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Journal of Women's History 15.1 (2003) 10
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Women's History in the New Millennium
Rethinking Public and Private
Perhaps no concept has been more influential in the field of women's history than that of the distinction between public and private spheres. We have elaborated exceptions to the assumption that female was to private as male was to public, questioned the boundaries, envisaged them as overlapping, and rejected the dichotomy altogether. Yet can we really do without the concept? This was a question associate editor Birgitte Søland addressed in her classes at Ohio State University, resulting in a favorite Ph.D. examination question for women's history students. Given all the criticism, were the terms still useful, we asked?
We asked the same thing of the scholars whose reflections appear here. Approaching the question from the perspectives of British gender history, Brazilian women's history, dress studies, and Middle Eastern women's history, respectively, Leonore Davidoff, Sandra Lauderdale Graham, Carole Turbin, and Elizabeth Thompson provide various and provocative answers to the question. I guess our students are now off the hook.
——Leila J. Rupp