Taft is an interesting case–being fat certainly didn’t shorten his life (1857-1930) relative to those of his age peers. He lived to the ripe age of 72, when the average life expectancy for people born around 1860 was still in the low forties. (That’s a crude average that probably counts people who died in infancy and childhood, so it’s extraordinarily low. But still–his longevity was pretty impressive.) I’m sure his abstention from both drinking and smoking helps explain his lifespan. Here’s something equally impressive: he was not famous for telling people to “shut up” when they talk about issues that he himself has raised. How would that have sounded in a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court? (Taft, like John Quincy Adams, went on to a post-presidential career that was more distinguished than his presidency.)
Archive for the 'women’s history' Category
Many of you probably heard about North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s attack on liberal arts education on the Bill Bennett Old-Timey 180-Minute Hate Radio Program. He argued that the state should invest its money in fields like “mechanics” instead of liberal arts degrees, because vocational training will help North Carolinians get jobs. (Is he unfamiliar with his state’s community colleges, which offer a range of Vo-Tech programs? I guess so.)
Have you ever heard of that old story about Winston Churchill refusing to engage in a battle of wits against an unarmed man? McCrory’s comments were more of the seat-of-the-pants playing-to-the base pulled-out-of-his-a$$ kind, and far from a well-crafted policy paper or legislative proposal, but historian Lisa Levenstein of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, has published a vigorous response arguing for the value of the liberal arts, and even for the value of women’s studies programs in an op-ed at News-Record.com:
Today’s labor force also depends on work by women, who now comprise about half of all U.S. workers. Yet McCrory exhibited particular disdain for courses in “gender studies,” suggesting that this discipline has nothing useful to contribute to the challenges confronting North Carolinians. At UNCG, teachers and students in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program explore pressing issues ranging from breast cancer to homelessness. They create strategies to eradicate domestic violence and analyze how women’s labor force participation fosters global economic development.
Graduates of the program have built meaningful careers as counselors, sign language interpreters, teachers and advocates for the mentally ill, positions that not only contribute to the economy but also foster the well-being of our communities. These students are workers, parents and engaged citizens, and they make our lives better. Continue Reading »
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!
I finally had an opportunity to see Game Change, HBO’s fictionalized account of the John McCain campaign for president in in 2008 and his selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. It was really good! Although I was certainly not a McCain/Palin voter, even I was drawn into the drama of the campaign as Palin was selected and tested in various venues. And although it was certainly very critical of Palin’s preparedness for the job of Vice President, it was also sympathetic to her in that she realizes that she’s out of her depth. It portrays her as a very good small-town or small-state politician who knows she’s no policy wonk but who recognizes very quickly that she’s nevertheless the star of the 2008 campaign.
The movie does a smart job of invoking the particularly eventful campaign year of 2008, leading the viewer to understand why Palin was ever considered in the first place, and why she emerged victorious over other potential running mates. (Hint: her extreme abortion politics, which are not shared by the vast majority of prominent Republican women pols, were decisive–at least according to the script, which was based on the book by the same name by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.)
Game Change called to mind Tina Brown’s portrayal of Diana in her recent biography, The Diana Chronicles, in which a political naif is selected to play a starring role on the national and global stage. Continue Reading »
NPR featured a story tonight about how poorly compensated home health care work is. Currently, they are not entitled either to the minimum wage nor to overtime pay. Most make between $8-10/hr., while the company that employs them pockets the $18/hr. payment from Medicare. Spokespersons for the home health-care industry were permitted to whinge and whine about the terrible hardship that a minimum wage and overtime requirements would put on their businesses.
The tone of the story tilted towards compassion for the workers and their clients, but they story’s historical perspective looked back only 40 years when I think a critical component of this story is the longue durée of this kind of low wage work, work that now (as in the past going back at least 500 years) is performed overwhelmingly by working-class women, and in the Americas for the most part, by black and brown-skinned working-class women.
Intimate body care has never been a well-compensated occupation. Continue Reading »
I heard your classroom teaching “clothes of the 17th-18th century” It sounded like you were obsessed with breasts, and fully made that your focal point to those innocent brains of the all female class.* NO-not all slaves walked around bare breasted, and in fact, few ever did if you researched the truth.** Just why in the hell have you made this your theme in the class instead of talking about basic items, like dresses, suits, dress up ideology in those days.*** You must be one of those liberals trying to start a sex week on campus there?****
And it would have worked too if it weren’t for those meddling C-SPAN 3 cameras!
