Archive for November, 2008

November 30th 2008
A churlish Republican and a childish media: notes from the Colorado 4th

Posted under American history & GLBTQ & local news & wankers & women's history

We’ve reported here before on the failure of Marilyn Musgrave, our soon to be ex-congresswoman from the 4th Congressional district in Northern Colorado, to concede the election she lost nearly four weeks ago and congratulate the woman who rendered her such a humiliating defeat.  Here on the last day of November, Musgrave is still in hiding, she won’t speak to the media in spite of the fact that she’s (lamentably) still our U.S. Representative, and has yet to telephone the victor to pledge her support.  The Denver Post today published an editorial summing all of this up, “A failure to bow out gracefully, or at all“:

Is Musgrave really going to disappear from politics after six years in Congress without congratulating Markey or even thanking constituents?

Come on, Congresswoman, you’re better than that.  (Ed. note:  No, apparently she isn’t, and there were thousands of us who had her figured out in 2002, when she first ran for Congress.  Drop the pretense that there was evidence that she was anything but a thin-skinned water-carrier for the hate-the-gays movement and the Bush administration.)

There is no doubt it was an ugly campaign. By sponsoring constitutional amendments in 2003 and 2004 that would have restricted marriage to one man and one woman, she put a target on her back.

Furthermore, she was widely seen as being closely aligned with President Bush, whose approval ratings hovered around 25 percent as the election approached.

Yes, it was a bad year for Republicans, and much of Musgrave’s problems were of her own making. But Musgrave also was targeted by independent groups who spent millions attacking the Weld County native.

.        .       .       .       .       .       .

Walking off in a snit isn’t becoming the office or the three-term incumbent.

.        .       .       .       .       .       .

It’s understandable to be upset, even embarrassed. But we expect at least a modicum of civility from our elected officials, even those who get whipped at the polls.

Well, said, Denver Post!  But, something was missing from your lecture to Congresswoman Musgrave:  the fact that you endorsed her re-election in October!  I didn’t see your apology to the people of the 4th CD for endorsing such a loser, Denver Post.  I know it would be so much more convenient for this to go down the memory hole, but historians are such pedants, aren’t we?

No Colorado politician has worked harder to change her image in recent years than Republican Marilyn Musgrave, the three-term incumbent in eastern Colorado’s sprawling 4th Congressional District.

The Post opposed Musgrave in her first three races, but we believe Marilyn Version 2.1 is improved enough to rate re-election over Democrat Betsy Markey, a Fort Collins businesswoman and former aide to Sen. Ken Salazar who is making her first run for elective office.

During her first term, we were highly critical of Musgrave for devoting far too much time to divisive social issues of no practical concern for her district, especially a failed attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Hard-pressed farmers in Yuma County are more interested in fixing their decaying farm-to-market roads and in new jobs from alternative energy than in the private lives of gays in Massachusetts. But after Democratic foes Stan Matsunaka and Angie Paccione came close to dethroning her, Musgrave got the message. In recent years, she has worked hard on the Agriculture and Small Business committees and fought to increase exports of Colorado beef and grain.

Who ever could have guessed that someone who so aggressively campaigned to deprive American citizens of equal rights would be such a sore loser?  Well, duh, I say.  Here’s the company she keeps historically as a crusader against other Americans’ constitutional rights:  the proslavery movement, the anti-women’s suffrage movement, the Nativists, the KKK, and the anti-Civil Rights movement, just for starters–a veritable American Pantheon of haters and sore losers if I ever saw one.  Need I continue? 

But this amnesia is par for the course at the Denver Post, and I suspect most major newspapersIt endorsed George Bush for re-election in 2004 in a psychotically stupid editorial, and then ran editorial after editorial during his second term chronicling his misjudgements and failures:  on the mismanagement of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Social Security reform, Hurricane Katrina, you name it.  Never once did the Post acknowledge its endorsement of Bush or apologize to its readership As Bob Somerby says at the Daily Howler all the time, the media will never, ever tell the truth about the role that it plays in our politics.  Never.

