Archive for the 'captivity' Category

March 2nd 2013
New research on Nazi slave labor camps shocks even Holocaust scholars

Posted under captivity & Gender & Intersectionality & race & the body & unhappy endings & women's history

This is certainly shocking to me as well. From the New York Times article:

[R]esearchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.

The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.

Interestingly, the researchers at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. have uncovered a number of camps and slave labor sites in which sexuality and reproduction were central to the torture inflicted on women.  Continue Reading »

10 Comments »

February 10th 2013
No wonder Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique

Posted under American history & captivity & class & Gender & weirdness & women's history

As most of you probably know, this year is The Feminine Mystique‘s fiftieth anniversary. For those of you who wonder why she wrote it, here’s a two-minute and 46-second explanation.

It’s worth seeing the whole video to get to the woman in diamonds and furs peeling potatoes at the end. Can you guess what’s on her head? (I kind of felt for the daschund in the jeweled toque.) The Pathé Fashion Archive is full of fascinating little timewasters–enjoy!

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December 20th 2012
The big reveal! Historiann has a face for C-SPAN 3.

Posted under American history & captivity & childhood & class & Gender & race & students & the body & women's history

You can see me lecturing to my HIST 358:  American Women’s History to 1800 students from this semester on the politics of early American women’s underwear (srsly!) on C-SPAN 3, American History TV, this weekend.  I’m on Saturday 8 p.m. EST/6 p.m. MST, again on Saturday at midnight/10 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m./11 a.m.  If (like me) you don’t get C-SPAN 3, it streams online over the weekend, too.  I also throw in some bits about the 600-year old bra, John Paul Gaultier, and Madonna into the lecture, just for laughs.

(Amazingly enough, there is a blog called Eighteenth-Century Stays, where you can see more photos like the one’s I’ve borrowed here, as well as other examples of both eighteenth- and seventeenth-century stays, with instructions for how to make them yourself.)

How did I get interested in early American undergarments, and why on earth do I think this is an appropriate subject for an undergraduate student lecture?  Continue Reading »

25 Comments »

March 24th 2012
Falling down the Alice of Old Vincennes digital rabbit hole

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & captivity

“Alice of Old Vincennes” float, 1929

I know that I promised around the New Year not to buy any more books.  I’ve held to that promise, and have been pestering my subject-area librarian at Baa Ram U. with requests, as well as drawing heavily on our in-state library exchange system.  It’s been fantastic to read, enjoy, and return the books I’ve been reading!

However, as I warned you, I might make an exception for books I find in used book shops and old junk stores, and I’m afraid that last Sunday I did buy a book, Alice of Old Vincennes by Maurice Thompson (Indianapolis:  The Bowen-Merrell Company, 1900), which was a popular smash and among the top ten best-selling books of 1900 and 1901.  I paid all of $4.50 for my first edition copy, although you can pay eight or nine times more for it online.  (I love my old junk store haunts here in Northern Colorado!)

Who cares about some musty historical novel from the last century?  I bought the book because it is a story built around the capture of Fort Vincennes (now Vincennes, Indiana) from the British in 1779 during the War of the American Revolution.  Vincennes was originally a French fort, and the book purports to tell the story of a beautiful but willlful orphaned teenager named Alice who was adopted by a prominent French family at Vincennes.  Of course, SPOILER ALERT, she turns out to have been originally an Anglo-American girl who as a child was taken captive by Indians before she was “rescued” by the French family that raised her.  In short, it’s a typical turn-of-the-twentieth-century set-piece of Colonial Revival romanticism that portrays the French and Indian presence in the Old Northwest as a charming but doomed relict of the past, and it comes complete with the dashing young Anglo-American military hero ready to sweep Alice off her feet and return her to life among English- speaking Protestants.

Why are you still reading this post?  This is a post not so much about Alice of Old Vincennes as it is about the amazing power of the internets to elucidate and explain what otherwise would have been a long-forgotten historical novel that would interest few of us as a literary novel.  Continue Reading »

19 Comments »

October 16th 2011
Sunday round-up: friends & neighbors edition

Posted under American history & art & bad language & book reviews & captivity & childhood & Gender & wankers & weirdness

Me & my best friend!