On a more serious note: my C-SPAN lecture has re-opened my eyes to the power of television. Continue Reading »
Now that we have unisex bathrooms (in many places, they’re disguised under the sneakily wholesome name “family bathroom”) and women fully recognized for the combat roles they’ve played in the past few wars, can we have an Equal Rights Amendment? I haven’t checked in with Phyllis Schlafly recently, but as I recall, her Eagle Forum was full of dark warnings about the fate of the republic should unisex bathrooms and women in combat ever come to pass.
But lo: the sun still rises on Columbia in the East! And don’t tell Mrs. Schlafly, but there are several states that permit not just unisex bathrooms or same-sex civil unions but gay marriage. Shhhhhhhh! Continue Reading »
I’ve been informed that my lecture on stays, material culture, and early American women’s history will air again this weekend on C-SPAN 3: Saturday at 11:20 a.m., Sunday at 6:20 a.m. (for the after-hours crowd, I guess, or the extremely bored parents of insanely early-rising infants), and Monday morning at 7:20, EST.
Of course, the streaming video is still available, at any hour of the day or night that suits you.
For the real costume history junkies among you: check out this video of a woman dressing another one in Ursuline choir nun habit. (Follow that link, then click the link on the right side of the page under “Vidéos” that says, “L’habit religieux des Ursulines de Québec.”) It’s in French, as it’s on a website assembled by Laval University in Québec, but even non-French speakers can get the gist. Continue Reading »
Next week, I’ll start teaching a Senior Seminar called Life and Death in Early America. In reality, it’s mostly about death. I’ve thrown in some stuff about disease, dirt, starvation, cannibalism, abortion, and contraception, just to keep things lively (so to speak), but the fact is that there is a fascinating new literature on death in my field. Its common themes are: how the afterlife was imagined in different places, times, and cultures; how death was experienced and interpreted; and how the living cared for the dying and the dead.
Another of the key features of this emerging subfield is a focus on commemoration: how different cultures commemorate the dead, and why we remember some deaths and some of our dead and forget others. Thanks to Manti T’eo, his imaginary girlfriend’s imaginary death, a real St. Mary’s College student’s death, and to Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post, I’ve got a terrific contemporary hook for when we talk about the politics of commemoration. Henneberger explains:
So many tears for a fake dead girl, but none for a real one. The death of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s beautiful, brave girlfriend Lennay Kekau – widely reported by Sports Illustrated, CBS and many other media outlets — was all an elaborate hoax. So in response, my alma mater held the kind of emotional press conference for the fake dead girl that they never granted for the real one. As I’ve reported before, evidence that the University of Notre Dame covers up for sexual predators on the football team in hopes of winning some games has been mostly ignored. “Who can know?” my fellow alums asked, on their way to snap up some more “Play Like a Champion Today” tee-shirts ahead of the big game. But evidence that the school kept mum after learning that that the story of Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend, who as she lay dying urged him to fight on to victory anyway – gosh, just like the Gipper — was concocted from start to finish? Now that’s a national story, and a real gut-punch to fans, involving important matters like the pursuit of the Heisman Trophy. Continue Reading »
As I predicted earlier this week, the sneering, sexist dismissals of Hillary Clinton are back, baby. And just like in 2007 and 2008, it’s not right-wingers leading the charge–it’s people on the so-called “progressive” side of things. Meghan Daum writes in the Chicago Tribune today:
Clinton’s finale could hardly have been more dramatic. After falling ill with a stomach virus in early December, she fainted, suffered a concussion and landed in a hospital with a blood clot between her brain and skull. Meanwhile, her detractors drummed up conspiracy theories about “Benghazi fever,” and her supporters had a moment of genuine fear that Clinton might not be around to follow the script that so many have been writing for her over the last several years.
Really? Getting a tummy bug and a bump on the head is “more dramatic” than, for example, having a chronic heart condition (eventually requiring a heart transplant) and shooting a guy in the face? I thought that was a lot more dramatic, especially for someone considered perfectly fit to be a mechanical heartbeat away from the U.S. Presidency! And wait–what about choking on pretzel while watching a football game? Maybe that was more ridiculous than dramatic, but I’d hardly call Norovirus high drama. On to the comments about Clinton’s looks: Continue Reading »