Archive for June, 2009

June 17th 2009
Since when is faster necessarily better?

Posted under jobs & students


"I'm late! I'm late!"

In “Fast Tracking a Ph.D.,” Judy Beth Morris assures us that earning a Ph.D. in three years is possible.  While university presidents and deans of graduate schools everywhere will be thrilled to read her article, I’m not sure why the rest of us should be excited–just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s desirable.  Morris explains how she earned a Ph.D. in Communications in under 3 years:  careful mapping of coursework, a supportive advisor, and above all, a relentless focus on the dissertation:

It’s essential to zero in on a dissertation topic as soon in the process as you can. I figured out pretty quickly what I wanted to do with my dissertation; I had the first chapter by the end of my first semester. The professor of the film history class I took that first semester assured me that it was a worthwhile dissertation topic: the “extended adolescence” of Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy films and how and why the films resonated with Depression-era audiences. I knew that I would have fun researching this topic, so getting it done was not going to be a problem. Thus, the “dissertation topic” piece fell into place for me.  (Ed. note:  why the scare quotes around “dissertation topic?”) Continue Reading »


June 17th 2009

Posted under American history & art & fluff

aspin1Yes–CanadaGoose and Meg were correct:  I spent Monday night and Tuesday in Aspen.  (Or, “Aspin,” as Harry and Lloyd might call it.)  It was the usual Colorado mountain town mix of swells, old hippies, college ski bum waiters, immigrant seasonal laborers, and the strolling poor–only moreso.  I can see why all of the Hollywood types like it–it looks exactly like a set design of a Colorado mountain town. 

As for yesterday’s quiz, I thought the “Thumbing Station” sign gave it away graphically, with its striking similarity to the design of a famous American’s first political campaign poster.  Regardez, encore:

Continue Reading »


June 16th 2009
Tuesday morning mountain town blogging: hitchin’ a ride

Posted under fluff

thumbingstationHello, friends!  Famille Historiann is on its way East again to return to the High Plains Desert and our little ranch on the plains.  (And what a stall-mucking awaits us when we return!  Horse sitters ain’t what they used to be, I tell ya.)

I thought I’d share with you a little clue as to where we landed yesterday afternoon, and where we’ll be spending some of the day today.  This town is like Martha’s Vineyard in that it’s one of the last places one can hitchhike without (much) fear–see the photo of the designated “Thumbing Station” (like a Bus Stop) sign at left. Like Martha’s Vineyard, this is probably because this is an isolated and rather exclusive little town–it got a lot of attention in the 1970s as one of the few places in the U.S. where the Sixties still raged on.

The first commenter to guess our exact location wins a Historiann tee-shirt!  (As in, from my dresser drawer.  I don’t have a blog tee-shirt designed yet.)  Carry on with the discussion in the archives below, or guess away in this thread!


June 14th 2009
Librarians, archivists, and access to archives

Posted under American history & Gender & unhappy endings & weirdness & women's history

archivesIf we all are to take Sister Agnes’s advice and consult manuscript archival material, we all must rely on the goodwill and advice of librarians and archivists.  I have never run into any problems getting access to the sources I wanted to see, since my research has been in U.S. and Canadian libraries and archives, some public but mostly private, reasonably well-funded and staffed by professionals.  Other, less affluent countries can’t offer scholars the same access and professionalism–for example, the chair of my department tells stories of research in Venezuela, where the archives he works in may be randomly closed because of a saint’s feast day, other religious festivals that may close the archives for weeks on end, or simply because they don’t have the money to turn the lights on.  I have heard similar stories about research in provincial Russian archives from other friends.

I’ve been fortunate, in that most of the librarians, archivists, and curators who have assisted me have been really interested in my research and eager to share their particular knowledge with me–their expertise has unquestionably enriched my research.  But, I have heard other people’s stories–and they have told stories about archivists who see themselves as gatekeepers of the archives rather than ambassadors between primary sources and researchers.  For example–Notorious, Ph.D. tells a story of an archivist who maybe–maybe–is coming to see her as a serious scholar because of her persistence over the past decade, but for much of that decade, he wasn’t especially friendly or helpful to her.

The worst story about archival gatekeeping I’ve ever heard has nothing to do with lack of resources, but rather, with the fact that a quirky personality was permitted to assume too much authority over records owned by a major research library.  Continue Reading »


June 12th 2009
Historiann wonders: jealous, much?

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & wankers & women's history

attack50ftwomanPer Thursday’s post at Tenured Radical about the silly panic at the New York Times that “traditional” history is imperiled because, well, cherchez la femme, here’s another take by Mary L. Dudziak at Legal History Blog (and h/t to Mary for the most excellent graphic, at left!).  She asks, “[w]hy a backward-looking article about the way the pie should be divided, when the more pressing news story is the impact of the economic crisis on the next generation of historians, regardless of field?”

“Anonymous” asks a similar question back in the thread at Tenured Radical, to wit:  “What’s up with the NYT and its shoddy coverage of everything that related to academia? What’s the source of its hostility/ ignorance?”  (Remember this little fracas, friends?)  Historiann would like to propose an answer to that simple question, which I think can be applied to most people working in print journalism these days: Continue Reading »


June 11th 2009
Thursday round-up: Wasatch Front edition, giddyap!

