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Before the horrific events of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the UpStairs Lounge arson attack was one of the deadliest assaults on the LGBQT community-- except hardly anyone heard about it. In honor of #PrideMonth, read into why this deadly attack is completely unknown to so many.  Read more here: https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/05/06/upstairs-lounge-fire

 

In topical classes on gay and lesbian history, everyone covers Stonewall, but is this covered? What are you covering in your courses?

Teaching our students to properly cite sources is an essential component of college-level history courses. In a previous blog I mentioned that last summer I started requiring a rough-draft of the Works Cited page in the earliest stages of my students’ research. This week I will share that brief assignment and the reasons I have found it effective.

 

Open my assignment here.

 

Requiring (and grading) a draft Works Cited page has proved useful for a number of reasons.

 

First and foremost, this assignment forces my students to get to work locating sources immediately. My assignment starts with students submitting a research topic. In my experience this step should be completed through Google Docs, the Blackboard “Journal,” or some other tool that enables feedback directly to the student. I respond to the students as the topics are submitted and encourage them to ask questions before they begin searching for sources. Once they have an approved topic the students have one week to submit their draft Works Cited page. I employ this quick turnaround period to discourage students from putting the assignment aside once the topic is approved and forgetting about it until the week before the due date.

 

Second, the draft Works Cited page enables me to stop bad research in its tracks. It is not uncommon, for example, for students to ignore my instructions about the required library databases and instead conduct a web search (ie, “Google” their topic). I’ve also had students submit draft Works Cited pages that will not lead them to detailed research materials because the sources they have chosen are too general. Or, students will sometimes use the wrong databases in spite of my link to history-specific materials. A philosophical or literary evaluation of Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is not the same as a historian’s examination of what was happening in Birmingham when King was jailed. Catching these problems in the drafting phase is critical.

 

Finally, I have found that when I place the Works Cited front and center the students view it as more than an afterthought. For years I inadvertently allowed students to throw together their Works Cited pages as they completed their projects only to be surprised by their poor quality. No doubt many of those Works Cited pages were pieced together in the middle of the night!  Asking students to consider this critical component of their work in the earliest stages of research has heightened their view of its importance, and ultimately increased their understanding of why sources matter.

 

What do you do to help students understand the value of quality sources and citations? Please share!

I was first introduced to Jane Addams during my junior year of college when my professor assigned Twenty

Years at Hull House. It was not until several years later when I used the book with students in a course of my own, however, that I was truly impacted by Addams’s work. Today I teach at a community college where some of my students are immigrants for whom English is not their native language and many more are first-generation Americans seeking to bridge the vast cultural divide between the country of their parents’ birth and their lives in the United States. Addams’s work, for me, is more relevant than ever.

 

My interest in Addams was renewed last week when I visited the Hull House Museum in Chicago. Addams established Hull House in 1889 with fellow activist Ellen Gates Starr. The settlement would serve as her personal and professional home until 1935. According to the museum’s web site, Hull House “residents” -- educated women (and occasionally men) recruited by Addams and Starr -- “provided kindergarten and day care facilities for the children of working mothers; an employment bureau; an art gallery; libraries; English and citizenship classes; and theater, music and art classes.” Their work intimately connected them with the diverse people of their South Halsted Street neighborhood: Greeks, Italians, Irish, Bohemians, Russians, Polish, African Americans and Mexicans.

 

Although the settlement at Hull House would eventually encompass several buildings the museum as it stands today consists of only the main home at 800 S. Halsted Street on the edge of the University of Illinois Chicago campus. College students from UIC guide guests through rooms that display documents, images, and other artifacts from Addams’s life work. Visitors learn that art and music were prominent in the lives of Hull House residents and visitors, no doubt a welcome distraction from the long hours many immigrant men and women spent in Chicago’s factories. The simplicity of Addams’s upstairs bedroom with its twin bed, desk and fireplace is in sharp contrast with museum pieces that remind us that Addams was once considered by the FBI to be “the most dangerous woman in America.” (Social Work & Society International Online Journal).

