Part II of Judith Bennett’s “History Matters” Women’s History Month book club. If you haven’t seen it already, go read Part I here.
When my copy of Judith Bennett’s History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism (2006) arrived on the doorstep earlier this winter, I sat down and devoured it. Yes, it was my constant companion, and even bedtime reading. At times in the initial chapters, it read like a feminist version of Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream,with bits of gossip dropped here and there (although, frustratingly, I wished that Bennett had dished more than she does–she doesn’t always provide citations when she suggests that people wrote or did something she disapproves of. However, if you’d like to know what a complete tool Lawrence Stone was, I can direct your attention to p. 14, footnote 36. The cited condescending book review is available by subscription only on-line, but you can get some of the flava by reading Joan Scott’s angry response here.) I love Bennett’s passionate, informed conviction that as women’s history has become more institutionalized and thus more distant from the women’s movement, it has lost something vital.
Last week over at Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar, several of us got into a discussion about the generational angle of Bennett’s book. In History Matters, Bennett writes about the excitement of being a graduate student in Toronto in the 1970s at the height of the modern women’s movement, coming out as a lesbian, and helping to invent women’s history all at the same time. She also writes about her keen disappointment that succeeding generations of women’s historians have lost the founders’ zeal–and although she doesn’t say specifically, my guess is that Generation X women like me are a big part of her disappointment. Continue Reading »