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2019

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?