I remember with fondness, as do many of us who came of age in the 1990s, my neon pink and purple “caboodle.” For those of you unfamiliar with the form, it is a molded plastic container with a latched top that raises up to reveal a multitude of trays, containers, and mysteriously shaped indentations all intended to house cosmetics, hair products, and personal accessories. For my teenage self the caboodle was the ultimate symbol of femininity and the mysterious physical manipulations of skin and hair that being an adult woman required. My caboodle is long since gone, but I suspect its lingering memory shaped my interest in eighteenth-century cosmetics and the dressing furniture that housed them. Continue Reading Jennifer Van Horn: The Deceptive Caboodle
Midwives were the dominant obstetrical and gynecological practitioners in Mexico in pre-Hispanic and colonial Mexico. Their medical knowledge was vast. Early post-conquest writers observed that Mexican midwives possessed hundreds of medical remedies to provide contraception, encourage fertility, counteract the side effects of pregnancy, assist in complicated deliveries, and treat postpartum complaints. They could soothe labor pains, initiate stalled labor, facilitate the placenta’s expulsion, encourage lactation, and soothe that most vexatious of post-partum symptoms: hemorrhoids. Continue Reading Nora E. Jaffary: Midwifery in Mexico
Union activists advanced a far-reaching, class-based vision that saw labor as a means to advance the rights of all working people. It was a vision of a new, socialist world and young members made it their own, combining Jazz Age rebelliousness with the left-wing traditions of the union. Women unionists used the brashness and irreverence that were hallmarks of the “flapper” in a surprisingly left-wing labor culture, merging constructions of “worker” with those of “modern woman.” They became “street-fighting women” supporting labor as a cause for human rights. They picketed and went to jail in droves for refusing to “move to the other side of the street” when ordered to by police, or participating in “lie-downs” to block driveways in front of mills, or calling strikebreakers “scabs” and threatening to beat them up. Women became such stalwarts on the picket lines that when they demanded a greater role in the union leadership, many of their male co-workers rushed to support them, insisting that “the women did do the fighting and you better give them their rights soon.” Continue Reading Sharon McConnell-Sidorick: How Flappers Helped Radicalize the Labor Movement and the New Deal
I understand that Ben Affleck was unhappy to learn his ancestors owned slaves. I mention this because I was also unexpectedly side-swiped by history while researching a chapter for After Aquarius Dawned on the Peoples Temple and the Jonestown mass death. As traditional authority, aka the Establishment, declined after the war in Vietnam and Watergate and all those liberation movements – sexual, gay, women’s, black – Americans practiced more freedom of choice, summarized by a women’s movement slogan, “the personal is political.” Since I was already looking into the Temple, I took a side-jaunt into the story of my cousins who perished in Jonestown. Continue Reading Judy Kutulas: What If My Relatives Were on the “Wrong” Side of History?
Many also found friendship, understanding, and compassion in their Vietnamese counterparts. Following face-to-face interactions, American and Vietnamese women maintained contact with one another through the exchange of letters, telegrams, and newsletters. Indeed, Vietnamese and American women formed part of a people’s diplomatic network that provided alternative interpretations of the war. Continue Reading Jessica M. Frazier: Networks, News, and Activism
Fictional Mary worked at a television station in Minneapolis even she knew was second rate. Yet it was also so beyond how she imagined her future unfolding that she embraced it with a mixture of gusto and relatable fear. So many of us were in that predicament in the 1970s, jarred out of what was supposed to be our future by the revolutions of the 1960s. Americans identified with Mary far more personally than most previous characters. As someone who studies sitcoms, I could explain to you the structural set-up that facilitated that bonding, but the outcome is what’s more relevant here: that Americans regarded fictional Minnesotan Mary Richards as a real person. They sent letters to the Minneapolis post office addressed to her and made so many pilgrimages to knock on the door of the house featured in the opening credits that they exhausted and angered the actual owners of the house. Real people showed up in the series playing themselves, including first lady Betty Ford, who loved Mary as much as the rest of us. Continue Reading Judy Kutulas: How Mary Tyler Moore Helped 1970s America Imagine a New Future
One of the things that surprised me the most was that throughout the colonial period and up until as late as the 1860s, neither community members nor judicial authorities in Mexico seemed particularly troubled that women were procuring abortions. Continue Reading Nora E. Jaffary: Ancient Abortifacients in Modern Mexico
We have celebrated the theme of Community for the past several days with our sibling publishers in the Association of American University Presses’ #UPweek. Today we invite you into our own virtual rolodex to introduce you to just some of the many partner organizations with whom we have collaborated to make many of your favorite books and journals possible. Continue Reading University Press Week 2016 Blog Tour Day 5: #FF UNC Press Publishing Partners
Don’t let Melania Trump’s Monday night speech be your guide to what Michelle Obama said in 2008. Instead, keep listening. There is more to learn than who borrowed what words. Continue Reading Martha S. Jones: Don’t Miss Out on What Michelle Obama Actually Said in 2008
Some writers have noted the presence of the “southern gothic” or the “southern porch” in Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s visceral visual album Lemonade. But the landscapes are unambiguously part of the geography of Louisiana; the visual album is haunting because of its specificity to place. Barely visible, in the discussion thus far, is the history of slavery—and its remnants—all over the landscape of the album. Continue Reading LaKisha Michelle Simmons: Landscapes, Memories, and History in Beyoncé’s Lemonade
For many Americans, Independence Day of 1884 was an occasion for merriment. Sunrise gun salutes, picnics, orations, wheelbarrow races, greased-pig-catching contests, and pulsating fireworks that blistered the sky were popular scenes implanted in America’s nineteenth-century viewfinder. But for fourteen-year-old Mollie White, July 4, 1884, signified the closing of her innocence and the suspension of her liberty and bodily sovereignty; it was the day that marked her dreadful passage into Georgia’s itinerant state penitentiary system. Continue Reading Excerpt: Chained in Silence, by Talitha L. LeFlouria