Howdy, friends!  It’s lovely, sunny, and warm, so I’m off on a run.  Here are some interesting tidbits I found elsewhere on the world-wide timewasting web for those of you not enjoying perfect autumn weather today:

  • Via RealClearBooks, Eleanor Barkhorn on “What Jeffrey Eugenidies Doesn’t Understand About Women,” after reading his new book, The Marriage Plot:  “There’s one way, however, in which [the protagonist] Madeleine defies believability: She has no true female friends. Yes, she has roommates and a sister with whom she once had ‘heavy’ emotional conversations, but these relationships are characterized more by spite than affection. And, sadly, The Marriage Plot is just the latest story to forget to give its heroine friends. There are countless other Madeleines in modern-day literature and film: smart, self-assured women who have all the trappings of contemporary womanhood except a group of friends to confide in.”  Have you noticed this about recent books and films?  I have to say that I hadn’t until Barkhorn pointed it out.  She concludes, “The great irony, of course, is that the old-fashioned, marriage-plot-bound books that Eugenides attempts to modernize in his new novel actually do a better job of portraying female friendship than The Marriage Plot.”  I think I may read this anyway–a library codex copy of the book, of course–because I’m a huge fan of “marriage plot” authors like Jane Austen and the many Brontes, but Barkhorn makes an interesting argument here.
  • Isn’t it cute when right-wing religious nuts start condemning each other to hell?  Robert Jeffress vs. Bill Donahue, plus all Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, of course.  Taking victimology to new heights, Anita Perry cries that her handsome husband Rick has been “brutalized . . . because of his faith.”  Mark my words:  the majority of Americans will not reward this kind of religious pride, which just stinks of hubris and un-neighborliness.  Even if they privately agree with him, Americans are fundamentally uncomfortable with the Jeffress style of public religious condemnation.
  • 1970s flashback:  Do any of you remember the sensational book Sybil, about the girl with multiple personality disorder?  Continue Reading »

11 Comments »

October 7th 2011
American ingenuity: Steve Jobbed?

Posted under American history & captivity & class & technoskepticism

Has the over-the-top coverage of the sadly premature death of Steve Jobs (1955-2011) struck anyone as perhaps a telling sign of anxiety over the prospect of American decline?  Specifically, I’m writing about the decline in technological innovation, but I think it speaks to anxities about the future of the United States in all kinds of global leadership questions as well as the current state of the U.S. economy.

From my perspective, Jobs is an odd person to lionize.  Don’t get me wrong–he helped develop and sell a number of remarkably nifty gadgets, but he wasn’t the inventor.  He was the CEO of Apple–a company that moved most of its manufacturing to China.  Continue Reading »

49 Comments »

September 22nd 2011
I can’t get out of what I’m into

Posted under American history & art & bad language & captivity & Gender & GLBTQ & the body & women's history

WARNING: NSFW or young children.

‘Cos it’s a steady job
And it’s the only thing that makes me money Continue Reading »

9 Comments »

March 22nd 2011
Sexism at The Nation? Surely not!

Posted under American history & bad language & captivity & Gender & publication & wankers & women's history

UPDATED MARCH 23: POLLITT RESPONDS, HISTORIANN RETRACTS SNARKY BITS

Then don't bother writing for The Nation, darling!

Via TalkLeft, we learn that Katha Pollitt is (once again) shocked, shocked to find there’s sexism at the house organ of the so-called American “Left,”  The Nation magazine!

It’s been a long time since anyone seriously maintained that women in power, simply by virtue of their gender, are reliably less warlike than men—how could they be, given that men set up and control the system through which those women must rise? But apparently Nation blogger Robert Dreyfuss has just noticed this fact.

