Archive for January, 2009

January 21st 2009
CK nixes Senate bid to attend to ailing uncle

Posted under American history & jobs & nepotism & the body & women's history


Seriously?  Why not the “I need to spend these last few years at home with my teenaged children” excuse?  (Via Valhalla at Corrente.)  Here’s the key graph in the New York Times article:

On Wednesday she called Gov. David A. Paterson, who will choose a successor to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her concerns about Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s deteriorating health (he was hospitalized after suffering a seizure during President Obama’s inaugural lunch on Tuesday ) prompted her decision to withdraw, this person said. Coping with her uncle’s condition was her most important priority, a situation not conducive to starting a high profile public job.

Whatever.  Senator Kennedy has a wife, he lives in Virginia and Massachusetts, and he doesn’t have any minor children to look after, so I’m unclear about the services that Caroline Kennedy thinks she might might offer him.  What does “coping with her uncle’s condition” involve?  I suppose if that’s a deal breaker for you, then you really shouldn’t be in the Senate.  (Hey–Gerald Ford was President while his wife was seriously impaired, and John Edwards pursued his latest White House bid after wife Elizabeth’s cancer recurred.  What’s so rough about an ailing out-of-town uncle?)

UPDATE, 1/22/09:  Hey–don’t complain to me!  Senator Kennedy doesn’t like the fact that he’s being used as an excuse by his niece, either.  (Via The Daily Beast.)

UPDATE, 1/22/09, evening:  Aaaaannd, amateur hour just rolls on and on, doesn’t it?  I can’t believe this.  (And yes, I’m talking about Gov. Patterson as well as Kennedy!  Please, everyone:  tell “your people” to STFU already.)


January 21st 2009
In-OGGER-ation? Let’s not drink to that.

Posted under fluff

Twice today on public radio on my drive to work, I heard one local reporter and one national reporter pronounce the words “inaugurate” and “inauguration”  as “inOGGERate” and “inOGGERation.”  Nog season is over, the language mangler in chief has gone home to Crawford, and we didn’t just inAUGurate the guy who said “WARSHingon.” 

Can we please return to standard pronunciation now?


January 20th 2009
Inauguration Day 2009

Posted under American history

Liveblogging the Inauguration–all times MDT:

9:28 a.m:  Brian Williams is a font of misinformation.  Earlier he reminded people of something that never happened in 2001, the so-called vandalism of the White House by departing Clinton staffers.  Then as Lynne Cheney arrived, he said that she was a “historian in her own right.”  Yeah, Brian:  and you’re just a super anchorman.  (Paging Ron Burgundy!)

9:33 a.m.:  Just got a good look at Michelle Obama’s outfit.  Do. Not. Want.  Too much stiff brocade.  But, it’s very retro and Jacqueline Kennedy-esque.  Maybe it’s just the coat I’m reacting to–the dress underneath looks like it might be promising.

9:40 a.m.:  Awesome views of the mall, jam-packed with people.

9:43 a.m.:  The man of the hour arrives.

9:47 a.m.:  The presidency is famously aging.  I never thought George W. Bush took it nearly as seriously as he should have, and he always seems to have gotten 8 hours of sleep.  But–he has aged dramatically too, like his predecessors.

9:48 a.m.:  The smarmy Rick Warren:  a neutral prayer.  “We are Americans. . . united . . . to (sic) our commitment to freedom and justice for all.”  (Except the gays.)  Rings the Jesus bell before launching into the Our Father/Lord’s Prayer.  (Hey–Historiann is ecumenical, even if Warren is not!)

9:53 a.m.:  Aretha Franklin!

9:57 a.m.:  Joe Biden takes the oath of office.  See ya, Dick Cheney.

10:05:  Barack Obama takes the oath of office.  Exhale!  How sweet that William Rehnquist died before he could administer the oath of office once again.  (Except that unfortunately, Obama doesn’t get to make his replacement appointment!)  John Roberts flubs the oath. Continue Reading »


January 19th 2009
Inauguration Day Roundup: don’t let the barn door hit ya where the good lord split ya edition

Posted under American history & happy endings

See ya, chump!

See ya, chump!

