Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gloria Steinem and Rutgers University

Rutgers University and an Endowed Chair for Gloria Steinem

Rutgers announced today its campaign to create an endowed chair named for and in honor of feminist Gloria Steinem. From Rutgers Today, 29 September 2014:
Rutgers has launched a campaign to create an endowed chair named for Gloria Steinem – one of  the most prominent modern American feminists – that will focus on the creative and complex ways information technology and new media are reshaping culture and power relationships. 
The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies will be a unique collaboration among Rutgers' Institute for Women's Leadership, School of Communications and Information, and Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the School of Arts and Sciences.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Prudence Crandall, Education, and Integration

Honoring Prudence Crandall

Tammy LaGorce's piece in today's New York Times, "Honoring a Teacher Who Fought for Equality," not only offers a profile of Prudence Crandall, it also highlights the museum dedicated to her and her work, the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury, Connecticut.

Prudence Crandall
Born in 1803, Crandall opened the Canterbury Female Boarding School in 1831. But, as LaGorce notes, rather than teaching her young pupils "traditionally female skills like needlework, Crandall taught chemistry, geography and, generally, the kinds of rigorous coursework presented at mid-19th century boys’ schools."

In the fall of 1832, Crandall integrated her school, enrolling Sarah Harris, an African American girl, as a student. The parents of her other pupils reacted with hostility, but rather than expelling Harris, Crandall decided instead to open a school for African American girls. Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color opened in 1833 with some twenty students from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia in addition to students, like Harris, from the state of Connecticut. 

The resulting furor led to the passage of the state's so-called Black Law, which made it illegal to teach students of color from outside the state. Crandall's commitment to integration, despite arrest, legal actions, and persecution, led to a series of trials. Although a decision against Crandall and her school was eventually reversed, Crandall's school was repeatedly vandalized. In 1834, Crandall closed it permanently.

There is an excellent article on Crandall at the National Women's History Museum website; to access that essay, click here.

A number of letters and documents related to Crandall and her school are available at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, & Abolition; to access them, click here.

An advertisement announcing Crandall's School for African American Girls

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mary Beard Takes on Internet Trolls

"The Troll Slayer"

The 1 September 2014 New Yorker has a wonderful profile of classicist Mary Beard. The piece, written by Rebecca Mead, is titled "The Troll Slayer," and subtitled "A Cambridge Classicist Takes on Her Sexist Detractors." (For a link to the piece, click here.)

Mary Beard, image from the New Yorker article
The New Yorker profile begins with a reference to Beard's February 2014 London Review of Books lecture at the British Museum, a lecture on the silencing of women's voices in western culture, "'Oh Do Shut Up Dear': The Public Voice of Women." You can get a sense of the presentation from the two clips available at the BBC Radio Four website.

But you can listen to the entire lecture and read the complete text at the London Review of Books website--which offers a free sample access. To listen and/or read, click here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Women in the American Civil War?

Karen Abbott's Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

Trained as a medievalist, I spent my professional career teaching, researching, and writing about western European literature and history from Homer through Mary Astell. When this daybook begins with daily entries, my posts will reflect my own background  and areas of expertise.

But I relish the opportunities for widening my horizons and learning more about women's history--I've just enjoyed listening to an hour-long interview with writer Karen Abbott, whose own work focuses on the American Civil War. Her new book, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, details the exploits of four women whose roles are representative of the ways many women played a significant part in the conflict. 

Abolitionist and Spy Elizabeth Van Lew
Abbott's liar, temptress, soldier, and spy are Belle Boyd, Rose O'Neal Greenhow, Sarah Emma Edmonds, and Elizabeth Van Lew. Abbot's interview with Tom Ashbrook, "A Secret History of Civil-War Women," is a fascinating recounting of the the stories of these four women--and of many other women whose stories are far less familiar than those of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman, or even Harriet Tubman. Though, as I have now learned, this "secret" history of Civil War women is not-so-secret--there are many wonderful online sources and references available for those who are interested. (The National Archives has a very informative set of articles by DeAnn Blanton on women who fought as soldiers during the Civil War; to access this series, click here.)

In addition to her new book, Abbott has also recently published an engaging piece on Southern women on the homefront in The New York Times, "The Civil War and the Southern Belle" (18 August 2014).