Recently, a blogosphere debate erupted on headscarves/hijab among various Muslim women. The debate was preceded by physical harassment against visibly Muslim women. The worsened climate of Islamophobia was greeted with shock and disgust by a number of Americans. A number of non-Muslim women—Dr. Larycia Hawkins of Wheaton College, for instance—put on the headscarf as a gesture of solidarity with Muslims. While some Muslims critiqued hijab solidarity as a form of appropriation, many welcomed it as a well-intentioned and courageous gesture in difficult times. Continue Reading Shabana Mir: The Headscarf/Hijab Debate
In arguing that the jury had to find Laura “not guilty by reason of insanity,” Quint and Cook hoped to focus their attention around four central issues. At the heart of their case, they argued, was the notion that Laura was unconscious and irrational at the time of the murder. In contrast to the prosecution, which had relied on gossip and rumor to condemn Laura’s character, they would base their case on the latest scientific findings and medical expertise. By calling to the stand doctors with advanced knowledge and training, they would prove that Laura—much like Mary Harris before her—was a victim herself, captive to the effects of severe organic disease. Especially when her menstrual cycle approached, she experienced recurring bouts of hysterical mania that left her without control of her actions or awareness of events. Thus, no matter how heinous the act appeared, she was not responsible for its commission. Continue Reading Excerpt: The Trials of Laura Fair: Sex, Murder, and Insanity in the Victorian West, by Carole Haber
As we travel home this Thanksgiving, it is worth taking time to reflect on the various meanings of this holiday—personal, collective, regional, and national. A product of nineteenth-century sectional, socio-sexual, and imperialist imperatives, Thanksgiving is far from a physically satisfying celebration involving a return to an uncomplicated home. Continue Reading J. Samaine Lockwood: Nineteenth-Century New England’s Queer Thanksgivings
Gina Mahalek: Very briefly, what is Liberated Threads about?
Tanisha C. Ford: Liberated Threads is about how everyday women turned getting dressed into a powerful political act that transformed the cultural and political landscape of the 1960s and 70s around the world. Often, when we study the social movements of the mid-twentieth century, we focus on policy issues, the fight to integrate public spaces, and big events, such as marches and protests. But, in Liberated Threads, I argue that we need to focus on everyday acts such as getting dressed in order to understand how everyday people engaged in movement politics. Most people were not involved in formal political organizing. They were not members of Black Freedom movement organizations. But, they were engaged in the fashion culture of the time. I wanted to explore the various ways that fashion and style connected people to the global movement for black freedom. Continue Reading Interview: Tanisha C. Ford on Black Women, Style, and Politics in the 1960s and ’70s
Modern commentators often assume that earnings inequality has persisted throughout history and improved only recently, but this isn’t the case. Continue Reading Kim Tolley: (Nearly) Equal Pay for Women in the Antebellum South
Taylor Humin: This is the first full-length work written about Flo Kennedy; meanwhile, Gloria Steinem, her contemporary and fellow activist, is a household name. Why isn’t Kennedy better known?
Sherie M. Randolph: Despite Kennedy’s willingness to seek the media’s spotlight, the media often ignored her leadership in the women’s movement. She was black and middle-aged, and her image did not fit neatly with the media’s fascination with the “young,” “hip” new women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The media had a bias toward stereotypically attractive women (read white and young) and often preferred to center or elevate in the press those women who fit this category (Gloria Steinem and Ti-Grace Atkinson, for example).
Often the media coverage of Kennedy’s actions did not mention that she was even a member (or an early or founding member) of organizations such as NOW or that she was a feminist. Instead, Kennedy was often portrayed as an organizer who was working alongside NOW or other feminist groups, but not as a leader of these organizations and actions. Some scholars have repeated this bias by ignoring or under-analyzing black feminism and Flo Kennedy.
Kennedy was well known to most radical activists during the 1960s and 1970s because she was a lawyer, fundraiser, and very skilled at drawing media attention to her causes. As a media-savvy activist, she was skillful in gaining the media’s attention for her actions; which ranged from pee-ins to protest Harvard Law School’s lack of bathroom facilities for women to marches down Fifth Avenue to protest the assassination of Martin Luther King. She relied on street theater to draw the notice of the media (and therefore advertisers, etc.) and potential organizers. Yet, until my book, history has forgotten her. Continue Reading Interview: Sherie M. Randolph on Black Feminist Radical Florynce “Flo” Kennedy
Tamar W. Carroll, author of Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty, and Feminist Activism, helped produce a video featuring women from the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, chapter of the National Congress of Neighborhood Women in the 1970s. The NCNW is the subject of two chapters of Mobilizing New York. Continue Reading Video: The Legacy and Lessons of Working-Class Feminism: Brooklyn’s NCNW
During recent debates over the flag, the history of the South sometimes appears as a straightforward tale of unrelenting proslavery leading up to the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era. But there’s another aspect of southern history that is sometimes overlooked—the antislavery of the early antebellum era. Continue Reading Kim Tolley: What If There Had Never Been a Confederate Battle Flag?
This week the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) hosted a six-day roundtable on Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women, the new volume edited by Mia Bay, Farah J.Griffin, Martha S. Jones, and Barbara D. Savage. Over on the AAIHS website, editors Jones and Savage respond to the conversation. Continue Reading Martha S. Jones and Barbara D. Savage on roundtable discussion, ‘Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women’