Some interesting news and views about the Baracktastic Husseineriffic Obamapalooza tomorrow:

I’m not teaching tomorrow, so I’ll have it parked in front of the set for the inauguration ceremony and the big speech.  I’ve watched every inauguration since Ronald Reagan’s second in 1985, with the exception of George W. Bush’s second inauguration in 2005.  It’s good to want to turn on the teevee again, isn’t it?

As of Tuesday afternoon–can everyone just get back to work already?  I mean, it’s not like the dudes in Washington don’t have a lot on their plates, aside from phesant and duck with the sour cherry chutney, right?


January 19th 2009
Martin Luther King holiday book review: Toni Morrison’s “A Mercy”

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & captivity & childhood & class & Gender & Intersectionality & race & women's history

Over the holiday weekend, I finally had an opportunity to sit down and read Toni Morrison’s A Mercy.  As a colonial American women’s historian, it would have been a must-read for me anyway, but Morrison’s book surpassed my already high expectations.  I don’t know how useful my review of the book will be to non-historians, but in keeping with the spirit of the day, I’ll offer a review of the book along with some thoughts about using novels in history classes after the jump.  Spoiler alert:  continue reading only if you don’t mind learning a few key plot details! Continue Reading »


January 18th 2009
Daughters and political dynasties

Posted under American history & childhood & nepotism & women's history


Like his two immediate predecessors in the U.S. Presidency, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Barack Obama is the father of daughters and only of daughters.  In fact, there are now (at least as of Tuesday) six U.S. Presidents since World War II who were the fathers of daughters only:  Harry S Truman (Margaret), Lyndon Johnson (Lynda and Luci), Richard Nixon (Tricia and Julie), Bill Clinton (Chelsea), George W. Bush (Barbara and Jenna), and Barack Obama (Sasha and Malia).  The other six postwar presidents–Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush–all had children of both sexes.  None had Only Eisenhower had boys only, and only one (Bush) has sons with prominent careers in electoral politics.  (I suppose radio talk show host Michael Reagan is in politics, loosely speaking, but I’m talking here about involvement in electoral politics.)  Am I missing anyone in this list? 

We’ve only had two presidents whose sons also became president.  (And look how that worked out for us, with Mr. Worst and Mr. Second Worst President ever!)  Longtime readers know that I am opposed to nepotism and the creation of American aristocracies, but I recognize that wealth and a famous name are highly useful in launching a career in politics.  I wonder who the first daughter will be to follow her father into the White House?  (Or her mother?  Nah.  Not in my lifetime!)  A few of the women listed above have been active in politics because they married into political families–Julie Nixon Eisenhower is married to David Eisenhower, the grandson of the President after whom Camp David was named.  One married a politician:  Lynda Bird Johnson Robb is married to Chuck Robb, a former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator.  But no daughters have chosen to become pols.  Most seem to cherish private life after their parents leave the White House.

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January 18th 2009
Le 18 Janvier, 1709

Posted under American history & captivity & childhood & O Canada & women's history

Le 18 Janvier M. De Vaudreuil nous a donné une petite Angloise nommée Esther pour être a Nre pensionnaire elle payera sa pension sur a pied de 40 Ecus.

Translation:  “January 18th M. de Vaudreuil brought us a young English girl named Esther. She paid 40 ecus for her board.”

Today is the 300th anniversary of Esther Wheelwright’s matriculation at the Ursuline school for girls in Quebec.  She was twelve years old.  She had been taken from her natal family more than five years earlier at the age of 7 in an Abenaki raid on Wells, Maine in August of 1703.  Her admission to the school signified the loss of her Abenaki family and kin, who had adopted her, as well as her lifelong alienation from the Protestantism she was born into.  “M. Vaudreuil” refers to Madame Vaudreuil (despite the masculine-appearing title abbreviation “M.”), the wife of the Governor of New France, who enrolled her own daughter at the school later that year as well as paid the expenses for other girls who appear to have been English captives.  In the decades surrounding the turn of the century, the school served Indian, English-born, and French students alike.  Although the Marquise de Vaudreuil was an enthusiastic patron, other Quebecois in the local community also paid the fees on behalf of several English captive girls. 