 

More than a century after Addams and Starr founded Hull House the challenges facing immigrants in the United States remain wrought with fear and uncertainty. In her commencement address at the University of Chicago in 1905 Addams cautioned her audience that Americans  “refuse to see how largely the question [of immigration] has become an economic one.” Addams’s many years of direct involvement in the lives of immigrants remains relevant today as we address similar questions of citizenship and assimilation, standards of living and economic progress. If you’re not already sharing Addams’s story with your students, I encourage you to revisit turn-of-the-century immigration questions through her writings.

 

   

According to my social media feeds, National Teacher Appreciation Day was May 7th. Reading posts thanking teachers and mentors last week led me to think a lot about what my years in the college classroom have meant to me personally. Although in higher education we are called “professors,” when it comes down to what we do day in and day out, we are teachers.

 

Rather than rehash what I’ve “given” to my students over the years, this week I’d like to share three lessons I have learned from my students:

 

First, most days the most important contribution I can make to the classroom is a positive attitude. My students are working long hours at low-paying jobs and caring for children and/or parents, in addition to the demands of their academic schedule. They need supportive reminders that their hard work is going to pay off in the long term even more than they need to hear my assessment of the newest publications on slavery or 19th-century urbanization. I’ve witnessed first-hand that some days the encouragement of a teacher is the only thing keeping my students from deciding that the demands of finishing their education is too much.

 

Second, human beings learn best from our failures. Conversations with students who are failing a course because of bad decision-making, poor planning, or plagiarism are heartbreaking for us teachers. On more than one occasion, however, I have heard from students months or years later that my having held them accountable for their actions in the classroom led to a positive change in their life. I’ve also had the great fortune of what I call “repeat” students: those who failed my course and chose to do a retake with me. Seeing these students successfully pass a course the second-time-around is immensely gratifying

 

Finally, “to those who much is given, much is expected.” My brother wrote this quote -- attributed to President John Kennedy among others -- in a book he gave me many, many years ago when I was starting graduate school. The degree I was pursuing at the time was funded by a generous tuition scholarship and teaching assistant-ship. It was not until I had been teaching at a community college for several years and came across his handwriting in that book that I really thought about what that quote meant. My students remind me every single day to value my education and the sacrifices that were made along the way.

 

Those of us who have had the privilege of earning graduate degrees in the humanities have so much to offer our students. Their desire to learn from us -- to be our students -- is truly a gift that we should not take for granted.

History of Mother’s Day

Whether its flowers, breakfast in bed, or a handwritten card, Americans typically resort to “leisurely” activities to honor mothers and mother figures on Mothers Day.

 

We’ve been celebrating since 1914 when Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as a national holiday. However, celebrating mothers dates back much further. The origins of Mother’s Day in the U.S began in the 19th century before the civil war. Women created clubs such as the “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to educate on proper child care and work on reconciliation between the divided nation. This club sprouted more such as “Mothers’ Friendship Day” and “Mother’s Peace Day.”

 

International Celebrations

This Sunday, May 12, we’ll take the time to celebrate all that our mothers have done for us in the U.S. But what about the rest of the world? We gathered a list of some other traditions countries to take to honor their mothers.

 

Britain (NPR)

In Britain, Mothering Sunday, or Mother's Day, is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which fell on March 6 this year. According to Britannica, the custom began in the Middle Ages when people who had moved away returned to visit their home parishes and their mothers on that day. In particular, it was a day when children who left home to work as domestic servants were given a day off.

 

Bolivia (Mental Floss)

During the struggle for independence from Spain in the early 19th century, many of the country's fathers, sons, and husbands were injured and killed on the battlefields. As the history is told to Bolivian students, one group of women from Cochabamba refused to stand idly by; on May 27, they banded together to fight the Spanish Army on Coronilla Hill. Though hundreds died in battle, the legacy of their contributions lives on thanks to a national law passed in the 1920s making the day on which the “Heroinas of Coronilla” took to the streets national Mother’s Day.