6 Comments »

November 28th 2008
Black Friday blogging: agony column updates

Posted under conferences & jobs & publication

Before I dive into that pile of grading I’ve successfully avoided until today, I thought you might enjoy a few updates from this fall term’s series of agony columns:

  • Tenured Tammy, if you’ll recall, was applying for jobs to solve her two-body problem, with the additional wrinkle that she is a tenured associate professor, and her husband is a grad student applying for his first job this year.  You advised her to be vague in her application letters as to why she is applying for assistant professor jobs again, and you also urged her to seek accommodation at her university.  She writes that her husband had a telephone interview with one of the institutions they both applied to, but “it doesn’t sound like they’ll be issuing him an invitation to interview on campus.”  She reports the excellent news that “there has been some movement [at my university] regarding a spousal hire for my husband.  I’m not sure exactly what they’ll be able to do, but the Provost called [my department chair] yesterday and was very receptive to the idea, as was the dean of the college [my husband would work in].  There are still a lot of hoops to go through, and its very possible the department may not want him (which I totally respect) but I’m so encouraged to know that the administration at [my university] is amendable to the idea of spousal hires.”  What a concept!  Would that Baa Ram U. would follow your university’s example, Tammy.
  • Busted Barry was applying selectively for jobs this year and didn’t want to buy an airplane ticket for prospective AHA interviews, and you advised him not to advertise that in his application letter.  He followed your advice, but sadly, he wrote a few weeks ago to say that he has already been notified that he’s not a semi-finalist.
  • Worried Wendy, as you’ll recall, was dismayed to hear someone read back an article she published two years ago in the first half of a conference paper recently.  She has not e-mailed or otherwise contacted the person who “borrowed” her research without acknowledgement.
  • Demoralized Debby, whose first tenure-track appointment ended badly but who is considering going back on the academic job market, writes that “the whole thread was really helpful, even the dismaying stuff.  I feel like I have a more definite plan of action: try to get a book contract but not wait ’til it’s out, and focus more on teaching.   I don’t want to adjunct, but a course or two might be bearable if it would really help the CV.  I’m meeting with a sane ally from my former university soon who’s an administrator and a stellar teacher; I’ll sound her out about teaching, too.”

Your thoughts, dear readers?  Since most of these questions revolve around the job market, let’s make this an open thread for people on the job market to let us know how it looks out there.  Have you bought your ticket to go to the annual meetings of the Modern Language Association (in San Francisco this year) or American Historical Association (in New York?)  Who really looks forward to those job fair conferences, anyway?

15 Comments »

November 27th 2008
Thanksgiving blogging, part III: recipe open thread

Posted under American history & fluff & women's history

Historiann, hard at work in her kitchen

Good morning!  (I think it’s still morning in America, even in Nova Scotia.)  Yesterday, I made a pecan pie and a pumpkin pie, using recipes from the Joy of Cooking (1964 edition) and The L.L. Bean Book of New New England Cookery (1987), respectively.  I’ve been up cooking away in my kitchen, de-brining the turkey and preparing a mountain of dressing to be cooked alongside the turkey.  I found this extremely delicious traditional-style recipe for dressing last year, and I’m sticking with it, also from The L.L. Bean Book:

Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing (Dressing):

1 pound chestnuts

2 T butter

1 1/2 C chicken broth

2 T Madeira or sherry

1/2 pound country sausage (I use a full pound.  Hey–it’s a holiday!)

4 medium onions, chopped

2 1/2 C chopped celery

1 t dried thyme

1 t dried sage, crumbled (I use fresh, and more of it than is called for here.)

1/4 C chopped parsley

7 C torn bread crumbs, somewhat stale

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

To prepare chestnuts:  Cut a cross in the chestnuts and put them in a saucepan with cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.  Remove a few at a time and peel off both the outer and inner skin while they are still hot.  Braise the peeled chestnuts in a heavy saucepan with the butter, broth, and Madeira, and gently simmer 30-40 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage meat, breaking it up with a fork, until it has released its fat, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl, and pour off all but 1/4 cup of the fat.  Saute the onions and celery in the fat about 5 minutes, then add them to the bowl along with the seasonings, bread crumbs, and cooked chestnuts.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Makes about 10 cups

The chestnuts, as always, are a big hassle, but they make your whole house smell really great when they’re simmering away in Madeira, stock, and butter.  It will smell very festive, even if that’s all you’re contributing to Thanksgiving dinner!

Other participants in this recipe exchange include Notorious, Ph.D. and Clio Bluestocking, who have already posted their holiday recipes over at their places (butternut squash lasagna and holiday margaritas, respectively!)  Dr. Crazy has posted her sweet potato gratin recipe–please post the brussels sprouts recipe too!  And Roxie’s World has posted a delish sounding “Cranberry, Cherry, and Walnut Chutney,” so we’ve covered all of the major Thanksgiving food groups:  turkey and pies (in my previous posts this week), and now squash, dressing, potatoes, cranberries, and alcohol.  I’m copying a recipe that was pasted into another thread by Indyanna, and hope more of you will post your holiday favorites here later today, if you get a chance to go on-line.  (And please, if others of you have posted recipes on your blogs, send a trackback or leave a link in the comments below!)

