A number of us returned from the (excellent!) Omohundro Institute Conference in Halifax this spring with a sense of uneasiness. While the program was truly impressive, it did not include a single panel devoted to women/gender issues. Given the strength of the field, this is truly troubling. And we want to make sure that this does not happen again.
It’s true. I reviewed the program, paper-by-paper, and while there were two paper titles that specifically mentioned women as historical subjects, they weren’t about women’s or gender history: Megan Hatfield of the University of Miami gave a paper subtitled “War, Family, and the Transformation of Identity in the life of Eliza Pinckney,” and Rachel Hermann of Southampton University spoke on “‘Their Filthy Trash:’ Food, War, and Anglo-Indian Conflict in Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative,” (a subject I’ve written about before, in Abraham in Arms.) CORRECTION, 7:45 P.M. MDT: I missed Craig Bruce Smith’s paper on “Women of Honor: Feminine Evolution through Dedication to the American Revolution. That said, there were twice as many men named Craig on the program as there were papers focusing on women with a gendered lense. Skemp continues:
As someone who has served on the Omohundro Council, and who has been an annual conference chair, I have agreed to be the one to reach out to all of you, urging you–and even more asking you to urge your graduate students–to think seriously about submitting proposals to next year’s conference.
When the Institute first began its annual conferences, it did so hoping to feature the work of graduate students and young scholars. That mission has not changed. So please, do, encourage your promising students to formulate panels dealing with women and gender issues, or to submit individual paper proposals. And of course, please think about submitting something of your own.
Don’t hesitate to write me or [Omohundro Institute Director] Karin Wulf if you have any questions. And don’t hesitate to forward this plea to whomever.
What is up with this bull$hit, friends? Historiann takes a year or two off from the conference, and there’s nothing directly in my field on the program? I don’t train Ph.D. students, so I can be of only limited help on my own. What’s going on, aside from the fact that social justice issues require continual vigilance and don’t fix themselves? Are there not enough women proffies at top research universities training students in women’s and gender history? Are graduate students disinterested in women’s and gender history (or the history of sexuality?) Did this year’s program committee just not care to include anything on this subject on the program?
It is literally unimaginable to me that the Omohundro Institute, or any major conference, would go forward without any representation of men or men’s history on the program unless it were advertised specifically as a women’s history conference (and even then–the Berkshire Conference always has loads of content based on men as historical actors and subjects). We know how sensitive people get when men are left out of anything! If only they were as exquisitely sensitive to the exclusion of women as historical subjects.
The twentieth annual conference program was loaded with empires, mariners, soldiers, and wars (from the Pequot War through the War of 1812!), and of course since it was held in Halifax, loyalists, loyalists, and more loyalists! (And still more loyalists, because that’s the only reason most early Anglo-American historians teaching in the U.S. ever mention Nova Scotia!)
But I digress: WTF? Preach!