History 322: Women and Power in Nineteenth-Century America
Professor Carol Lasser
Oberlin College
Fall 2002
Mondays 2:30-4:20
King 325

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 11 to noon and Thursday 1:30 to 3
Office: Rice 313

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This course focuses on how women different races, classes, and regions laid claim to participation, and developed modes of exercising power in American public life in post-Civil War America. It examines in historical context the conflicts and coalitions of women across lines of race, class, and national origin; the relationship of different groups of women to the state in areas including citizenship, suffrage, sexuality and reproduction, social welfare; and the problems and possibilities of the "maternalization of the state" under the impact of women reformers.

During the first two thirds of the semester, the class meets together to discuss assigned readings, identifying major historiographical trends, exploring various methods and sources, and analyzing important developments. For the final third of the semester, students will pursue research projects. For more information on those projects, see the Final Project Options at the end of this syllabus.


Books to purchase:

Kathryn Kish Sklar, Florence Kelley and the Nation's Work: The Rise of Women's Political Culture, 1830-1900
Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-Of-The-Century New York
Margaret Finnegan, Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture and Votes for Women

Optional Purchase:
Carol Mattingly, Well-Tempered Women: Ninteenth-Century Temperance Rhetoric

Other required readings are available on Electronic Reserve (ERes),


Schedule of Classes

Monday, September 9: Introductions: Time and Place, Concepts and Cultures

Linda Kerber, "A Constitutional Right to Be Treated Like American Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship,"  pp. 17-35 in Linda Kerber, Alice Kessler-Harris and Kathryn Kish Sklar, eds., U.S. History as Women's History

Carol Mattingly, Chapter 2:"'Patriotic Reformers:' Called by the Spirit of the Lord to Lead the Women of the World," and Chapter 3: "Well-Tempered Rhetoric: Public Presentation and the WCTU," pp. 39-72 in Well-Tempered Women: Nineteenth-Century Temperance Rhetoric


Monday, September 16: No Class for Jewish Holiday

I will schedule each of you for an appointment with me during this week to talk about what you hope to achieve in the class. We can also begin to discuss your final projects. In addition, please note that the reading assignment for September 23 is quite lengthy; begin it now!

Monday, September 23: Post Civil-War America from the Point of View of One White Woman

Reading: Kathryn Kish Sklar, Florence Kelley and the Nation's Work: The Rise of Women's Political Culture, 1830-1900, entire


Monday, September 30: African American Women and the Transition from Slavery to Freedom


Leslie A. Schwalm, "'Sweet Dreams of Freedom'": Freedwomen's Reconstruction of Life and Labor in Lowcountry South Carolina,"Journal of Women's History 9 (Spring 1997): 9-38

Tera Hunter, "Domination and Resistance: The Politics of Wage Household Labor in New South Atlanta,"  pp. 343-357 in Darlene Clark Hine, Wilma King and Linda Reed, eds., "We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible": A Reader in Black Women's History

Elsa Barkley Brown, "To Catch a Vision of Freedom: Reconstructing Southern Black Women's Political History, 1865-1880," in Ellen DuBois and Vicki Ruiz, eds., Unequal Sisters, Third Edition, pp. 124-146 available temporarily at www.oberlin.edu/history/Brown.pdf

Website"How Did White Women Aid Former Slaves during and after the Civil War and What Obstacles Did They Face?" http://womhist.Binghamton.edu/aid/abstract.htm  please read the abstract, introduction, and at least two documents.


October 7: Sex, Contraception and Women's Power

Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, "The Abortion Movement and the AMA, 1850-1880," pp. 217-244 in Disorderly Conduct (ERes)

Jesse Battan, "The 'Rights' of Husbands and the 'Duties' of Wives: Power and Desire in the American Bedroom, 1850-1910," Journal of Family History 24 (1999): 165-186 (ERes

Andrea Tone, "Black Market Birth Control: Contraceptive Entrepreneurship and Criminality in the Gilded Age," Journal of American History 87(2000): 435-459 (online at http://www.historycooperative.com/journals/jah/87.2/tone.html)

Your first paper is due at the end of this week,on Friday, October 11. It will be 4-6 pages in length, double spaced, in 12 point type. You will focus on one aspect of the history and historiography of women and power in the nineteenth century as we have explored it to this point. A more specific assignment will be distributed in advance. Click here for details