 

Ethiopia  (Global Citizen)

Mother's Day in Ethiopia is celebrated with a three-day festival called Antrosht, which takes place at the end of Fall. Not only is it a celebration to honor mothers, but also a time to celebrate the end of the rainy season. It is a time for singing and dancing and an amazing three-day feast where a traditional hash meal is prepared, with all members of the family bringing the various ingredients.

 

France (Global Citizen)

Mother’s Day in France is called Fete des Meres. It takes place in late May or early June, depending on when Pentecost takes place. Fete des Meres became an official celebration in 1950, although Napoleon was the first to declare it a holiday. Much like other countries of the world, the French celebrate their mothers with a relaxing day of food and gifts and spending time with family.

 

Germany (Care)

Muttertag takes place on the second Sunday in May (unless it falls on Pentecost, in which case it occurs on the first Sunday of the month). In Germany, the giving of Mother's Day cards is extremely popular. During WWII, Mother's Day traditions took on political significance as the day to acknowledge women for producing children for the Vaterland, or Fatherland. Medals were awarded in gold, silver or bronze, based upon how many children were in the household. After the war, it assumed a softer feel, with the giving of gifts, cards and flowers, as well as festive meals earmarking the day.

 

India (Scholastic)

Each October, Hindus honor Durga, the goddess of mothers, during the 10-day festival known as Durga Puja. The celebration is thought to date back to the sixteenth century and is considered both a religious ceremony and a time for family reunions. One story tells of Durga returning to her parents’ home to show off her own children. Families spend weeks preparing food, gathering gifts, and decorating their homes for the festival.

Indonesia (Mental Floss)

Made official in 1953 by its president, Indonesia's Mother’s Day falls on the anniversary of the First Indonesian Women’s Congress (1928). The first convening of women in a governmental body is still considered pivotal in launching organized women’s movements throughout Indonesia. The holiday was created to celebrate the contributions of women to Indonesian society.

 

Japan (Scholastic)

Following World War II, a version of Mother’s Day grew popular as a way of comforting mothers who had lost sons to the war. You’ll see carnations presented around this March holiday, as they symbolize the sweetness and endurance of motherhood in Japanese culture. Originally, children gave a red carnation to a living mother and displayed a white one if their mother had died. Now, white has become the traditional color.

Mexico (Time)

Mexico takes very Mother’s Day very seriously. In fact, Manuel Gutierrez, president of the national association of restaurateurs, told the WashingtonPost in 2012 that May 10—whatever the day of the week—is the busiest day of the year for Mexican restaurants. Flowers are a must, but the day is also filled with music, food, celebrations, and often a morning serenade of the song “Las Mananitas” from mariachi singers:“Awaken, my dear, awaken/ and see that the day has dawned/ now the little birds are singing/ and the moon has set.”

 

Peru (Care)

Mother's Day is celebrated the second Sunday of May with gifts, chocolates and joyous family meals. In Peru, children often give their moms handmade items, which are reciprocated with gifts from them, in turn.

Peru's indigenous Andean population, however, also celebrates the gifts of Mother Earth, or Pachamama, in early August, says Hopgood. Pachamama is an ancient mythological goddess beloved by many indigenous Andean populations. Mythology cites Pachamama as the cause of earthquakes and bringer of fertility. Her special worship day is called Martes de Challa.

Russia (Time)

In the former Soviet Union, mothers were celebrated on International Women’s Day on March 8, a celebratory date that has since become an internationally-observed day to honor women and reflect on the goal for gender equality. In 1998, post-Soviet Russia introduced Mother’s Day on the last Sunday in November, but most of the gift giving still happens in March.

 

Serbia (Care)

Another country which needs three days to fully acknowledge their mothers and the spirit of family is Serbia, where Mother's Day takes place in December and is part of a series of holidays including Children's Day and Father's Day. All three holidays take place on consecutive Sundays and require lots of rope!

On Children's Day, children are tied up and must agree to behave before they are unbound. On Mother's Day, it is the mom's turn to be tied up, where she will remain until she supplies yummy treats and small gifts to her children. Finally it is father's turn. The dads are tied up with rope until they give their families Christmas gifts. At that point, everybody feasts.

