Archive for September, 2008

September 19th 2008
Tenured Tammy: giving up tenure for love?

Posted under jobs

Well, not exactly, but read on anyway.  From the mailbag at Historiann HQ:

I am a tenured assoc. professor at a mid-level university in what would generally be regarded as a decent location. I’m applying for a job at a decent SLAC in what would also be regarded by most as a decent location. While this is a fine job, the only reason I’m applying for it at this juncture in my career is because they also hiring in my husband’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) field, where his skills put him at a relative advantage in the job market (at least compared to a humanities Ph.D. like me).  He is just finishing his Ph.D., and is applying for entry-level assistant professorships.

My question is, how do I word the cover letter to convey my willingness to accept a demotion without being presumptuous or insulting?  (Since this is clearly not Harvard, they won’t assume that it’s natural for me to want to take an untenured position there.)  Should I be up-front about my ‘two-body problem?’  Should my husband mention it in his letter?

Your thoughts, Historiann?


Tenured Tammy

My advice, Tammy, is to be totally up-front about your personal situation.  Since you’re tenured and apparently are happy enough in your present position, it’s best not to let search committees fill in the blanks as to why you’re seeking what amounts to a demotion at another college in another part of the country.  (Has she been terminated for moral turpitude?  Is she just a bitch-on-wheels?  Are the villagers with pitchforks running her out of town?  I’m afraid the reasons they’ll imagine or invent won’t be flattering to you, human nature being what it is.)

I also think honesty is the best policy in this case, because if being up front about your personal situation is a problem, then you won’t be happy working in that environment.  You’re in a different situation than two unemployed people seeing entry-level positions within a reasonable proximity.  You’ve got a job, and a tenured one at that.  You’ve got nothing to lose by putting all your cards on the table, whereas I generally think it’s best for the Unemployed Ursulas not to mention two-body problems unless and until there’s an indication that a search committee is interested.  In those cases, I think it’s best to let the hiring department get invested in Ursula’s candidacy and get excited about the prospect of hiring Ursula, wonderful Ursula, before Ursula lets them in on some of the complications that may involve.

But, I realize that I’m just thinking about Tammy here.  As a tenured Associate Professor myself, perhaps I’m too concerned about giving strangers on the search committee something to gossip about.  Readers, do you have other advice?  Do you recognize Tammy’s plight, either as a job-seeker who gave up tenure or as someone on a search committee?  Am I dooming Mr. Tammy’s career by counseling such shameless honesty?  How would you finesse this to the benefit of both job-seekers?


September 18th 2008
Miami students riot because university remains open during power outage. (No, seriously!)

Posted under American history & students & wankers


As many as 3,000 Miami U. students staged a protest Monday night against holding classes on Tuesday because of the local power outages in the Cincinnati area (h/t Rate Your Students.)  According to this story, “Miami University’s public relations spokesperson Claire Wagner says these are off-campus students whose houses still do not have power [as of Monday night].  She says the university, including academic buildings and food courts on campus, is running on a backup generator right now.”  Nevertheless, as student A— K—– explained, “We are being forced to take quizzes, exams and attend classes which will affect our academic standing within the university. Our academic standing may in turn affect our careers and the rest of our lives.”

Yes, that’s right A—.  This will go down on your permanent record! And I’m sure you’ve never, ever skipped a class before, so the thought of missing a scheduled class makes you apoplectic!  How dare the university hold classes when it’s functionally capable of doing so!  Like, what if they hold classes this winter because they have snow plows for the campus streets and sidewalks, and they don’t come and plow out your driveway too?  “No power!  No classes!  No power!  No classes!,” they chanted on that historic night of September 15, 2008.  What was the Civil Rights movement thinking, when it identified access to education as a key to empowerment?  Why couldn’t I see it before?  The real power is in not going to school!  How dare the man take away your right to skip class without penalty?  Eh, what can you expect from a “government school,” anyway?

This beats the beer riots of 1998, when for two nights in a row, privileged Miami students swarmed the streets when the bars closed.  They chanted “Rodney King!  Rodney King!” when the local constabulary started taking kids into custody because of their loud, public, and aggressive drunkenness in celebration of completing their final exams.  In fact, it was the very week that Historiann bought her first house right there in Oxford, Ohio, well within shouting distance of all of those drunken freedom fighters!  Good times, good times.

UPDATED 9/19/08:  According to this report, by Tuesday morning–the day after the protest against classes–the University was back on the grid, as were most local banks, gas stations, and the supermarket in town.  Also, by Tuesday afternoon, only 35 percent of Oxford city and township residences were without power.  The power outage remained a problem as of Thursday afternoon for only 12,000 Butler County residences.