Posted under American history & book reviews & fluff & Gender & wankers & women's history

cowgirlwagonWell, we’re getting ready to start the fun tomorrow morning at the Fifteenth Annual Omohundro Institute Conference at the University of Utah.  We had a wild ride across Wyoming yesterday–stormy but beautiful, and it’s pretty rainy here, too–seems more like Seattle than Salt Lake, but fortunately, I’m ready for anything.  Here are a few little tidbits and bon mots to keep you amused while I’m otherwise engaged tomorrow:


June 10th 2009
Bootin’ up and scootin’ West

Posted under American history & conferences & local news

cowgirlrarintogoLa famille Historiann is on its way into the western desert this morning–for a little fun, a lot of sun, and oh yeah–an “eastern” history conference in the intermountain West–remarkable!  When I moved out to the Colorado territory, I figured that I dropped off the edge of the known world according to early Americanists.  (A girl can dream, can’t she?)  Well, we like to support our friends at the University of Utah, Brigham Young, and Weber State–and I hope to see some of you there, too.  Be sure to introduce yourselves if we haven’t met.

I’ll be checking in from the road when I can–now all y’all behave yourselves, and don’t do anything Historiann wouldn’t do!  That should leave you a sufficiently long to-do list, friends.


June 9th 2009
Lesson for girls: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Posted under Gender & jobs & women's history

moneymoneymoneyBavardess has posted another lesson for girlsIf you don’t ask, you don’t get.  As in, negotiate your salary, don’t just take the first offer like a chump.  She writes:

Money is not inherently dirty and it is not a character flaw in women to want more of it. . . Asking to be properly remunerated for what you do doesn’t make you arrogant or selfish or greedy. Dealing fairly but firmly in pay negotiations does not make you an aggressive b!tch. It makes you smart.

Right on!  Except–as I noted when Dr. Crazy posted about this a few months ago–pay inequities will still exist even if every woman in the world negotiates her salary just like her male peers.  (What–you thought that patriarchal equilibrium was due to women not driving a hard bargain with job offers?  Sorry, darlings!  Patriarchal equilibrium stops for no woman.)  While negotiating is absolutely the right way to go, the fact remains that women are still expected to work for less money or for free not because they didn’t negotiate, but because they’re women.  And, women who act like professionals and negotiate their salary may be treated poorly and have it held against them, as my own experience bears out.  (Remember Mister “This isn’t a game to me!” ?)  I still think it was worth it to negotiate–but the fact is that while individuals and institutions expect men to negotiate, negotiating in women is gender queer, and is likely to be read as more “aggressive” and “pushy” in women than in men, so it’s not likely to be rewarded in the same way that it’s rewarded in men.  Mission accomplished!  Salary gap preserved.

Interestingly, when  Bavardess’s post came across the transom, I was already planning to highlight this question at Inside Higher Ed’s “Survival Guide” advice column from a senior woman scholar about how to achieve salary parity with the men in her department: Continue Reading »


June 8th 2009
Sister Agnes explains why you still need to visit the archives

Posted under American history & Berkshire Conference & Dolls & European history & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & publication & women's history


Sister Agnes schools us on the archives

Like many historians, I have more than once discovered that the published version of a primary source is incomplete or even misleading when checked against the archival source.  One of my first missions as a graduate student was locating the archival court records for a New England colony whose records were published except for some cases of adolescent boys and young adult men who were convicted of sodomy.  (The sensibilities of the Victorian-era editor of the town court records were too delicate to include the details of those cases, and those cases only.) 

Indeed, the intimate details of historical documents–the marginalia, the burn holes, the water stains, the ink splotches, few of which are reproducible in published form or legible on microfilm or even in digitized versions–are some of the greatest pleasures of being a historian, archivist or librarian.  I have long felt that intimacy with the documents is not just desirable, but necessary–not just to be sure that published records haven’t introduced errors in my research, but because I like to touch things that the people I write about have touched.  I like seeing whose handwriting is clear and the product of an educated hand, and whose handwriting is crude and full of non-standard or phonetic spellings.  The rare letter from a desperate Anglo-American woman on the Maine frontier looks a lot different than an official dispatch from Governor Dudley, and those differences are flattened when the documents are published in books or transcribed digitally.  That stuff matters to me.

The immediacy and sheer volume of historical materials available on the world wide (and as it turns out, not peer-reviewed) internets demands our continued scrutiny and vigilance.  Here’s a recent lesson by Sister Agnes, who spent some time in a European archive recently and discovered that the compiler of an on-line series of summaries of medieval monastic charters provided false or incomplete data: Continue Reading »


June 7th 2009
Yippee ki yi yay, Mr. and Mrs. Stoltzfus! Hope you like cactus farming.

Posted under American history & local news


Photo by Alysia Patterson for the Associated Press

The Amish are coming!  The Amish are coming!  To Colorado, that is:

“The reason we moved out West is the farm land is a little bit cheaper and it’s not as heavily populated, a little more open space and a little more opportunity for young people to get started with their own farms,” said Ben Coblentz, a 47-year-old alfalfa farmer from Indiana.

“The general public seems to have a little slower pace of life than what it was back East. Everybody here respects us.”

Of an estimated 231,000 Amish nationwide, more than 60 percent still live in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana.

But from 2002 to 2008, Colorado’s Amish population went from zero to more than 400, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Pennsylvania’s Elizabethtown College.

The headline of the Denver Post article is “Colo. land prices luring Amish,” and it states that “Cropland is worth an average $1,400 per acre in Colorado, compared with $6,000 in Pennsylvania and about $4,000 in Ohio and Indiana, according to a 2007 census by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cropland values jumped 17 percent from 2006 to 2007 in Pennsylvania, but only 6 percent in Colorado.” 

Uhm, has anyone explained to them exactly why land in the San Luis Valley is so much cheaper than in the East?  Continue Reading »


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