For more universally inspiring moms, check out this TED Talks Playlist, Talks by Fierce Moms: https://www.ted.com/playlists/247/talks_by_fierce_moms

Researching care of the mentally ill during my semester-long sabbatical has shown me just how much I have overlooked the importance of teaching the history of medicine in my courses. I blogged earlier this semester about some of the web-based resources I plan to share with students in future courses (see “Making Connections: History & Medicine”). Although I teach US Women’s History every semester, discussion of health-related issues in my courses has revolved solely around the political arguments for/against birth control and abortion rights. During this sabbatical I’ve been introduced to the works of several historians who are exploring the myriad of roles that doctors and hospitals have played in the lives of women. Here are two examples of recently published research that I recommend that faculty share with US history students:

 

In Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology (University of Georgia 2017) historian Deirdre Cooper Owens explores the way in which black women’s bodies were used to aid the development of medical specialization. “Within the professional women’s health-care world,” Owens writes, “diseased and living black women’s bodies were...profitable. Doctors used the diseased reproductive organs of black cadavers to facilitate gynecological research and provide education in the field of gynecology.” (p. 17) White interests in preserving enslaved women’s ability to reproduce was central to these studies and played a significant role in the development of this important medical specialization. Black women, however, were exploited through this process in both life and death. According to Owens, “Although the biomedical research that nineteenth-century doctors conducted sought to locate the alleged biological differences between black and white people, white doctors used black women’s bodies in their research because they knew that women’s sexual organs and genitalia were identical to white women’s.” (p. 21) Owens’s study forced me to consider the horrifying medical/scientific components of the institution of slavery that I have often overlooked in my courses as I focus on living conditions and the labor of slaves.

 

Wendy Gonaver’s 2018 work The Peculiar Institution and the Making of Modern Psychiatry 1840-1880 (University of North Carolina Press 2018) documents the histories of two Virginia asylums in the 19th century with a focus on the lives of slaves, free blacks, and white women. Of particular interest to me for my general US and Women’s History classes is her discussion of domestic violence. White women who alleged domestic abuse in Virginia found themselves -- often voluntarily -- in the state’s asylums. “In a sense,”  Gonaver contends, “the asylum became the paternalistic caretaker to those who had been wounded by the abuses of patriarchal power and, for a number of reasons, were unable to fend for themselves.” (p. 135) Rather than punish the abusers, therefore, women were re-victimized by surrendering their personal freedoms and control of their children in exchange for the physical protection of institutionalization.

 

In a typical semester I teach five courses. While valuable research is being published nearly every day, my teaching responsibilities limit the time I can dedicate to examining new content that could dramatically alter my students’ perspectives. The work of these two historians reminds me why taking the time to read new research is critical to our success as teachers. What have you read recently that will impact future iterations of your courses? Please share.

 

With the U.S.’s carbon footprint growing, air quality flunking, and a 12 year warning to stop planet warming Earth Day is not in its heyday.

 

On April 22, 2019 Earth Day celebrated its 49th anniversary. Let’s make this birthday one to remember! Below are actionable items you can take every day of the week to continuously celebrate Earth Day and improve the Earth:

 

Day 1 - Turn the faucet off

We waste gallons keeping the faucet on while we: bathe, wash our hands, wash our dishes, brush our teeth, etc… (Water.USGS.gov)

 

Day 2 - Buy/Use a reusable water bottle/coffee cup/straw!

You’ll save plastic and always be hydrated :)

Plus, many coffee shops offer discounts for bringing your own container! (Eater)

 

Day 3 - Update your light bulbs

Here’s a bright idea! Switching your light bulbs to energy-efficient can save 25%-80% less energy and last 3-25 times longer.

Plus, you can save $75 a year (Energy.gov)

 

Day 4 -  BYOB

Bring your own bag anytime you shop. “Worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year, nearly 2 million each minute. The amount of energy required to make 12 plastic shopping bags could drive a car for a mile.” (Earth Policy Institute)

 

Day 5 - Go meatless for a day

The U.N. reports that the meat industry is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. It's also estimated that over 1,800 gallons of water are used to produce just a single pound of beef. (GoodHousekeeping)

 

Day 6 - Unplug at night

Your electronics need sleep too! Power off and shutdown your electronics to save energy overnight.