September 18th 2008
Anti-cancer vaccine: too hawt 4 ur kidz?

Posted under Bodily modification & childhood & Gender & the body & women's history

How’s this for short-sighted?  Only 1 in 5 girls under 18 have received the HPV vaccine as of the end of last year.  In the same story, “Anti-Cancer Vaccine A Tough Sell To Parents,” NPR reports that according to a study of 10,000 mothers who are nurses, almost half are squeamish about giving the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (the one that dramatically reduces the chance of cervical cancer!) to girls at the recommended age of 11 to 12, but more are OK with administering the vaccine to girls aged 15 to 18.

[Dr. Jessica] Kahn says that in a survey of 10,000 mothers who were also nurses, less than half were opposed to giving an 11-year-old the vaccine, compared with 90 percent who would agree to it for 15- to 18-year-olds.

“Nurses might be expected to be more supportive of vaccination,” Kahn said. “In a way, our study might overestimate the proportion of mothers who intend to vaccinate a 9- to 12-year-old daughter.”

But, she says, middle- to high-income parents tend to be more suspicious of vaccines. And that’s why communication between pediatricians and parents is important in easing concerns, Kahn said.

“If parents don’t believe the vaccine is safe, and believe the vaccine has serious side effects, that will weigh against their daughter being vaccinated,” Kahn said.

It seems like Dr. Kahn and NPR are conflating two issues here:  1) the unreasonable fear of vaccination that many middle- and upper-class parents have (which Historiann has written about previously here), and what I think is more at issue with the HPV vaccine, namely, 2) fears that daughters may actually have a SEX LIFE ZOMG!!!!111!!!!! someday.  If 9,000 nurses are OK with dosing older teenagers, but only about 5,000 are OK with dosing tweens, that means that about 4,000 have fears of adolescent sexuality rather than vaccine safety.  (And brace yourselves:  the NPR story reports that while the Center for Disease Control recommends that the HPV vaccine be administered to girls at ages 11 or 12, the Food and Drug Administration now recommends it for 9-year olds, “since the antibody response to the vaccine is better at younger ages than in the older girls.”)

Parents today engage in all kinds of preventive care and invest in all kinds of worst-case-scenario equipment in order to keep their little darlings safe.  And yet, we don’t think that the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) will send the message that our kids should go consort recklessly with diseased children because they think they’ll be safe.  We’d never think of accusing parents who strap their children into car seats and give their children bike helmets of planning to get into car and bike crashes.  We recognize that random bad stuff happens to people, and we should feel grateful that we live in a world where we can minimize the risk of disease and trauma. 

Parents who think it’s OK to vaccinate at 15+ but who balk at 11 or 12 (or 9) need to grow up, because their children surely will.  Administer the vaccine when it’s most effective–and if that’s age 9 or age 7 or age 6 months, just do it.  Resistance to the HPV vaccine is mostly about fears that vaccinated girls will become sexually active solely because of this one vaccine.  But, guess what, parents of daughters?  Your kid will become sexually active someday.  Your kid may also get cancer someday.  Since there is no vaccine yet that will prevent sexual activity, let’s go for the anti-cancer vaccine, m’kay?


September 16th 2008
All Along the Colorado (campaign) Trail

Posted under American history & local news


Our local NPR affiliate had an interesting story this morning focusing on the election in this swing state.  Listen to this interview of people in Johnstown, Colorado–famous for a local truck stop that makes giant cinnamon rolls.  It’s a town that’s full of foreclosures and economic anxiety–and yet, even the one “staunch Democrat” interviewed for this story says that he’s voting for John McCain, along with everyone else in the story.  It’s remarkable to hear.  Barack Obama held onto a tiny but fairly durable lead here this summer up until the most recent state poll was released yesterday.  Now, McCain now has a tiny lead over Obama.

Barack Obama was in Grand Junction and Pueblo yesterday and today in Golden at the Colorado School of Mines, and he’s turning up the heat on the economy talk, which is good to hear, but I don’t know if any of those voters in Johnstown are listening or are persuadable.  Denver, Boulder, and the elite ski towns notwithstanding, this is a very conservative state–not so much culturally conservative (although they are that), or movement conservative (although there are still “Sagebrush Rebels” here), as just congenitally conservative:  they’ve always been Republicans, they’ve always voted Republican, and they always will.

Colorado has been electing Democrats statewide in the past few years not because Coloradoans are changing, but because newcomers are changing Colorado.  I don’t know if the Easterners and Californians have arrived in sufficient numbers to tip the balance in 2008.  We shall see.

