U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Women in Intellectual History

As I mentioned on facebook, I got this email last week and am curious as to other people’s suggestions.

“I am an undergrad studying history and writing my thesis in intellectual history. I came across your blog post regarding the dearth of women in intellectual history, and I thought I’d reach out to you as I’ve been increasingly more conscious of this. I was wondering if you might have some time to chat over the phone so that I might be able to able to pick your brain about this topic? I’d greatly appreciate the opportunity.”

I suggested to her that despite (or perhaps because of) my infamous post last year about women in intellectual history, I was not the best person to talk to. I could give her some ideas about women in African American intellectual history (and men in African American women’s intellectual history), but it’s been awhile since I read my exams for general/whitestream U.S. intellectual history. For those more up to date on the recent historiography, what do you think? 

5 Thoughts on this Post

  1. It isn’t clear if she is asking about the few women writing intellectual history or if she is asking about women intellectual. Regardless, I would direct her to the following; While these are slanted toward a history of feminist thought, they are full of histories of women in multiple fields and exposes her to women historians who are doing this work.

    Linda Kerber, Toward an Intellectual History of Women

    Mari Jo Buhle, Feminist and It’s Discontents: A Century of Struggle with Psychoanalysis.

    Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism

    Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: The Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism.

    While this list is rather narrow it should help.

  2. I appreciate these suggestions and I will forward them. I wonder if there is a way to make a qualitative or quantitative statement on the role of women in intellectual history (either as subjects or authors). This research into JSTOR articles’ authorship would be a start. http://chronicle.com/article/Women-as-Academic-Authors/135244/

    The intro paragraph: “Women’s presence in higher education has increased, but as authors of scholarly papers—keys to career success—their publishing patterns differ from those of men. Explore nearly 1,800 fields and subfields, across four centuries, to see which areas have the most female authors and which have the fewest, in this exclusive Chronicle report. See how overall percentages differ from the important first-author position and—in two major bioscience fields—from the prestigious last-author position.”

  3. Again, not sure where the correspondent is coming from. I recently read Karen Halttunen’s intro essay for the Blackwell Companion to Cultural History, and would recommend it as a good review of the impact upon cultural and intellectual history of the new social history, with some good discussion of feminist questions, if I recall correctly. Some great essays on women and cultural history in that volume, too. Might be helpful.

  4. Lauren, thanks for your efforts to spark a fruitful discussion here on the blog. I’m glad Lilian spoke up with some reading suggestions, and I feel even better about joining the conversation now that Kurt has commented — now that I know this discussion isn’t just going to be for girls only, I might have something to say. 😉

    I’m kind of joking, but kind of not. This is, as you mentioned, a Sensitive Topic — not just because of the particular circumstances surrounding previous discussions on this blog, but because of the questions it raises (or doesn’t?) about the field and the profession more generally. There’s just no easy way to dive into these things. Indeed, I’m not sure that I’m going to dive in here, beyond noting that as long as only women raise the issue, and only women comment on it, it’s going to be perceived as a “ladies’ problem,” rather than a question of interest to the readership/profession more generally. So I appreciate the way you’ve framed the question here, and I appreciate that not only Lilian but also Kurt felt free to comment.

    I’m also happy to say that one of our regular readers, with whom I was corresponding on another matter, mentioned that he would like to address some issues you’ve raised here related to gender and the profession of U.S. intellectual history. So there should be a guest post coming on the topic in a few weeks’ time. Good on ya.

    And this is as good a time as any to remind all our readers that we are always glad to receive submissions for guest posts on any topic that falls within the capacious (inter?)disciplinary boundaries of U.S. intellectual history. If you read something on this blog that lights your fire, curls your hair, or chaps your hide, and you want to return the favor, just contact one of the regular bloggers, listed here. Any of us can put up a guest post, and I think all of us would be glad to know that the conversation here has the potential to turn our readers into our writers. Stranger things have happened.

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