 

Day 7 - Volunteer at an Environmental Organization

Check out idealist and volunteermatch to find an organization near you and get one step closer to saving the planet.


Did we miss any? Let us know other ways we can clean up the Earth below? Comment below and we’ll send you one of the following books (your choice!) from our Environmental and Nature  trade books:

 

As another Easter passes by we wanted to take a moment to reflect on all the ways we celebrate and honor this holiday. Take a look below to learn more about Easter’s traditions and symbols.

 

Full moon rising (Almanac)

Would you believe that the date of Easter is related to the full Moon?

Specifically, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full Moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox.

 

Hop into the holiday spirit (History)

The Bible makes no mention of a long-eared, short-tailed creature who delivers decorated eggs to well-behaved children on Easter Sunday; nevertheless, the Easter bunny has become a prominent symbol of Christianity’s most important holiday. The exact origins of this mythical mammal are unclear, but rabbits, known to be prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests. Additionally, children often left out carrots for the bunny in case he got hungry from all his hopping.

 

Incredible Edibles: Dyeing Easter Eggs (MentalFloss)

The tradition of decorating eggs of all kinds—even ostrich eggs—may go all the way back to the ancient pagans. It’s easy to see why eggs represent rebirth and life, so associating them with spring and new growth isn’t much of a stretch. To celebrate the new season, it’s said that people colored eggs and gave them to friends and family as gifts.

 

When Christians came along, they likely incorporated the tradition into their celebrations. According to some legends, Mary or Mary Magdalene could be responsible for our annual trek to the store to buy vinegar and dye tablets. As the story goes, Mary brought eggs with her to Jesus’ crucifixion, and blood from his wounds fell on the eggs, coloring them red. Another tells us that Mary Magdalene brought a basket of cooked eggs to share with other women at Jesus’ tomb three days after his death. When they rolled back the stone and found the tomb empty, the eggs turned red.

 

Roll with it (White House)
The White House Easter Egg Roll officially dates back to 1878 and the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, but first-hand accounts suggest that informal festivities began with egg-rolling parties under President Abraham Lincoln. Starting in the 1870s, Easter Monday celebrations on the U.S. Capitol’s west grounds grew so popular that President Ulysses S. Grant signed a bill that banned the rolling of eggs on Capitol grounds, citing landscape concerns.

 

Hunt for joy (Good HouseKeeping)

The Easter egg has pre-Christian associations with spring, but much later, Christians related eggs to the resurrection of Jesus. The egg became a symbol for the tomb from where Jesus rose, just days after his crucifixion.

 

The first egg hunt can be traced back to Martin Luther, a central figure during the Protestant Reformation — men hid the eggs for women and children to find. The happy act of finding an Easter egg during the hunt is supposed to remind us of the joy that the women (believed to be Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Salome) felt when they came to Jesus's cave and found it empty.

 

Candy is Dandy (History)

Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in America, after Halloween. Among the most popular sweet treats associated with this day are chocolate eggs, which date back to early 19th century Europe. Eggs have long been associated with Easter as a symbol of new life and Jesus’ resurrection. Another egg-shaped candy, the jelly bean, became associated with Easter in the 1930s (although the jelly bean’s origins reportedly date all the way back to a Biblical-era concoction called a Turkish Delight). According to the National Confectioners Association, over 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter, enough to fill a giant egg measuring 89 feet high and 60 feet wide. For the past decade, the top-selling non-chocolate Easter candy has been the marshmallow Peep, a sugary, pastel-colored confection. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based candy manufacturer Just Born (founded by Russian immigrant Sam Born in 1923) began selling Peeps in the 1950s. The original Peeps were handmade, marshmallow-flavored yellow chicks, but other shapes and flavors were later introduced, including chocolate mousse bunnies.

What’s your favorite Easter tradition? Comment below!

