Jane Addams and Lillian Wald: Imagining Social Justice from the Outside

Their relationships were profoundly instrumental to their vision of social justice that changed America. Anyone who has taken a United States history course in high school knows the story of Jane Addams and Chicago’s Hull House, the first Settlement House in America and arguably the genesis of social work in the country. More advanced textbooks[…]

Mary Moody Emerson Was a Scholar, a Thinker, and an Inspiration

The woman Thoreau once called the “youngest person in Concord”. Henry David Thoreau isn’t usually known for flattering comments about women. But after a few hours of conversation with the 77-year-old Mary Moody Emerson, one November evening in 1851, he complimented both her intellect and her youthful spirit. The aunt of his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mary[…]

Women on the Move: Gender and Mobility in American Culture, 1890–1950

In what ways do we associate movement—the ability to go anywhere and be anyone—with freedom? How do these relationships change when women are the ones on the move? Introduction In many ways, the American experience has been defined by the promise of mobility, that is, the freedom to go anywhere and become anyone. In fact,[…]

Renaissance Woman: Isabella d’Este

Despite the restrictions women faced, her art collections demonstrate important renaissance themes. Introduction In European history classes, we often hear about renaissance men: Cosimo de’ Medici, Leonardo da Vinci, and Niccolò Machiavelli. Where were the women? The most famous female patron of the Italian renaissance was Isabella d’Este Gonzaga (1474–1539), marchioness of a territory in[…]

Sor Juana, Founding Mother of Mexican Literature

How a 17th-century nun wrote poetry, dramas, and comedies that took on the inequities and double standards women faced in society. By Matthew Wills From a convent in New Spain, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz became one of the leading lights of the Spanish Baroque’s golden age. A scholar, poet, playwright, philosopher, and composer, in[…]

Dorothea Dix and Cornelia Hancock: Two Views of Civil War Nursing

Thousands of women volunteered as nurses during the Civil War. On April 14, 1861, Fort Sumter fell—the beginning of four years of brutal war.  President Lincoln immediately called for 75,000 militia volunteers to put down what he described as a state of insurrection. The response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of men enlisted. But Lincoln[…]

The Evolution of Nursing in the 19th Century

Nursing may be the oldest known profession, as some nurses were paid for their services from the beginning. As caretakers of children, family and community, it was natural that women were the nurses, the caregivers, as human society evolved. Nursing may be the oldest known profession, as some nurses were paid for their services from[…]

Why We Keep Rediscovering the Flamboyant Godmother of Rock

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was buried in an unmarked grave, but now she’s a YouTube sensation. More than 40 years after her burial in an unmarked Philadelphia grave, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, gospel’s first superstar and its most celebrated crossover figure, is enjoying a burst of Internet celebrity. A video of her playing one of her signature[…]

Monopoly’s Lost Female Inventor: Progressive Elizabeth Magie’s ‘Landlord’s Game’

Monopoly’s roots begin with a woman—a progressive named Elizabeth Magie. For generations, the story of Monopoly’s Depression-era origin story delighted fans. Often tucked into the game’s box, the tale revolved around Charles Darrow, an unemployed man in Philadelphia who dreamed up the game in the 1930s. He sold the game to Parker Brothers, not only[…]

Wives and Wenches, Sinners and Saints: Women in Medieval Europe

What did medieval Christians believe about women’s nature and social roles? How did they express these beliefs in illustrations, poetry, and religious writings? Introduction The medieval period can seem very distant from our own time, and the study of medieval women may appear particularly elusive. But feminist historians have found medieval Europe a rich subject[…]

Ten Should-Be Famous Women of Early Christianity

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Christianity has heard the term ‘Church Fathers’ but far less so ‘Church Mothers’. Introduction Women feature prominently in the gospels and Book of Acts of the Christian New Testament as supporters of Jesus’ ministry. The most famous of these is Mary Magdalene, most likely an upper-class woman of means instead[…]

The Unlikely Journalist Who Dethroned America’s Robber Barons

Thanks to Ida Tarbell, we’re not to afraid to expose the shenanigans of the super-rich. Over the last few years, the idea of “the one percent” has become a popular way to discuss the gap between the fantastically wealthy—the one percent of Americans who control more than 20 percent of the country’s wealth—and the rest[…]