UPDATE 9/17/08:  Some stiff medicine by William Galston as to how to reclaim the advantage on the economy that McCain has taken from Obama.


September 16th 2008
Obama live at the Colorado School of Mines

Posted under American history & local news

Full of wonky goodness!  (Click for a live video feed.)  Sorry–the show is over (10:54 a.m. MDT).  You can read the text of his speech here.

The Denver Post’s live blog is here.

1 Comment »

September 16th 2008
Dearfield Colony restoration update

Posted under American history & local news & race

A volunteer cleaning up the Dearfield Colony. Photo by the Denver Post.

I wrote about the Dearfield Colony last summer, and current efforts by various local organizations and citizens to preserve what’s left of an important site for African American history in the west.  There’s an article today in the Denver Post containing an update on Dearfield, and on a recent site clean-up.  Dearfield was founded by Oliver Toussaint “O.T.” Jackson in 1908, and a handful of householders broke ground there in 1910.  “Early residents lived in tents, dugouts and even caves.  But in 10 years, Dearfield had grown to 700 people and boasted a church, schoolhouse, filling station, lunchroom and dance pavilion.”  The Dust Bowl put an end to this lively experiment, and the colony was abandoned in 1948.

Says La Wanna Larson, executive director of the Black American West Museum in Denver, “This town is in huge peril.  It will not stand another winter.”  The Greeley Museums, the Black American West Museum, and Weld county Commissioner Bill Garcia are working together to save the site and erect a monument to commemorate the centennial of the colony’s founding this year.

The Post also notes 100th anniversary celebration events:

The Friends of Dearfield will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the community with a celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 28.

The Black American West Museum will host a series of afternoon teas, lectures, tours, festivals and programs featuring the history and accomplishments of the settlers of Dearfield throughout the year. Participants also will be given the opportunity to tour Dearfield. For more information, call 303-482-2242.

Sounds like it’s time to plan a field trip!


September 15th 2008
Fort Ticonderoga

Posted under American history & European history & O Canada

Tom Watson has a post on the peril that faces Fort Ticonderoga now, and about the nice afternoon he spent with his family there this summer.  Fort Ticonderogawas originally the French Fort Carillon, built during the Seven Years’ War, and renamed Ticonderoga when it was taken over after the British victory over France in that war.  Ticonderoga is known to most U.S. Americans (if it’s known at all) as the site that Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys daringly captured from the British in 1775, sending its artillery overland to Boston to help George Washington liberate Boston in 1776.  Ticonderoga then served as a base of operations until it was lost to the British again in 1777, but the American forces were able to contain the British at Ticonderoga by halting their advance at the Battle of Saratoga, September 19, 1777, and eventually forced the British to surrender Ticonderoga again the following month.  These two engagements–Ticonderoga and Saratoga–were sufficient to help secure French assistance on the American side, which is why they are known as the “turning point” in the military history of the American Revolution.  

From a purely jingoistic perspective, Fort Ticonderoga is clearly one of the most important historical sites for the history of the Revolution, linked as it is to the greatest American victories in the first half of the war (1775-1778), and credited (in part) with securing French intervention, which proved decisive in 1781.  And, let’s face it:  the other tales of the first half of the war around New York and Philadelphia are for the most part stories of British victories and American failures.  Watson nicely describes his most recent, and why sites like Ticonderoga are worthy of our patronage and our money:

We visited Ticonderoga – my third visit, my children’s second – last week on the way home from Lake George, and spend an hour wandering the battlements and peering at the collection of arms and other archeological wonders in the simple galleries housed in reconstructed barracks. It remains a wild and beautiful spot, its bloody history aside, and the views across the farmlands and up toward Mount Defiance (where the British mule-hauled cannon to eventually force Ticonderoga’s surrender from the rebels) are singularly beautiful. Moreover, they tell almost the complete story of New York’s importance to the new United States – sitting astride one of the great inland trade routes linking Canada with Albany and the Mohawk, New York and the Hudson.

Watson links to a New York Times article that explains the financial and management problems that face the fort.  Memo to people working in museums and historic preservation:  don’t depend on a single quirky and immensely wealthy donor to bankroll your project.  Keep cultivating other donors, and be sure that the public knows about the important work you do in preserving local and national history.  And everyone, when you travel, please consider dropping in on that old house museum, or that historic site you’ve always meant to get to, but you’ve always been in such a hurry to get somewhere else you’ve never made the time to get there.  You never know when it might not be there for you to visit.