Writing this blog is akin to keeping a journal of my professional life. The topic development, drafting, and editing process that takes place every two weeks allows me to evaluate what I’ve done in my classroom or my research, and helps me to formulate future plans. As a result I’ve become increasingly introspective about the implementation of ideas and content in my classroom. Since this week’s edition is my 50th blog for Macmillan Community I thought I would take some time to reflect on how blogging has enhanced my teaching over the past two years.

 

First and foremost, blogging has helped me to identify what has and has not worked. Prior to writing this blog I admittedly spent very little time thinking about why an assignment was a success or a failure. I would annotate my copy of the assignment with comments/feedback from students or observations I had made and then, inevitably, those notes would disappear into a course folder only to resurface the next time the very same assignment was about to be employed. Knowing that each assignment is potentially something to share with the Macmillan Community has led me to embrace the process of self-evaluation and reflection.

 

Blogging has increased my attention to student outcomes. Everyone working in higher education today has faced the challenge of identifying ways in which learning goals can be determined and measured. Certainly I had worked with colleagues to establish outcomes for our history courses prior to writing my first blog. Writing about my assignments, their goals, and outcomes, however, has helped me to fine-tune this process. I’ve been able to recognize ways in which students may be guided to see more clearly how learning history truly does aid them in their paths to professional (non-historian) careers.

 

Finally, blogging has encouraged me to take the time to do more careful reading. Though I’ve always encouraged my students to read newspapers and websites to draw connections to historical topics, I have not always listened to my own advice. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day challenges of life that we cannot take the time to truly reflect upon what we are reading. Writing this blog has encouraged me to slow down my reading -- especially of online content -- and consider with greater thoughtfulness how I might help students place what they read in context.  

 

What I continue to gain from the experience of blogging, therefore, is the knowledge that writing about teaching contributes to a more meaningful experience for me as the teacher, even after nineteen years in this profession. Two years after starting this blog I feel more connected to what happens in my classroom than ever before. It is my hope that my students’ learning experiences have been enhanced as well.

 

Do you keep a journal about your classroom experiences? If so, what have you learned from that practice?

During my sabbatical this spring I’ve taught only one class: Black History delivered fully online. It’s at this point in the semester, with five weeks of classes remaining, that I assign students a final research project: a 6-8 page study of a person, event or organization from the post-World War II civil rights movement. I let students choose their own topics with the hope that they will be more motivated if they have a personal interest in the subject matter. I have several goals for this project.

 

First I want students to demonstrate proficiency in basic library research. I require each student to use one book-length narrative, two academic articles, and three primary sources. Proficiency in library research requires properly formatted citations and a complete Works Cited page. Students are required to submit a draft of their Works Cited page to me early in the process, which is graded.

 

Second, I want students to show me that they understand the broader significance of civil rights activism over time. I ask them in this project to identify with examples the people, events, or ideologies from earlier historical periods that have influenced their topic. For example: students who choose to examine Brown v. the Board of Education need to demonstrate that the founding of the NAACP in 1909 had a long-term impact for the civil rights legislation in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

 

Properly integrating primary source examples into the narrative of their essays is my third focus. The three primary sources I require can be images or text. I encourage students to include images of their subjects but remind them that they must explain the images to their readers. Often times students will simply copy and paste an image into the research paper. My instructions, however,  include an example of how students can add to the quality of their projects by providing historical context for the images and citing them in-text.

 

Finally, I want to give students the opportunity to study a topic in detail that we might not cover in class readings/discussions. To cover Black History from 1600 to 1970 or so in one semester is virtually impossible. Many students have deeper interests in people or events that can be more fully explored through this kind of research project.

 

One of the challenges I face when assigning this project is convincing students to step outside of their comfort zone when they select a topic. It’s common, for example, for students to choose Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr, because they feel confident that they know something about these icons of the movement. By requiring each student to submit his/her topic to me via email before beginning the library research, I have been able to widen their focus. When a student chooses Rosa Parks, for example, I tell him/her that Parks’s arrest and actions in Montgomery in 1955 should account for no more than one paragraph of the final paper. Students who initially chose Parks as a topic because of the bus boycott have been amazed by all of the other -- less known -- work she did in her lifetime.