And if you’re not cooking, check out this very cool website for school-aged children about the First Thanksgiving, sponsored by Plimoth Plantation, the excellent re-creation of the 1627 English village and Wampanoag homesite.  It has evolved into one of the best public history sites in the United States.  Happy
Thanksgiving, everybody!

See also Thanksgiving Blogging part I and part II for other dressing and pie recipes.

13 Comments »

November 25th 2008
Thanksgiving blogging, part II: “beat all smartly together.”

Posted under American history & fluff & women's history

paring and slicing pumpkins for stewing

Paring and slicing pumpkins for stewing at Plimoth Plantation

(Don’t miss Thanksgiving blogging part I:  “this depends intirely on the goodness of your fire.”  Several commenters in that thread–Susan, Notorious Ph.D., Dr. Crazy, and Clio Bluestocking offered up delicious notes from their prospective feasts, and Notorious suggested that we all post recipes on Thanksgiving day from our own meal preparations.  Don’t miss out–post a recipe on your blog too, and if you don’t have a blog, post it in the comments thread on my blog!)

What would our Thanksgiving table be without a pumpkin pie?  Well, the version we eat is a modern invention, in its sweetness and richness–probably less than 200 years old.  The people in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 undoubtedly ate pumpkins and other winter squashes at their great feast of roasted fowl and venison, but it was probably served unsweetened and just simply “stewed,” with perhaps some salt and butter to enrich it, if they were fortunate.

I looked in vain to find a recipe for pumpkin pie in Mrs. Carter’s cookbook, The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook (1772 edition), which was published in London and Boston, and I presume written by an Englishwoman.  So I had to look to Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (Hartford, 1796) to find recipes that deal specifically with New World ingredients like squashes and corn meal.  Here are two Native American ingredients transformed by the English love for all things sweetened and turned into a pudding-like consistency.  The first offers three versions for Indian Pudding, which is a basically hasty pudding (cornmeal mush) sweetened and enriched with butter and eggs.  Here they are, in declining order of richness and tastiness, in my opinion (p. 26):

A Nice Indian Pudding.

No. 1.  3 pints scalded milk, 7 spoons fine Indian meal, stir well together while hot, let stand till cooled; add 7 eggs, half pound of raisins, 4 ounces butter, spice and sugar, bake one and half hour.

No. 2, 3 pints scalded milk to one pint meal salted; cool, add 2 eggs, 4 ounces butter, sugar or molasses and spice q. l. it will require two and half hours baking.

No. 3, salt a pint of meal, wet with one quart milk, sweeten and put into a strong cloth, brass or bell metal vessel, stone or earthen pot, secure from wet and boil 12 hours.

“No. 3″ is clearly the most Anglicized version in the manner of preparation, which looks like a steamed English pudding, and an extremely heavy and unpleasant one at that.  But, all of the eggs, milk, and butter in the other versions are clearly contributions from English agriculture and foodways.  You’ll notice too that Mrs. Simmons is much more telegraphic in her delivery than was Mrs. Carter–she seems to presume more familiarity with ingredients and techniques.  (And I have no idea what “q. l” means–do any of you?)  Next, we have several recipes for transforming winter squashes into puddings and tarts (pp. 27-28):

A Crookneck, or Winter Squash Pudding.

Core, boil, and skin a good squash, and bruize it well; take 6 large apples, pared, cored, and stewed tender, mix together; add 6 or 7 spoonsful of dry bread or biscuit, rendered fine as meal, half pint milk or cream, 2 spoons of rose-water, 2 do. wine, 5 or 6 eggs beaten and strained, nutmeg, salt and sugar to your taste, one spoon flour, beat all smartly together, bake.

The above is a good receipt for Pompkins, Potatoes, or Yams, adding more moistening or milk and rose-water, and to the two latter a few black or Lisbon currants, or dry whortleberries scattered in, will make it better.

Immediately following the above recipie, we finally get to pumpkin pies!  From p. 28:

Pompkin.