September 13th 2008
Sarah Palin round-up: git along, little mommies

Posted under American history & childhood & European history & Gender & women's history

Melissa from Shakesville saw the ABC interview, and hated it.  Her one word verdict?  Terrifying.  (Shakesville has posted more of the video here.)  She writes, “[t]his is not a person who’s remotely prepared to lead this country.”  Me, I’m not so sure Palin was worse than other first-term governors like Tim Kaine (D-VA) or Bobby Jindal (R-LA) would have been–but they’re not VP nominees, and she is.  Moreover–George W. Bush?  Hello!  Dems, please note:  the more the campaign is about Palin, the better it is for John McCain.  (Yes, Historiann is writing about Palin again, but please note:  this is a women’s history blog, and like it or not, Sarah Palin is American women’s history.  Strangely, neither political campaign has yet contacted Historiann for advice, so I think it’s safe to say that the conversation here will have little if any bearing on the fate of the republic.)

Here’s a case in point where attention to Palin works right into the McCain campaign’s strategy:  Bob Herbert writes, “While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.”  Oh, really?  Have you been napping for the past eight years, Rip Van Herbert?  What did they slip into your Knickerbocker Punch?  It’s this kind of hyperbole–suggesting that Palin is uniquely stupid and/or unqualified–that suggests that Palin Derangement Syndrome is a real phenomenon.  Herbert goes on to write, “How is it that this woman could have been selected to be the vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket?”  Well, at least this time she’s the VP nominee, and not at the top of the ticket like in 2000 and 2004.  Shouldn’t we celebrate the Republicans’ new seriousness because she’s not at the top of the ticket?

Shaker CE notes the unfortunate way in which Barack Obama talked about Palin recently in a post called “You’re As Good As Your Womb:  Not Hopeful, Not Change:”  “Look, she’s new, she hasn’t been on the scene, she’s got five kids. And my hat goes off to anybody who’s looking after five. I’ve got two and they tire Michelle and me out.”  CE writes,

This has been a prominent, and troubling, feature of the discourse ever since McCain announced Palin as his VP pick: When people speak about Palin’s political biography, they talk mostly – or at least first – about her kids. Some argue that such is the case because Palin herself has made them an important part of her political biography. That is, I think, only half-correct, because it’s ignorant of the bigger picture: Sarah Palin defines herself to the public as a mother because she has to.

It isn’t really about ingratiating herself with the right-wing base, though that’s part of it; Palin wouldn’t be able to escape defining herself in large part as a mother even if she were the most progressive politician in the country.

That’s because we still define women by their childbearing status, and we look at children as a reflection on their mothers.

And speaking of mothers, Judith Warner attended a (totally mobbed) Palin campaign rally last week in Virginia, and says that Palin’s appeal to conservative women is “No Laughing Matter.”  (The article gets better than it starts out–read through to the end, although even the passage here makes Warner sound like an anthropologist documenting her field work among a tribe of suburban Americans she’s never encountered or seriously considered before.)  Warner notes all of the women who brought their children to the rally–and not just because many of them are probably their children’s full-time caregivers.  She writes of a woman at the rally, who recounted a recent conversation with her daughter:

“My daughter asked me, ‘Mom, would you do that if you had the opportunity?,’” she recalled, as the six-year-old in question looked on. “I said ‘I don’t know. Maybe she was born to do that. Maybe that’s the sacrifice she has to make to serve her country.’”

The daughter lifted high her hand-painted, flower-adorned Palin sign.

“She’ll really be a big step forward for women,” the mother said.

No, it wasn’t funny, my morning with the hockey and the soccer moms, the homeschooling moms and the book club moms, the joyful moms who brought their children to see history in the making and spun them on the lawn, dancing, when music played. It was sobering. It was serious. It was an education.

“Palin Power” isn’t just about making hockey moms feel important. It’s not just about giving abortion rights opponents their due. It’s also, in obscure ways, about making yearnings come true — deep, inchoate desires about respect and service, hierarchy and family that have somehow been successfully projected onto the figure of this unlikely woman and have stuck.

Conservative women are jazzed about seeing one of their own in presidential politics, and it’s totally without precedent.  They are just as excited about the possibilies for their daughters as many of Clinton’s supporters were about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency for their daughters.  You don’t have to like Sarah Palin, libs, but understand why others might reasonably support her.  Insulting her as a strategy to win their votes will fail, because it will feel like you’re insulting them.  (Kinda like most of the comments that this article by Warner attracted!)

