The Female World of Love and Larceny in the Eighteenth Century

Men were transient figures (and often dupes) of light-fingered sex workers, but women’s relationships with each other were often more enduring. I was recently delighted to learn of the return of the period drama Harlots for a third season. The television series set in rival eighteenth-century London brothels is good viewing, even if its portrait[…]

Prehistoric Bones of Women in Russian Cave Links to Modern Indigenous People

The bones show interbreeding Neanderthal and Denosivan humans. This article reprinted from RFE/RL. A piece of bone from a cave in Russia has yielded what may be the biggest archaeological find of the year, media reported on August 30. The bone belonged to an ancient human who had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.[…]

Scientists Wonder: Did Cave Women Wander?

Primitive women were more likely than their male counterparts to pack up and leave the cave. Primitive women were more likely than their male counterparts to pack up and leave the cave, eventually partnering with men from further afield, according to a study published in Nature magazine. By studying fossilised teeth from nearly 2 million years ago found[…]

Persecuting the Powerless: Why Most Accused Witches Were Women

Witch trials most often targeted a persecuted minority: women. Introduction “Witch hunt” – it’s a refrain used to deride everything from impeachment inquiries and sexual assault investigations to allegations of corruption. When powerful men cry witch, they’re generally not talking about green-faced women wearing pointy hats. They are, presumably, referring to the Salem witch trials,[…]

Women’s Roles in the Industrial Revolution

Throughout the Industrial Revolution, gender was a major influence on worker salary. Experience of Women at the Outset of Industrialization The Industrial Revolution impacted different social classes of women in numerous ways.  Throughout this time period, the working class citizens were most significantly impacted.  Many women who did not belong to wealthy families would often[…]

Lady Hell Cats: Women Marines of World War I

In 1918, the Marine Corps began investigating how the integration of women would take place. By Kenna HowatHistorian Prior to World War I, if a woman wanted to join the military, she would have to join as a nurse or disguise her sex. Some historians estimate that hundreds of women served in the Civil War[…]

Ella Fitzgerald: The Voice that Shattered Glass

How Ella Fitzgerald’s cassette campaign fueled a late-career renaissance. It’s the stuff of legends: an urban legend and a jazz legend combining into a legendary advertising campaign. In 1970, the Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago had an imaginative idea for selling Memorex’s new line of blank cassette tapes. They’d prove the old myth that[…]

Amelia Earhart Would Have a Hard Time Disappearing in 2019

Eight decades after missing aviator Amelia Earhart was declared dead, technologies still don’t quite track every airplane all over the globe. By Dr. Brian Strzempkowski and Dr. Shawn PruchnickiStrzempkowski: Assistant DirectorPruchnicki: LecturerCenter for Aviation StudiesThe Ohio State University When Amelia Earhart took off in 1937 to fly around the world, people had been flying airplanes for only[…]

The Hidden Story of Two African American Women Looking Out from the Pages of a 19th-Century Book

A 19th-century volume contained a mystery for two historians who combined their knowledge to tell the story of the women and their contributions to American democracy. Introduction We are two historians whose work focuses on American art and on how African Americans have shaped the story of American democracy. Our two subject areas converged recently[…]

The Inspiring History of Women in Firefighting in the U.S.

The first known woman to join a firefighting brigade may not have done so by choice. Introduction Are there female firefighters? How many, and who was the first? The history of organized firefighting began all the way back in Ancient Rome. Since then, most organized firefighting forces have been made up of men… until recently.[…]

Mother Machine: An ‘Uncanny Valley’ in Eighteenth-Century Medicine

This curious machine was meant to answer the problem of the moment: how to provide sufficient training for new (male) midwives. The eighteenth century was an age of mechanization, from Cartesian conceptions of animals as machines to nerve theory and early experiments in electricity. Mechanists argued that interaction among the body’s parts, its “animal machinery,”[…]

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[…]