- Perspectives on Teaching Women's History:Views from the Classroom, the Library, and the Internet
Welcome aboard, everyone. Thanks for agreeing to participate in an electronic forum about teaching women's history.
In preparing to teach a women's history course for the first time, I was disappointed to discover few recent discussions of strategies for teaching specific to women's history. Although examining other teachers' syllabi is instructive (and made easy by the Internet), I remained curious about why certain choices were made. Recognizing that many teaching strategies are contingent on institutional opportunities and constraints, it nevertheless seems worthwhile to launch a forum where we discuss and debate questions of pedagogy in women's history. While choosing texts, designing assignments, apportioning class time, using technology, and evaluating students are subjects that pertain to all of our teaching, it should prove interesting to explore these issues as they relate to women's history courses in particular. At the very least, we can provide a guide for those designing courses for the first time or seeking to modify existing courses.
I'm on a postdoctoral fellowship at Florida International University, a public university in Miami, where I'm teaching women's history for the first time—specifically, a course on U.S. Women's History (since Reconstruction). Although trained in women's history at Ohio State University, where I earned my Ph.D., I did not have an opportunity in graduate school to teach women's history. I have, however, taught numerous sections of U.S. history survey and a number of interdisciplinary women's studies courses.
One of the issues I'm currently dealing with relates to my choice of readings. I assigned as one of my books Linda Gordon's The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction, thinking it was a good example of recent scholarship in U.S. women's history, an interesting narrative full of drama and suspense, and a text that admirably treats the issues of race/ethnicity and gender.1 My students, however, are intimidated by the text: over 300 pages of text and copious information about mining communities—what I consider outstanding social and labor history and they consider boring! I think there's a lot you can do with this book without asking students to read every word, but the question on my mind is about using texts that challenge students, few of whom seem to enjoy reading, versus selecting those that seem "easy" [End Page 143] or more "friendly." The broader question, then, is what informs your choices of readings—monographs, textbooks, auto/biographies, fiction, readers, and primary sources? Is popularity among students a factor, and if so, how significant?
Feel free to address these questions or pose others in your introductions. Looking forward to hearing from you all.——Susan Freeman
My name is Donna Guy and I am a professor of history at Ohio State University. I have taught and written about the history of women and the state in Argentina and Latin America for many years. I am part of the generation that had to construct women's history courses without having been trained in the field, as well as a person who has taught what is considered third-world history to first-world feminists, which is an issue unto itself. I look forward to communicating with all of you.——Donna
Hi Susan and all, I teach modern European women's and gender history at the University of California at Santa Barbara and actually had spent four years teaching history at Florida International (British history and European women's history) before I came here. I also teach women's history at the graduate level and have worked with several colleagues to introduce gender history as an exam field for the Ph.D.
I received my Ph.D. at Rutgers University in 1993 so unlike most people (except Tammy Proctor, who came out of the same program), I had a relatively extensive training in women's history that was focused...