This article utilizes qualitative methods to explore changes in women’s representation in a specific historical topic: World War II narratives. On one hand, war discourse is fundamental to the historical understanding of politics in many parts of the world. Furthermore, since the time World War II narratives first appeared in school textbooks, women’s status has significantly increased around the world and in the United States. As a result, these narratives provide an interesting case to examine historical and enduring gender roles and power structures. Using a collection of twelve U.S. history secondary school textbooks published between the years 1956 and 2007 and used in California’s public schools, we employ a modified version of Mary Kay Thompson Tetreault’s (1986) five stages of thinking about women’s history as our coding scheme. Our findings reveal not only greater mentions of women in newer textbooks, but also a greater use of compensatory and “bi-focal” narratives. However, we argue that these more recent texts still fall far short of adopting multifocal, relational narratives that challenge hegemonic gender relations.


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pp. 68-88
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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