October 14: Working Women at the Turn of the Century

  Martha May, "Bread before Roses: American Workingmen, Labor Unions and the Family Wage,"  pp 1-21 in Ruth Milkman, ed., Women, Work and Protest

Lucie Cheng Hirata, "Chinese Immigrant Women in Nineteenth-Century California, pp. 223-244in Carol Berkin and Mary Beth Norton, Women of America (1st edition)

 Nancy Schrom Dye, "Creating a Feminist Alliance: Sisterhood and Class Conflict in the New York Women's Trade Union League, 1903-1914,"  pp. 225-245 in Milton Cantor and Bruce Laurie, eds., Class, Sex and the Woman Worker

  Ellen DuBois, "Working Women, Class Relations, and Suffrage Militance: Harriot Stanton Blatch and the New York Woman Suffrage Movement, 1894-1909,"  pp. 176-194 in Unequal Sisters (1st edition)


Fall Break!
Think about the book you will choose for your monograph analysis


October 28: Gender, Class and Consumption

Jennifer Scanlon, "Introduction," pp. 1-12, in The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader

Kathy Peiss, Cheap Amusements (entire)

Elaine Abelson, "Shoplifting Ladies," pp. 309-329 in Jennifer Scanlon, ed., The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader

Your choice of monograph is due today.
Click here for more information.

November 4: Making Suffrage "Modern"

Margaret Finnegan, Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture and Votes for Women (entire)

November 11: What did Woman Suffrage Mean?

Kathryn Kish Sklar, "Why Were Most Politically Active Women Opposed to the ERA in the 1920s?" pp. 25-35  in Joan Hoff-Wilson, ed., Rights of Passage: The Past and Future of the ERA;

Evelyn  Brooks Higginbotham, "Clubwomen and Electoral Politics in the 1920s," pp. 134-155 in Ann D. Gordon, ed., African American Women and the Vote, 1837-1965

Your final project topic for your final project is due today. Please submit a "mini-prospectus" that :

  1. sketches out a problem for inquiry
  2. suggests possible primary sources

Your "mini-prospectus" should be no longer than two pages.


November 18: Presentation of Monograph Analysis

November 25: Class Work Session

December 2: Class Work Session

December 9: Preliminary Presentations


Monograph Analysis:

Your Choice of Monograph is Due October 28
The Monograph Analysis is Due November 18, in both written and oral form.

Each student will read a monograph from a list provided of works that related to questions about women and power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Students will then write a 1000-1500 word (normally 4-6 pages,double spaced in 12 point type) analysis of the work, and extract from it a 10 minute presentation for class. The analysis should

*identify the central point the author is trying to make
*place the author's focus and argument in the context of other works by historians we *have read this semester --that is, place the work in historiographical context and *identify its contribution to the historiography.
*briefly summarize the scope of the work--that is: what does the book cover
*briefly describe the kind of evidence the author uses
*and finally, evaluate whether the monograph is a "good book"--is it important to the *historiography? is it well written? is it worth reading?


Final Project Assignment:

Your final project should launch you into original research in primary documents relevant to women and power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Resources abound: newspapers, government reports, autobiographies, popular magazines, manuscript records for both individuals and organizations. In this latter category, the Oberlin College Library has rich holdings in its microfilm collections, and the Oberlin College Archives includes an array of relevant sources. Your challenges will be:


You have a choice of two formats in which to frame your project

1. You may write a research paper, 10-12 pages in length, drawing on at lease six (6) primary documents, and at least two (2) secondary works not assigned for class.

2. You may do a "document based project" in which you frame a historical question and provide transcription, head note, and annotations for at least four primary documents that address your question. Students may choose to form small "teams" to undertake this project. Topics for this project should focus on materials available in the Oberlin College Archive. A list of suggested sources will be distributed before Fall Break.

In either case, your topics must be submitted for approval by November 11. Final projects are due on December 17, the date for which the final exam would have been scheduled.

For some of the primary sources available in the Mudd Library collections, click here

For the Guide to Women's History Sources in the Oberlin College Archive, click here

For an example of a women's history website built around documents, see "How Did Oberlin College Women Students Draw on their Experience to Participate in Social Movements?"