 

What kinds of projects are your students doing to end the semester? Are there challenges that you have faced in previous semesters that you seek to avoid this time around?  Let’s discuss.

This year’s theme is Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence (National Women’s History Alliance). They define this as, “women who have led efforts to end war, violence, and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change society.” We honor any woman who has, “embraced the fact that the means determine the ends and so developed nonviolent methods to ensure just and peaceful results.”

 

Linked below are some historical moments for women throughout history:

 

Heroines of Peace - The Nine Nobel Women (NobelPrize.org)

Facts and Figures: Peace and Security (UNWomen)

Women’s Participation in Peace Processes (CFR)

Promoting Women, Peace and Security (UN)

 

Honoring the theme, we’ve compiled some ways to practice and promote peacefulness:

 

How to Practice Peace and Interconnectedness

5 Easy Ways You Can Create World Peace

10 Daily Habits for Inner Peace

 

By commenting below you are eligible to choose one of our 5 highlighted Macmillan paperbacks. Please add that to the bottom of your comment to be sent a complimentary copy.

 

The women I’m reading about in the archives of New England’s state hospitals will likely never be the subjects of celebratory Women’s History Month events. The tiny remnants of their lives that exist in the historical record are the opposite of inspirational; depicting instead emotional pain and instability that led to their institutionalization. And yet, to me, these women’s lives offer my students even greater value as academic subjects than the most famous of female subjects because their experiences speak to the challenges of daily life in virtually every era of human history.

 

One of my goals during this semester’s sabbatical is to find ways to incorporate the subject of mental illness into my US History and Women’s History survey courses. I am hopeful that sharing these women’s stories within a historical context will help students to better understand both the medical and social welfare systems of the 19th and early 20th-centuries as well as the degree to which mental illness has been a constant in American history.

 

Unearthing these women’s lives, however, has been quite challenging. As I wrote in a previous blog, diagnoses like postpartum depression that are commonplace in the 21st century were rather mysterious to 19th-century physicians. Notations on women admitted to institutions such as Rhode Island’s State Hospital for the Incurable Insane and the RI State Almshouse regularly included marital status, how many children she had (alive and deceased), and what kind of work she did outside of the home. The admitting doctor or nurse made very general observations of her temperament -- “temperate” or “intemperate” are the adjectives most commonly used -- before describing the situation or event that ultimately brought the patient to the institution. In most cases descriptions are brief and painfully sad.

 

There is -- at least on the surface -- nothing remarkable or extraordinary about these women. No famous act of rebellion or eloquent speech exists to propel my subjects directly onto the pages of a course syllabus. There are, instead, hospital notes: “uterine problems,” “gynecological healments,” “mania,” and “domestic unhappiness” are among the common phrases. How do I -- historian and teacher -- help students to see value in studying these nameless women’s lives?

 

I’m reminded as I pour through these documents of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s pivotal work A Midwife’s Tale (Vintage 1990). Describing Martha Ballard’s diary Ulrich wrote: “Taken alone, [the diary] tell[s] us too much and not enough, teasing us with glimpses of intimate life, repelling us with a reticence we cannot decode. Yet, read in the broader context...and in relation to larger themes in eighteenth-century history, [it] can be extraordinarily revealing.” (p. 25) As we honor Women’s History Month this March, let’s remember not only the (now) famous women who have persevered amidst seemingly insurmountable odds but also those who remain nameless and faceless in the historical record. Let’s recover their voices and share them with students in the hopes of creating a broader understanding of all women’s history ... and not just during the month of March.

You don’t have to leave home (although we recommend you do) to celebrate Women’s History Month! Below are some great suggestions to honor Women’s History Month on your own time.

 

Movies:

 

Books:

 

For a great combo, check out BookRiot’s list on “Bookish Movies Directed by Women for Women’s History Month.”

 

Podcasts: Whether you’re on the go or sitting at home, these insightful podcasts are definitely worth a listen!

 

Specific Episodes:

 

Which recommendation are you most likely to use?