No. 1, one quart stewed and strained, 3 pints cream, 9 beaten eggs, sugar, mace, nutmeg and ginger, laid into paste No. 7 or 3, and with a dough spur, cross and chequer it, and baked in dishes three quarters of an hour.

No. 2, One quart of milk, one pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice and ginger in a crust, bake 1 hour.

You’ll note that No. 1 doesn’t call for sugar, so it’s more like a quiche with a lattice crust.  (And check out those amounts–a quart of pumpkin, 6 cups of cream, and 9 eggs!–surely enough to make 3 or 4 9-inch pies.)  No. 2 is sweetened with molasses and spiced like modern pumpkin pies, and so is probably closer to what most of you will be eating on Thursday, although the ratio of milk to pumpkin makes it look rather milkier than pumpkiny.

13 Comments »

November 24th 2008
Thanksgiving blogging, part I: “this depends intirely on the goodness of your fire.”

Posted under American history & women's history

I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year chez Historiann, so I’ve been flipping through Susannah Carter’s The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook (1772) again.  (I just can’t stay away!  You remember that she was the source for “an Umble Pie” and–unsuccessfully–for clues about the origins of the Ritz Cracker Mock Apple Pie)  I thought she had some interesting recipes to share for that centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, the turkey.  First, the general instructions (p. 8):

To Roast a Turkey, Goose, Duck, Fowl, &c.

When you roast a turkey, goose, fowl, or chicken, lay them down to a good fire.  Singe them clean with white paper, baste them with butter, and dust on some flour.  As to time, a large turkey will take an hour and twenty minutes; a middling one, a full hour; a full-grown goose, if young an hour; a large fowl three quarters of an hour; a middling one half an hour, and a small chicken twenty minutes; but this depends intirely on the goodness of your fire.

I wouldn’t go with those roasting times on Thursday.  I have a feeling that wild and domestic fowl were a lot scrawnier than our agribusiness-produced, hormonally-pumped, grain-fed, fully plucked monster turkeys and chickens today.  Even the so-called “free range” beasties must be much, much larger than those in Mrs. Carter’s day.  Eighty minutes to cook a turkey?  But, as she reminds us well, “this depends intirely on the goodness of your fire.”  Since your turkey today will likely be in the oven much longer, you can probably skip the flour, which presumably was meant to aid browning.

Before you start your fire, you’ll probably want to consider the stuffing.  Mrs. Carter offers two, the first being a kind of veal sausage stuffing (p. 9):

A turkey, when roasted, is generally stuffed in the craw with force-meat; or the following stuffing:  Take a pound of veal, as much grated bread, half a pound of suet cut and beat very fine, a little parsley, with a small matter of thyme, or savory, two cloves, half a nutmeg grated, a tea-spoon full of shred lemon peel, a little pepper and salt, and the yolks of two eggs.

That doesn’t sound half bad, although I would cook the sausage (the veal, suet, and spices) before mixing it with the bread, egg yolks, and herbs.  With this bird, Mrs. Carter recommends “Good gravy in a dish; and either bread, onion, or oyster sauce in a bason.”  The second recommended stuffing features liver and chestnuts (pp. 9-10):

A Fowl, or Turkey, roasted with Chestnuts:

Roast a quarter of a hundred of chestnuts, and peel them; save out eight or ten, the rest bruise in a mortar, with the liver of the fowl, a quarter of a pound of ham well-pounded, sweet herbs and parsley chopped fine:  Season it with mace, nutmeg, pepper and salt:  Mix all these together, and put them into the belly of  your fowl:  Spit it, and tie the neck and vent close.  For sauce, take the rest of the chestnuts, cut them in pieces, and put them into a strong gravy, with a glass of white wine:  Thicken with a piece of butter rolled into flour.  Pour the sauce in the dish and garnish with orange and water-cresses.

Modern cooks know that it’s healthier and more efficient to cook your stuffing as a side-dish of “dressing” separately–actually stuffing the bird slows cooking time considerably, not to mention the whole salmonella issue (raw eggs not cooking quite enough inside the cavity of a turkey?  No, thanks!)  So, this year, please bake the dressing on the side during the last hour or so of turkey roasting, and to get that extra-good and unctuous turkey flavor, spoon some turkey pan juices on the pan of dressing as it bakes.  (There’s always plenty of them if you’re basting with butter as Mrs. Carter recommends!)

What are you making for Thanksgiving?  (Reservations?  May I join you?)  Just kidding!

Stay tuned for Thanksgiving blogging, part II:  pumpkin pies and Indian puddings!