In a post entitled “Obama’s Women Advisers Pushed War Against Libya” (originally titled “Obama’s Women” tout court) he’s shocked-shocked-shocked that UN Ambassador Susan Rice, human-rights adviser Samantha Power and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were keen on intervening militarily in Libya. The piece is dotted with arch and sexist language—the advisers are a “troika,” a “trio” who “rode roughshod over the realists in the administration” (all men) and “pushed Obama to war.” Now it’s up to the henpecked President to “reign (sic) in his warrior women.” Interestingly, the same trope—ballbreaking women ganging up on a weak president—is all over the rightwing blogosphere.

.       .       .       .      .       .      .       .      

[C]an you imagine a piece in The Nation titled “Black President Opts for Bombs” or “Qaddafi, a Man, Threatens to Massacre Rebels, Most of Whom Are Also Men”?

Misogyny—it’s the last acceptable prejudice of the left.  Continue Reading »

35 Comments »

March 16th 2011
History and humor

Posted under American history & art & captivity & childhood & Gender & Intersectionality & publication & unhappy endings & women's history

Sit down and let me pour you a cup!

As you may have noticed if you are a regular reader of this blog, I like teh funny, and even if my sense of humor ain’t exactly your cuppa joe, I like to write to amuse myself, at least.  My problem now is that I can’t find a lot of humor in the book I’m writing.  I wrote a book about guys and guns and warfare in the Northeastern borderlands of what’s now the U.S. and Canada, so although that wasn’t a happy story for most of the people I wrote about, there were a lot of really fatuous English men and women I could mock in that book.  I realize it’s a low trick, but having a mockable bad guy or set of bad guys in your book is one way to leaven the story and add a little humor.  After writing about warfare for the better part of a decade, I looked forward to what I imagined to be a retreat into the relative safety and comfort of the cloister in order to write about a little English girl (Esther Wheelwright, 1696-1780) who was taken captive by the Indians at 7 and wound up in the Ursuline convent in Quebec at the age of 12, where she remained for the rest of her life.  

But, the problem for me right now is that there just isn’t a lot of humor in the story of a little girl whose life was filled with warfare and trauma for her English family, and the starvation, disease, and eventual destrution of her Indian family.  She arrived safely at the monastery and lived to the age of 84, but early modern nuns are just so earnest with their apostolic missions, such do-gooders that I haven’t found a lot of humor or texture in that part of the story, either.  They were not late medieval mystics who wrote long, fantastic narratives or offered descriptions of the various ways in which they mortified their bodies.  They were not aristocratic European nuns who flaunted their wealth and had men jumping in and out of their cells in between secret plots to make another Borgia prince the Pope.  They were teachers!  I’m a teacher, and many of you reading this are teachers–you know how boring and earnest we all are!  Who wants to read about about a bunch of teachers?   

In short, I have a humor problem with this book, and no really obvious bad guys to target for the cheap yuks.  (At least I’m having a hard time making scurvy and smallpox variola take the fall for everything.) Continue Reading »

24 Comments »

December 22nd 2010
Christmas shopping for the kids just got a lot easier!

Posted under captivity & childhood & Dolls & Gender & wankers

All kids love log!

Have you heard the pseudo-scientific news?  Human girls are biologically programmed to play with dollies like little mommies!  A recent study suggests that female juvenile chimps play with sticks and nurture them like babies, whereas male juveniles turn their sticks into weapons or other manly toys–it’s scientifically proven.  Echidne has the goods, as I knew she would.  She’s got an interesting follow-up post on a 2007 study of a Senagalese chimp community that found that female adult chimps led the way in tool-making and killing in their communities–but as she notes, that study didn’t go viral now, did it?  She writes, “[I]t’s every bit as significant as the new stick study, only it shows female chimps as tool makers and as killers. So are we going to draw conclusions about human society from that one, too?”

One of the aspects of these studies that purport to show the essential or biological basis for gendered behaviors in humans is how selective we are in looking to the non-human animal kingdom for justification of human behaviors.  After all, what is “natural” behavior?  $hitting outdoors, scratching our crotches, and smearing our scent everywhere is “natural,” I suppose.  Human societies have developed multiple different technologies and etiquettes for dealing with all of these “natural” needs and urges.  Continue Reading »

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