Sister Marie-de-Jésus, "Arrival of the Ursulines and the Sisters of Charity in New France" (1928)

The Ursulines were a counter-reformation women’s order who are comparable to the Jesuits both in their zeal for founding New World missions and their dedication to educating young people for the preservation and spread of Roman Catholicism.  The school in Quebec taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the core of the experience was religious education.  The first day of school is a significant and usually memorable day in the lives of all children, but Esther could not have known in 1709 the role this school would play in her life.  Esther must have excelled as a student in spite of the fact that French was her third language, because she declared her intention to become a religieuse as a young teenager.  Except for a short time at the Ursuline convent school in Trois Rivieres, she remained at the convent for the rest of her life as a teacher in the first school she ever attended.  Continue Reading »


January 17th 2009
Est-ce qu’on faire du ski?

Posted under fluff

Yeah, me neither, but what do you expect:  I grew up in Ohio!  But I have these very cool ski pants now that make it look like I ski, so that’s pretty close.  (The tag above is “fluff,” but I think “powder” is perhaps more appropriate?)

I’m on a little weekend getaway with pals, so consider this an open thread to play in.  I can’t reveal the location of our secret mountain hideaway–suffice it to say, “there’s always a beaver in the creek.”

(There’s a prize for anyone who gets that obscure reference, by the way.)


January 16th 2009
Marley in Muncie mulls a return to the groves of academe

Posted under students

It's actually a good potboiler!

From the mailbag at Historiann HQ:

I am interested in getting back in touch with a professor who was a great mentor for me in my undergrad years ten years ago.  I unfortunately did not go to grad school as I had hoped, and as she had encouraged, so I fell out of touch.  I am finally pursuing grad school again and have a renewed sense of purpose, and I would very much like to reconnect with her.  I am afraid of coming across as opportunistic, and that is not at all what I want.  I don’t plan on asking her, all these years later, for a letter of recommendation nor am I going to be applying to the university where she works. 

I hope that you will be kind enough to give me some advice so that I don’t make the kind of mistakes that would end up being complained about on a professor’s blog!

Ouch, Marley!  I guess I need to stop linking to Rate Your Students.  I’m sorry if we’ve frightened you with a glimpse at the blighted souls of most liberal arts proffies.  (Then again, if you’re thinking of going to grad school, you can’t be all that scared, right?)

Well, since you asked:  Continue Reading »


January 15th 2009
Practice, not content: the History lab

Posted under American history & jobs & students

Nancy Shoemaker, a Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, has published an essay in the current issue of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History called “Where is the History Lab Course?”  She wonders why historians don’t try to teach courses that actually reflect historical thinking and historical practice, and instead teach survey courses that reinforce the notion that history is just content, not an intellectual discipline:

Instead of introducing students to college-level history with a survey course, literally weighed down by a 500- to 600-page textbook with timelines and arcane facts, we should devise a laboratory course modeled after that in the sciences. Several years ago, while on a university-wide committee to develop new general education guidelines, I had to contend with colleagues in the sciences who did not see history as vital to general education because, they said, it was just about memorizing facts. That they all tested their students using multiple-choice exams when we in history used essay exams did not shake them from their view of history as mere transmission of knowledge from teacher to student.

.        .        .        .        .       .        .        .        .        .      

I envied the scientists’ defense of why science is important and particularly their talisman, the lab course. They did not just want science to stay in general education. They wanted the lab course to stay. A better metonym for their discipline than the primary document is for ours, the lab course replicates scientific inquiry from inception to discovery to interpretation of results. Most eye-opening for me was how the scientists, if they were to have only one opportunity to communicate to students what science was, wanted that moment to be spent immersed in scientific practice, not scientific content.

Because “[i]ntroductory surveys only make students knowledge consumers” instead of “knowledge producer[s],” she therefore has developed a lab course (or “as [she] prefer[s] to call it, ‘workshop’ course”) she calls “The Historian as Detective.”  (Shoemaker doesn’t mention it, but The Historian as Detective (1968) was also title of a book edited by Robin Winks popular in the 1970s and 1980s for undergraduate “introduction to the History major” courses.  I read it in the late 80s as an undergraduate, and even had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Winks when he visited our campus that year.)  Shoemaker writes, “I modeled my course after Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum’s Salem witchcraft course, which they had taught for many years at the University of Massachusetts and which eventually led to the monograph Salem Possessed (1974):” Continue Reading »


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