Comments on: “What about Women in Early American History?” In which Historiann and friends get up on their high horses and rope ‘em up good http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/30/what-about-women-in-early-american-history-in-which-historiann-and-friends-get-up-on-their-high-horses-and-rope-em-up-good/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:41:03 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: John S. http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/30/what-about-women-in-early-american-history-in-which-historiann-and-friends-get-up-on-their-high-horses-and-rope-em-up-good/comment-page-1/#comment-353371 Wed, 01 Jul 2009 19:46:29 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5846#comment-353371 I was responding to the comment that as evidence that gender = women. I am trying mightily to find as much evidence as I can about enslaved women’s lives on the plantation, but they appear most in the documentation as objects in power struggles between the master and male slaves. The planter in question fancied himself the best doctor around, so medical access to enslaved women’s bodies was a major site of contestation.

It *appears* that much of this revolved around enslaved men asserting their rights to control the bodies of black women, with the planter challenging that right. (Preliminary analysis.) I have found identifying women’s intentions and agency a difficult task here.

I suppose this resembles your other post today, in which men get together to make pronouncements from on high about women’s wombs. (Landon Carter would feel at home in a discussion with William Lord Saletan from Slate, I think.)

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By: anon http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/30/what-about-women-in-early-american-history-in-which-historiann-and-friends-get-up-on-their-high-horses-and-rope-em-up-good/comment-page-1/#comment-353052 Wed, 01 Jul 2009 12:08:08 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5846#comment-353052 Really interesting post & discussion. I don’t work on American history, and in my field women’s history maintains an important place – women historians and historians of women helped shape my field, actually. I still see monographs on women co-existing alongside more cultural studies of sexuality and gender (almost all the work about gender is still on women). So inside my field I don’t experience an absence of women – but outside my field, in history departments, it gets more alarming. I too have noticed again and again the idea that there needs to be only one “women’s historian” and that any woman can perform that role, whether or not she is actually an historian of women simply because she herself is a woman. This is very troubling to me. In my rounds of women’s history classes, I absolutely see the gender divide – but this time I taught a more generic “society and sexes” class and had a much more even gender distribution. I kind of liked it, because I lured all these young men into the class and then gave everybody a pretty straight forward women’s history class, with a little discussion of masculinity thrown in. I also try to integrate women, particularly female authors of primary sources, into ALL my courses, as an attempt to break down the idea that “women have cooties”. Part of the problem is that women are so marginalized in courses – there are women’s history courses and then there is “regular” history in which women basically don’t figure. While I want to preserve women’s history classes, “regular” classes need to integrate as many women as possible, especially as authors (and authors of a broad array of subjects) so that (male) students can see that women *are a part of history*. (I’m guessing that I’m not alone in this effort.) I feel so ambivalently about the HQs!

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/30/what-about-women-in-early-american-history-in-which-historiann-and-friends-get-up-on-their-high-horses-and-rope-em-up-good/comment-page-1/#comment-352601 Wed, 01 Jul 2009 02:51:24 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5846#comment-352601 John–are you complaining about the comment “where are the women,” or just passing it along as evidence that it’s not your colleagues who are forgetting to remember the ladies? I think it’s good advice–after all, as Trevor Burnard’s work on Thomas Thistlewood demonstrates, one of the key tools masters and their white striver lackeys have is the ability to exploit petty jealousies, including sexual jealousies, among and between enslaved men and women. (And of course, the master’s/overseer’s complete access to African American as well as European American women’s bodies was a hyooooge means by which men competed for status and control with other men.)

As to your point and Indyanna’s about whether or not AW/borderlands/transnational frameworks necessarily marginalize women or individuals in general: no, but that’s how they end up working in my experience, because of the tendency (as you say) for the “systems” to eclipse those who are the victims/mere laboring, suffering, and dying bodies. That’s what I was getting at in my comment–sorry to have collapsed it all into one unsophisticated fallen souffle! (I sure as hell think one can do a LOT with gender and political or military history, as I have done myself I think–but we are vox clamantis in deserto.)

And, THE and Susan–thanks! Why not come on down yourselves next year to Mississippi? I was just talking to Susan Sleeper-Smith at lunch today–if we don’t go, and if we don’t do it, we can’t really b!tch about the lack of presence of women’s history at early American conferences. (Here’s the link for the curious–come on down, one and all!)

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By: John S. http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/30/what-about-women-in-early-american-history-in-which-historiann-and-friends-get-up-on-their-high-horses-and-rope-em-up-good/comment-page-1/#comment-352325 Tue, 30 Jun 2009 23:04:18 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5846#comment-352325 Oh, I wish I had been at the conference! This brings to mind two things for me. I’m switching gears for the new book, writing about culture and power on a slave plantation. Part of the project involves examining contests between slave owner and enslaved men over gender and honor. I circulated a draft of a project proposal to some colleagues in the department, asking for feedback. First comment: where are the women? (NB: it’s not like I am *ignoring* enslaved women here. But for a variety of reasons, including available documentation, I’m focusing on masculinity.)I predicted the critique, and sure enough it came.

Something else has hit me as I have begun to dive back into this historiography. There’s been a great deal of great work done in the last decade on the history of *slavery*–but not as much on the history of *slaves*. We’ve learned more about the place of unfree labor in the political economy of the imperial Atlantic world than we have about the lived experiences of enslaved peoples.

This could just be my reading of the literature, of course, but it does speak to Indyanna’s point as well. I’ve never felt that studying colonialism in the Atlantic world is an inherently neotraditional project–I think much of this scholarship is intended to critique or subvert traditional “imperial history” narratives. But the turn towards studying the “systems” does tend to privilege institutional actors (nearly always elite white men) at the expense of the “acted upon.” Just my two cents.

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By: Indyanna http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/30/what-about-women-in-early-american-history-in-which-historiann-and-friends-get-up-on-their-high-horses-and-rope-em-up-good/comment-page-1/#comment-352255 Tue, 30 Jun 2009 22:23:45 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5846#comment-352255 This is a great summary and analysis, Historiann. It’s amazing that you could be both a panelist/presenter and a faithful and nuanced recorder of such a wide ranging discussion. I’m not a hundred percent convinced that practice areas such as Atlantic and borderlands are as “neotraditional” as you suggest, or that the subcategories mentioned (political and military) would inherently preclude the inclusion of women as central actors, but I guess that’s the burden of much of the evidence so far. Hope you had a good run up to (East?) Lansing today and collected a lot of good stuff.

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By: Susan http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/30/what-about-women-in-early-american-history-in-which-historiann-and-friends-get-up-on-their-high-horses-and-rope-em-up-good/comment-page-1/#comment-352107 Tue, 30 Jun 2009 20:14:52 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5846#comment-352107 Sounds like a terrific session!

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By: The History Enthusiast http://www.historiann.com/2009/06/30/what-about-women-in-early-american-history-in-which-historiann-and-friends-get-up-on-their-high-horses-and-rope-em-up-good/comment-page-1/#comment-351945 Tue, 30 Jun 2009 15:15:44 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/?p=5846#comment-351945 Excellent post! I wish I had been able to attend the conference; I went to one a few years back and it was wonderful.

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