Every day of this wretched campaign, I’ve come to a greater appreciation of Elizabeth I‘s political strategy:  eschew marriage and motherhood, but hold them out as bargaining chips in diplomatic engagements.  You won’t believe how long Gloriana was able to parlay the possibility of dynastic marriage and motherhood–well past menopause, by my calculation, and into her late 50s.  (Maybe some of you early modern British historians can set me right on this, as it’s been a while since I’ve read on this subject.)  But, the promise of a strategic marriage and the production of a new heir isn’t a card that women politicians in democratic republics can play–instead, marriage and motherhood are used against them in ways that men’s marriages and children are never used against male politicians.  (Just ask Geraldine Ferraro, whose husband’s finances were a large part of her undoing during her Vice Presidential run in 1984.)  It looks like our consensus on the Age of Revolutions–that while some men achieved greater representation, women lost what little claim to political power they had–still holds true.  Modernity is all about the erasure of women from the public sphere, and we still haven’t found a way to beat that back or reverse it in any meaningful way.


September 13th 2008
We “love” our “readers!”

Posted under American history & Dolls & fluff & jobs & women's history

And by “we,” of course, I mean “me,” Historiann.  (There is no we, unless you count my family member Miles who runs this blog and hosts it!  Thanks again, Miles!)

This is just a little shout-out to all of you early American history, women’s history, Barbie, and cake fans (and the few, the proud John Adams haterz too) out there.  And of course, all foes of bullies, everywhere–thank you for your words of encouragement and solidarity.  Once again, I am humbled and saddend by the stories you tell in e-mails and comments on my posts on bullying in academia.  And, I’m very encouraged by Rad Readr’s report that his dean is going to use the Chronicle article on academic bullying as the starting point of a conversation with department chairs about bullying.

As one of my intrepid correspondents wrote:  bullying “turns what should be the best profession in the world into a weekly ordeal.”  That’s exactly how I feel–how dare these bullies try to steal a profession that we love!  So after dessert, let’s take back the playground.

Cake today provided by Cakewrecks.


September 12th 2008
Workplace frenemy: the insinuating bully

Posted under jobs

image from the novel by Megan Crane

We get mail (well, OK:  pony express) here at HQ.  From our mailbag today is a savvy analysis of a very special kind of bully.  Fans of Sex and the City (the TV show) will recognize the word “frenemy”–an enemy who acts like (and may actually believe) ze’s your friend.  An anonymous correspondent writes,

There is a kind of bullying that I haven’t seen discussed before:  the frenemy. This is something a sociopath colleague has worked to perfection. He provides inside information things that as an assistant professor you’re not supposed to get, he gives “advice” that’s only in your best interest, he warns you about others who are out to get you, he vows to “defend” you when other people try to bully you, etc. (Needless to say, there are disturbing hints that behind your back he is doing nothing of the sort.)  At the same time, of course, he makes it clear how dependent you are on him: his patronage, his good graces, etc. There was/is a double effect in this kind of “information banking” style of bullying; because it’s kept secret (and is based in many ways on the fact that it is secret), other people in the department are often unaware of what’s going on. To this day I think that some of the senior faculty in our department have no idea that this individual has hazed every single junior member of our department at some point.   

Have you ever had a frenemy at work?  I recognize the type described here.  You know hir–ze approaches you shortly after the faculty retreat at the beginning of the year and invites you out to lunch.  Ze tells you all about the other finalists for your job, and reassures you that you were so very much better than those other pretentious losers.  Ze then warns you who you need to watch out for–because although most of the department are very happy that you took the job, there are others who are not so impressed.  And this person, your frenemy, is going to watch out for you.  Aren’t you the lucky one! 

Your frenemy will tell you what people are really saying about you in tenure and promotion committee meetings–stuff that doesn’t make it into your annual review letter, which is always very positive and says that you’re on track to win tenure–but ze says you should know what people really think of you nevertheless.  Ze will warn you darkly about trusting anyone else in the department–ze knows, because ze’s been treated badly by them.  Ze will listen sympathetically to your frustrations as a junior faculty member–and will collect any and all information you volunteer about your hopes, dreams, and love life.  Ze will remind you how much you owe hir–ze will expect proof of your loyalty.  If not this year, then someday.

Oh, you know hir, too?  (Does this sound like a Joyce Carol Oates novel yet?)  Readers, do you have any advice for our colleague, or for others who are dealing with their own frenemies?  Talk amongst yourselves–I’m so skeeved out that I have to go take another shower.

And on another note:  We Don’t Like Ike.  To all of our friends and readers in Houston and elsewhere in East Texas, stay safe and dry this weekend as the storm bears down on y’all.  We’ll be thinking of you–let me know if you’ll need the guest room at Historiann HQ in case of evacuation.


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