20 Comments »

November 23rd 2008
Like a Virgin

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

Not this virgin.

Not this virgin.

Inspired by this post at Feminist Law Professors, headlined “French Court Rules Virginity is Not an “Essential Quality in a Bride,” I’ve been thinking a lot about virgins today, and the concept of virginity.  (The linked story is about a French Muslim man who sought and obtained an annulment from his bride because she wasn’t a virgin.  An appeals court ruled that “a lie that does not concern an essential quality is not a valid basis for annulling a marriage.”)  I don’t think “virginity” is a reasonable or meaningful category for describing people’s lives today for a number of reasons, mostly feminist and pro-gay ones, but I have questions about the history and etymology of the word virgin and the state of being a virgin, which is to say, “virginity.”

A little background here:  I have a young friend in a Catholic Kindergarten who is learning the “Hail Mary” (“blessed art thou among virgins women”–sorry about the error) and singing songs like Silent Night (“round yon virgin, mother and child…”), so a word previously not in hir lexicon is coming up on a regular–nay, daily–basis.  So I’m expecting (and dreading) the question, “what’s a virgin?”  My canned answer is “an unmarried woman,” and I’ll hope that flies.  This eventuality has led me to ponder the roots of the word “virgin” and of the concept of “virginity.”  Was “unmarried woman” the original meaning of “virgin,” or was the original meaning connected to a specific kind of (lack of) sexual experience?  When did the marital and sexual connotations first collide in this word?  Was it ever a term applied equally to men and women?

That's the ticket

Happily, a number of medieval studies types read and comment here, so I’m calling on you all specifically:  Tom at Romantoes, New Kid on the Hallway, Notorious Ph.D., Squadratomagico, and Another Damned Medievalist at Blogenspiel, can you help?  (Anyone else I’ve missed, please chime in–I’m just listing the people you can track back to a blog somewhere.)  Am I totally off-base in thinking this has something to do with Latin, Norman French, or Anglo-Saxon?  Are there any interesting titles you’d recommend that discuss the history and etymology of this word?

One other observation:  Catholic education introduces a lot more violent, sexual, and otherwise very adult themes into a child’s life than a happily sanitized modern secular education.  This is not a complaint–I frankly think that children are patronized too often, and then they’re subject to commercial exploitation by sexualized and violent images and products without having the tools they need to process and deal with them appropriately.  Are any of you familiar with St. Michael’s Prayer?  It’s really a trip to hear a 5-year old recite it before tucking into a meal!

31 Comments »

November 22nd 2008
The Ladies of Edenton meet the next lady of Foggy Bottom

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history

With news reports everywhere confirming that Hillary Clinton will accept Barack Obama’s offer to serve as his Secretary of State, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on one of the most condescending smears deployed by the Democratic presidential candidates and their supporters during the primary race:  that Hillary Clinton’s service as First Lady didn’t give her any meaningful experience with foreign affairs or diplomacy, and that it could be reduced to simply drinking tea with diplomats and the wives of foreign leaders.  Late last year in the thick of the leadup to the Iowa Caucus, Chris Dodd said, “To somehow suggest having been the First Lady is the kind of experience that qualifies you to be president, I’ve never heard that argument before.”  Obama, in touting his foreign policy experience, said “It’s that experience, that understanding, not just of what world leaders I went and talked to in the ambassadors house I had tea with, but understanding the lives of the people like my grandmother who lives in a tiny hut in Africa.”

Obama’s comment about tea-drinking with ambassadors was widely understood–and appropriately so–as an attack on Clinton’s experience as First Lady.  Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright fired back, “Senator Clinton has been in refugee camps, clinics, orphanages, and villages all around the world, including places where tea is not the usual drink. . . . In addition to these experiences she has met with world leaders and has known many of them for years.”  In case you have any doubts that this allusion to tea-drinking was too subtle for the hoi polloi, check out all of the comments in stories like this, this, and this, in which people who opposed Clinton continue this dismissal of her foreign policy experience as “tea-drinking,” and go even further than Obama or Dodd to feminize Clinton’s experience by reducing it to “tea-drinking” with the wives of foreign leaders.  This of course served to marginalize Clinton’s experience and render it irrelevant to the public sphere and to international politics.  And, the tea canard lives on:  in yesterday’s Telegraph, Tim Shipman wrote in an article called “Six reasons why Barack Obama is mad to hire Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State,” he writes, “Yes, I know Mrs Clinton is qualified, she knows foreign leaders, she has taken tea with many of their wives too.”