“Charity Is Ever Kind”: Women in Civil War Contraband Camps

In the first year of the Civil War, Union General Benjamin Butler used the term “contraband of war,” to describe escaped enslaved people. By Ashlee AndersonPublic Historian On April 12, 1861, America officially entered into a Civil War, years in the making. This war would transform millions of lives and completely change the country as[…]

Virginia Woolf Was More Than Just a Women’s Writer

She was a great observer of everyday life. Virginia Woolf, that great lover of language, would surely be amused to know that, some seven decades after her death, she endures most vividly in popular culture as a pun—within the title of Edward Albee’s celebrated drama, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In Albee’s play, a troubled college professor[…]

Women, Reproduction, and Patriarchal Views of Space Flight and Colonization in 1960s America

Early space age culture in America highlighted women’s reproductive capacity as a primary, crucial contribution that women could and inevitably would make to the space effort. It’s bedtime in middle-class, white America, October 1962. Little Billy and Little Susie pick out books for story time. Billy wants Mommy to read his favorite, Timothy’s Space Book. He[…]

Guts, Stamina, Audacity: Shirley Chisholm’s House Career

Beyond the headlines and iconic reputation she built across party lines, she had to fight just as hard within the House for the causes she supported. Introduction Fifty years ago this month, Shirley Chisholm, the charismatic and outspoken Brooklyn educator and politician, made history when she became the first African-American woman to serve in Congress. Small in stature,[…]

Uncovering the Invisible Women of History

Historical written records were almost exclusively written by men, but archaeology and the women scholars in the field can make the women of history visible. In the ancient classical world, writing was a very exclusive activity, limited to elite males who had the wealth and time to undertake an education. Exceptions, like the female poet Sappho,[…]

The Ages of Women

The societal development of cultural feminism across time. Introduction My goal in the present paper was to combine both the developmental and historical connotations of the word “ages”, with a focus on feminism. Was it possible that there might be some relation between the development of individual feminism and its development across societies over time?[…]

The Comstock Law of 1873 and Reproductive Rights

The Comstock Law brought reproductive issues to the forefront of American society and paved the way for many future Supreme Court Cases on relevant topics. The Comstock Law was a controversial law because it limited the reproductive rights of women and violated every person’s right to privacy. This federal law was the beginning of a long fight[…]

New Beginnings: A History of Immigrant Women and the American Experience

Women immigrants have played a dynamic role in transforming America socially, politically, and economically. A Woman’s Story Though women are integral characters, immigration is rarely thought of as a woman’s story. Women historically have accounted for almost fifty percent of immigrants and currently exceed that. Women’s motivations for migration have been varied and complex. Gender[…]

A History of Feminist Movements in the United States in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Feminist movements have generated, made possible, and nurtured feminist theories and feminist academic knowledge. Introduction “History is also everybody talking at once, multiple rhythms being played simultaneously. The events and people we write about did not occur in isolation but in dialogue with a myriad of other people and events. In fact, at any given[…]

Medieval Women’s Early Involvement in Manuscript Production

The discovery of lapis lazuli pigment preserved in the dental calculus of a religious woman in Germany radiocarbon-dated to the 11th or early 12th century, a rare pigment used in illuminated manuscripts. By Dr. Anita Radini (et.al.)Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Medical HumanitiesUniversity of York Abstract During the European Middle Ages, the opening of long-distance[…]

Elizabeth Blackwell, MD: Hero, Humanitarian, and Teacher

She used her skills as a teacher to become not only the first American female physician but also its first female professor of medicine. To celebrate Women’s History Month, the television quiz show Jeopardy, recently posted a category related to female historical figures. The contestants, sharp, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, answered all the questions in that category, except for[…]

The Pankhurst Sisters: Bitter Divisions behind Their Fight for Women’s Votes

Sylvia Pankhurst’s book is the dominant narrative of the time, but was she unfair to her sister Christabel? Emmeline Pankhurst, her eldest daughter Christabel and some local socialist women founded, in 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Their goal was to campaign for the parliamentary vote for women. The women-only WSPU, whose members were called[…]

An Overview of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1848-1920

It was the single largest extension of voting rights in our nation’s history. The woman suffrage movement actually began in 1848, when a women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. The Seneca Falls meeting was not the first in support of women’s rights, but suffragists later viewed it as the meeting that[…]