  • Podcast
  • Movie
  • Book

 

Comment below and we’ll send you one of the following books (your choice!) from our Women’s History trade books:

 

Chelsea Simens

Women’s History Month

Posted by Chelsea Simens Mar 15, 2019

Every March we take the time to look back and honor the achievements of women throughout history. Although widely celebrated now, this was not always the case. Below we give a snapshot of what Women’s History Month is and how you can celebrate. We’ll be posting weekly on Women’s History Month so check in!

 

What is it?

An annual event to reflect and celebrate the achievements of women’s through history during the month of March. It’s an opportunity to study up on Women’s place throughout history - the struggles they have faced and the contributions they continue to make to society today.

 

History of Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month originally started as Women’s History Week in 1978. But much like women, it continued to persevere and prosper. By 1980 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed March 8 (International Women’s Day) as Women’s History Week. Over the next several years the week’s influence continued to expand. By 1987 Congress had declared March as National Women’s History Month and it was celebrated all over the nation. It continues this legacy today.

 

How can you celebrate?

There are many ways to celebrate. Some notable ways people have honored this month in the past have been donating to women’s charities, donating to your local library to provide more books on women’s history (or even donating a book yourself!), and attending rallies for women.

 

We’ll be providing more information on how to honor Women’s History month throughout the month. For now, check out some of these recommended events:

 

Exhibits and Collections (WomensHistoryMonth.Gov)

Celebrate Women’s History (ThoughtCo)

31 Ways to Celebrate Women’s History Month (GirlsWithIdeas)

31 Empowering Ways to Celebrate Women’s History this Month (Bustle)

 

By commenting below you are eligible to choose one of our 5 highlighted Macmillan paperbacks. Please add that to the bottom of your comment to be sent a complimentary copy.

 

A scholar new to the academic job market recently asked me to reflect on this question: what do I consider to be the greatest challenge of teaching history at a community college? So here goes ... community college students are often unprepared for the level of reading required to succeed in a college history course.

 

The caveat to this statement, of course, is that many four-year college students are also unprepared because so many high school students are not challenged to read and synthesize large amounts of written information. As a result, even those students who come into my community college classroom from college-prep and honors-level courses in high school often find managing reading assignments difficult. The problem of students not reading enough is not, by any means, unique to history courses. However, there are so many amazing sources available to us as historians -- narrative histories, memoirs, novels, speeches, diaries, etc -- that I have a painfully difficult time selecting readings. Ultimately I assign less than half of what I would truly like my students to read over the course of a semester-long US history survey course.

 

What makes this problem more challenging is that community college students are notoriously time-crunched by work, commuting, and family responsibilities. As a result of these competing responsibilities, unless there is a graded assignment tied directly to it students often will not read. Compared to completing a written assignment that will be turned-in for a grade, reading for general content and context appear less important and are easily dismissed. A recent survey of community college students conducted by North Carolina State University found that work responsibilities and tuition expenses are viewed as “the top two challenges community college students said impeded their academic success.” (Inside Higher Ed, 12 February 2019) I’ve come to accept that even the most committed student may unwillingly fall asleep reading his history textbook after an eight or ten-hour shift on the job.

 

So much of the learning that we ask students to do in our history courses requires a significant amount of reading. Students for whom English is their second language often find history courses difficult because they are seeking to understand both language and content simultaneously. With my community college students, therefore, I search for primary sources with accessible language and rely heavily on images to help those students understand key historical concepts as they continue to improve their reading skills. Photographs, political cartoons, maps, charts and graphs have become an increasingly important part of my course assignments to compensate for the fact that students simply either will not or cannot read the amount of material that I would like to assign.

 

There are many challenges to teaching history at a community college that I have embraced. Classrooms populated by students of diverse ages, political, social and economic backgrounds, for example, produce vibrant class discussion. My students’  different academic backgrounds inspire me to stay active in the field of teaching and learning, in addition to being up to date with historical content. I am particularly conscious of a need to search for new ways to share history with this diverse group and I embrace that challenge. Convincing students that reading will not only enhance their academic experience in my class but their overall quality of life remains the challenge with which I most struggle. Suggestions?