Bristol tea bowl, 1775

Why did this insult of “tea-drinking” leap so easily to mind when it came to denigrating Hillary Clinton’s (and only Hillary Clinton’s) foreign policy experience?  Well, my friends, as your favorite early American feminist historian, I can tell you that dismissing inappropriately ambitious or aggressive women as mere “tea-drinking ladies” is a trick older than the Republic.  As it happens, this week in my graduate seminar and in my undergraduate class, we’ve read two books that treat the connection between eighteenth-century Anglo-American women and tea drinking:  T. H. Breen’s The Marketplace of Revolution:  How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (2004), and Clare Lyons’ Sex Among the Rabble:  An Intimate History of Gender & Power in the Age of Revolution, Philadelphia, 1730-1830 (2006).  Both books–Breen’s book more directly, Lyons more indirectly–address the feminization of tea drinking because of its association with women and domestic spaces.  Drinks like beer and rum were served and consumed in male-dominated public spaces like taverns and ordinaries.  (For more information on taverns as masculine spaces and political crucibles of the Revolution, see Peter Thompson’s Rum Punch and Revolution:  Taverngoing & Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia, 1999).

Tea drinking was not only associated with women and domestic spaces, but by the mid-1760s it was associated with luxury, dependence on England, and therefore, political corruption.  While most finished consumer goods were also imported from Great Britain, tea came to serve as the ultimate symbol of effeminate dependency in an era when a manly independence was the new political fashion.  Tea was in fact a product of Empire, and only available to colonists via the East Indian company, but then so was the masculine tipple rum–and no one ever suggested that rum be on the list of goods subject to the non-importation movements.  The broadside satire at right, “The Drunken Husband and Tea-Drinking Wife, &c.,” published in the 1760s, suggests that this gendering of refreshments was widely understood (and frequently a frustration in heterosexual relationships.)

Satire of the Edenton Tea Party, 1775

The famous image at left is of the “Edenton Tea Party,” a very real instance of Anglo-American women’s political action in 1774, when 51 women signed a petition and vowed their support of the non-importation movement.  However, this satirical engraving clearly mocks these women who took political action.  In this portrait of women’s politics, a child is neglected by women portrayed either as unattractively mannish or as beautiful but sexually immoral.  (What other women would presume to be involved in politics other than these disreputable examples?  Shades of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, anyone?)  Another woman hypocritically takes a draught of tea from a tea bowl so enormous that it obscures her face drinks from a punch bowl, a ritual that plays on the notion that the women are engaging in a masculine political ritual (see the comments by historymaven below for an explanation of this corrected interpretation).  An African American woman is in the image too, suggesting that women’s political activism is dangerous for its race-mixing and implied racial levelling.  Furthermore, a dog pees indoors on some tea chests, suggesting domestic squalor and delivering a final insult to British tea.  (See Baudrillard’s Bastard for a thread earlier this year on the symbolism of dogs peeing in eighteenth-century editorial cartoons.)

Clearly, the suggestion that Clinton had no relevant foreign policy experience was just primary politics, as was all of the rhetoric about her horrible, unforgivable, selfish, ambitious, disgusting 2002 AUMF vote.  (A vote identical to every other Senator who was in the senate in 2002 and who ran for president from the Senate in 2004 and 2008 except Bob Graham.)   Nevertheless, it was as if Clinton had armored up and drove the tanks into Baghdad herself!  How special that Democrats chose to forget that it is Bush, Cheney, and Rummy who are to blame for that debacle!  Yes, so much easier to cherchez la femme, isn’t it?  I guess all is forgiven now.  Obama knows that Clinton has name-brand recognition that will go a long way towards repairing the damage done to the international reputation of the United States.  And, as I said back in April, “the Clinton style and legacy will be with us for a long time, whether or not that’s the surname of the next President.”  Obama modeled his primary campaign on Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, and he (unsurprisingly) is taking advantage of the talent and experience many Democrats earned as Clinton administration appointees.

It’s interesting to note too that the office of Secretary of State since Albright was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 has not been held by a white man, whereas before 1997 it was held exclusively by white men.  (Albright was of course succeeded by Gen. Colin Powell, who was himself succeeded by Rice.)  Does this suggest the feminization or demotion of diplomacy in some ways?  I’m sure Obama recognizes that Clinton has the potential to be a powerful Secretary of State along the lines of George Marshall or John Foster Dulles, not like the subordinate Powell and Rice.

