaos that threatens us.” Helen Campbell’s great plan of social improvement, inspired by her work in a New York City waterfront mission and as an early organizer of the National Household Economics Association, received mixed reviews. Occasionally, Campbell (1839-1918) offered her University of Wisconsin economics students a ray of hope, by writing and serializing Victorian parables where women workers—however briefly—shone. Continue reading
We never met, but we both spent a lot time, albeit in different eras and contexts, thinking about the same historical figures, reading the same dusty tomes, looking for the same forgotten papers and letters, and pondering the roots of liberal education and the humanities, both in higher education and beyond. Continue reading
[Note to readers: following up on a discussion at the USIH Facebook page, Patrick S. O’Donnell compiled the following bibliography to share with our readers here.]
Women as Intellectuals in the European Enlightenment:
A Select Bibliography of the Secondary Literature
by Patrick S. O’Donnell
Department of Philosophy
Santa Barbara City College (2015)
“Enlightenment” denotes here a time frame inclusive of what others, strictly speaking, would define as “pre-” and “post-Enlightenment” periods of European history. I hope the term “intellectual” is used in a sufficiently capacious sense. As with most of my bibliographies, this one is marked by two constraints: books, in English. And in this case, the language constraint rules out quite a number of important titles, especially (hence, not only) those in French. A further constraint is rather arbitrary: I wanted to keep the compilation to roughly one hundred titles. Continue reading
Kimberly A. Hamlin. From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (Chicago University Press, 2014) 238 pages.
Review by Lilian Calles Barger
To address the eternal “woman question,” the emerging modern feminism of the Gilded Age turned to Charles Darwin for answers. In From Eve to Evolution, Kimberly A. Hamlin’s fascinating intellectual history uncovers how the new evolutionary science provided multiple arguments by which women advanced the cause of women’s rights and equality in the home and society. Most of us are familiar with the Enlightenment, religious, and socialist origins of feminist thought. Hamlin suggests another significant strand of thought offered by the science of human origins. She argues that Darwinism, often with varied and unorthodox interpretations, was effective in overturning a central ideological obstacle to women’s equality: the biblical story of Eve. Charles Darwin’s theory, against his own conservative masculinist views, turned traditional views of women upside down. Freethinkers, socialists, and sexologists seized on evolutionary science to build arguments against recalcitrant traditional views. They asserted that the culture of their age was an artificial construct of erroneous ideas and called for change in order to live in accordance with the evolutionary laws of nature. As what Hamlin calls “reform Darwinists,” her subjects stood against social Darwinism, religious teaching, and custom.
Lilian Calles Barger, Ph.D. (University of Texas at Dallas), is an independent scholar working in Taos, NM and serves on the book review committee of the Society. Her current research focuses on 19th and 20th century social, religious, and feminist thought. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation.
A few weeks ago I posted a bibliography of secondary sources for the background chapter I was all but done writing. I don’t usually compose a separate bibliography along with my chapter drafts; the pertinent bibliographic information is in the footnotes. But because I had asked our readership here for book recommendations and had received many helpful and generous responses to that post, I typed this list up so that I could pay forward the favor for someone else who might be working on a similar period or subject.
However, in rearranging my footnoted sources into an alphabetized list, I saw something that I might otherwise have missed: almost all of the secondary works I drew from for this chapter were written by men. Indeed, out of those twenty-three secondary sources, only three were written by women: Leslie Butler’s Critical Americans, Rebecca Lowen’s Creating the Cold War University, and Julie Reuben’s Making of the Modern University.*
That numerical disparity surprised me. Continue reading
Post Updated: I inadvertently left off the final two paragraphs of this post when I put it up on the blog. My apologies to both Andrew and our readers. They’ve been added back as of 3:30 pm EST, 15 Feb 2014. — Ben Alpers
[Editor’s Note: What follows is the first in a six-week series of guest blogs from Andrew Seal. Andrew is a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Yale University. He is currently writing his dissertation, tentatively titled “Exporting the Common Man: Midwestern Intellectuals and U.S. Power, 1910-1960,” which critically examines the emergence and decline of an ideal of American character and civilization parallel to the American Century but derived from the Midwestern middle class. Hailing from Indiana, schooled in the East, and now living in Utah, he is on his way to a regional bingo. He hopes to use his posts to confront both texts that have inspired him and sources that have perplexed him in pursuing his studies and research. I’m delighted to have him blogging for us! — Ben Alpers]
When L. D. recently wrote about the strange condition of Mary McCarthy in intellectual history—L. D. argued that McCarthy is present but under-utilized in histories of the New York intellectuals—it intersected with some difficulties I, too, have been encountering in both the archive and the historiographical record. For I, too, have often—but not always—found myself on cold trails when trying to connect the women in my dissertation to the larger themes I find in the monographs I admire and the conversations, debates, and narratives they represent. Like McCarthy, they are there, but not there, not obscured, but hidden in plain sight.
When novelists and biographers depict the conjoining of women to grand literary or intellectual narratives, they often do so as an unveiling. In A. S. Byatt’s novel Possession, the crucial evidence that links the major poet Randolph Henry Ash and the relatively minor poet Christabel LaMotte is a letter that has been concealed in Ash’s papers, undetected by the scholarship of generations. A great deal of the novel’s plot proceeds through the figures and facts of letters concealed and revealed, secrets exposed and unearthed, but one way to read this archival drama is as the full canonization of the female poet by virtue of her connection to the male. By this link, she is shuffled into the mainstream of a Great Tradition and out of the marginalized countercurrents of feminist and queer scholarship. Continue reading
In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins argues that all African American women’s “intellectual work has aimed to foster Black activism.” When I first read that, I had the instant reaction of–that’s not the case. Black women think about many things, among them relationships like motherhood and beauty (the first two things that came to mind). Collins goes on to argue that when black women teach their children how to deal with racism, they are engaging in activism–so motherhood as a form of activism.
I was pondering beauty because Juliette Derricotte writes about it frequently in her letters (as I’ve written about before on this blog). Then I read this title passage from The Color Purple by Alice Walker:
“Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to get attention we do, except walk?
“I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing.”
Shug was teaching Celie to rejoice in nature’s beauty as a way of overcoming the abuse she was suffering at the hands of her husband. Natural beauty as a form of activism.
I don’t have time today to write more about this, but I am now looking for how Black women’s thought is connected to activism rather than trying to prove it is not. Or perhaps, I am still somewhere in the middle, where things do not need to be forced to be activism that are not, but neither am I neglecting things that are.