Because current politics and foreign affairs go far outside of my fields of professional expertise, I checked in with my friend and colleague Nathan Citino, our expert in U.S. diplomatic history at Baa Ram U., to hear what he thought about Clinton’s likely appointment as Secretary of State.  He made two very interesting points, one historiographical and one political.  I’m copying his reply exactly here below:

1.  This appointment comes at a time when publications in US foreign relations are increasingly recognizing the contributions and challenges faced by women diplomats.  This year, for instance, Notre Dame Press published Jean Wilkowski’s Abroad for Her Country, a memoir by one of the most important early US women diplomats who joined the foreign service during World War II and who served in Latin America, East Asia, Europe, and as an ambassador in Africa.  A new volume of Eleanor Roosevelt’s edited papers came out last year, too, covering the crucial years following World War II when ER was one of the UN’s leading advocates.

[As for comments by Clinton's primary opponents dismissing her experience as mere "tea drinking,"] scholars are undermining the distinction between official diplomacy and the unofficial, and unpaid, “tea diplomacy” carried on by diplomats’ and military officers’ wives.  Check out Lydia Chapin Kirk, Distinguished Service: Lydia Chapin Kirk, Partner in Diplomacy, 1896-1984(2007); Donna Alvah, Unofficial Ambassadors: American Military Families Overseas and the Cold War, 1946-1965 (2007); and “’Commanding Beauty’ and ‘Gentle Charm’: American Women and Gender in the Early Twentieth Century Foreign Service.” Diplomatic History  31 (June 2007): 505-530, by Molly Wood.

2.  For me, the significance of Clinton’s appointment, if she accepts and is confirmed, is that many diplomats and world leaders will deal with her on the basis of their assumption that she will be the next US president.  This will be a dramatic change from Condoleeza Rice’s experience, because many people abroad assumed that US foreign policy was made outside of the State Department and that other figures, such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, had more influence.  In fact, Obama might use this expectation to his advantage as a way of signaling that US foreign policy will be less militarized than it was under Bush, and that the State Department will take the leading role in conducting diplomacy.  Of course, Clinton can use her role as secretary of state to immunize herself against the very charges of foreign policy inexperience that she faced during the primary campaign, in preparation for a possible run in 2016.

I look forward to hearing what you and others think, too.

Thanks, Nate, for your informed opinions and bibliographical suggestions.  I don’t know about Clinton running in 2016–I’m skeptical myself, but then, I was surprised that she did so well this year.  (I think our first woman President will be a moderate-seeming member of whatever we call the conservative party at that point in history, and that I won’t live to see the day of her inauguration myself.)  Secretary of State was historically the stepping-stone to the Presidency:  Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, and James Buchanan all served as Secretaries of State before their elections to the Presidency.  All of these men are ranked as better than average Presidents with the exception of Buchanan.  But, note well that this hasn’t happened since Buchanan was elected in 1856, and we all know how well that turned out, don’t we?  (Curse you, third-worst President Buchanan!)

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November 21st 2008
Deep thoughts

Posted under jobs

Baa Ram U. has the eccentric (to me, anyway) tradition of cancelling classes all of Thanksgiving week.  I like having a fall break, but I’d prefer one that happened before there’s only two weeks left in the semester.  (But of course, a proper October Fall Break as observed in Eastern colleges wouldn’t coincide with the opening of ski season, which I think is the actual holiday we’re meant to keep here in Colorado.)  So having taught my last class, I’m in a pensive mood this afternoon, and these questions weigh on me:

  • In what other profession does “break” or “vacation” really mean “opportunity to do all the other work that’s part of your job,” teaching excepted?  To be fair, staff have to work Monday through Wednesday, so most grown-ups around here are still on the clock, but we still have Winter, Spring, and Summer breaks ahead of us, don’t we?
  • In what other line of work does a “promotion” mean that you are permitted to do the same job you’ve done for six years (or more?  Doesn’t “promotion” usually imply new challenges and exciting new opportunities?) 

Are there any other deep thoughts you want to share?

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November 21st 2008
How gud iz ur reeding comprehenshen and Barbie knitting skilz?

Posted under fluff

You know what the problem is with pointy-headed academics these days?  We don’t write books that the average person can understand.  It’s all post-structural theory this and performative that, no reasonable ideas that normal people can understand, let alone use!  Well, Susie at Suburban Guerilla and Anglachel point us to commenter Robert Stanley Martin, who ran a bunch of lefty political blogs through the wringer along with this humble blog, too.  Here’s what he found (also posted at his blog, Pol Culture):

–Glenn Greenwald: Genius
–Nouriel Roubini: Genius
Pol Culture (me): College (postgrad)
–Anglachel: College (undergraduate)
–Paul Krugman (blog): High school
–The New York Times: High school
–Daily Kos: High school
–The Daily Howler (Bob Somerby): Junior high school
–Historiann: Junior high school
–The New Yorker: Junior high school
–Atrios: Elementary school
–Americablog (John Aravosis): Elementary school

There are some shockers there. I mean, the Daily Kos is written at a higher intellectual level than The New Yorker or Historiann? Are they kidding? However, I do think they pegged John Aravosis just right. I’m assuming a “Nursery school” option wasn’t available.

Thanks, Robert, for your gentlemanly defense of this humble blog!  When I ran Historiann.com through the analyzer yesterday, it was ranked as High School, so I’ve been promoted!  Yay?  (The company was much better in my old junior high, I have to say.)  Do I say “wev” too often?  Is that it?  Or is it the Barbies and their cunning, tiny knitted couture?  My guess is that Nouriel Roubini hasn’t posted much on the Sex and the City:  The Movie, and Glenn Greenwald has completely ignored Skipper and Judy Jetson.

Yeah, that’s gotta be it.  I love these–they’re not from the Historiann barbie knitwear collection, which you can see elements of here, here, and here, if you really want to.  It’s ski season here in Colorado, and since Historiann (a native-born flatlander) does not faire du ski, she’s got her eye on this apres-ski wear.  I don’t know if I’m confident enough to pull off the retro look of that knitted matching sweater and skirt on the left, but I would kill for that fur-trimmed coat and hat on the right.

Yummy!

18 Comments »

November 20th 2008
Demoralized Debby from DSU desires to return to academia

Posted under jobs & publication

detail from "Sad Woman" by Gilli Moon

detail from "Sad Woman" by Gilli Moon

Today’s mail brings an urgent plea from Debby, who needs your advice, dear readers:

Dear Historiann,

I graduated from a top university in my subdiscipline; I love research and writing and teach okay to well, depending on the circumstances. It’s tough to get a tenure-track job in my subfield, and I was the only one who did from my grad program the year I graduated:  a tenure-line, mostly administrative position as director of a program embedded within a humanities department at Disintegrating State University.  I got pregnant second year and got zero support, institutionally or from colleagues, and suffered from postpartum depression.  In my fourth year there, my colleagues voted “not to reappoint” (i.e., to fire) me, mostly because of a hatred of my subfield; malicious, scapegoating, and backstabbing colleagues; and bad department management.

For over a year, I’ve been mourning the loss of a career I love. My CV includes a frequently cited article in a top journal; one in a book from a top press in my field; a few articles tossed off in crummy journals; two forthcoming in book collections and one forthcoming in another top journal; a fancy award.   I’ve applied for a few jobs, but have had no luck. So here’s my question:  I think my dissertation topic is important, interesting, and timely.  I’d love to write a book about it.  Would publishing such a book help me get back on track–tenure-track, that is?  The caveat: I will never work at another place like DSU—only at a college that values good research and conducts itself with reasonable integrity.

Debby, it sounds to me like you were treated very badly by your former department.  Why would they hire a new Assistant Professor to run a program?  And if as you say, your sub-field didn’t enjoy strong support in the department that hired you, then it sounds like you were set up to fail.  In cases like this I think it’s really important not to internalize the judgement of people who clearly were clueless about defining the job and neglectful (or malicious) in not working to help you succeed.  I don’t know why departments do this, but they do, and it just perpetuates bad juju.

But, it sounds like  you’re clear about your strengths as a scholar, so why not write that book and see what happens?  Publishing your book may get you back on the tenure-track in a job that suits you.  At the very least, the process of writing and publishing will necessarily draw you back into supportive networks (through conferences and contact with publishers) who will affirm your worth as a scholar, and who might have valuable connections to job and fellowship opportunities.  And in the end, a book in your hand will make you feel like you achieved something distinctive.

All of this is contingent on you having the time (and therefore the money) to do this.  You mentioned that you were pregnant, so I assume you have at least one toddler or preschooler now–and if baby needs new shoes, that will certainly take priority.  Readers, what do you think?  How would you look at Debby’s CV if she publishes her book and applies for a job in your department?

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