American Women’s History

Required Readings: All readings and reading excerpts will be provided to you (see list below).


  1. Allgor, Catherine. Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2000. [ISBN: 9780813921181]
  2. Barr, Julianna. Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007. [ISBN: 9780807867730]
  3. Bellafaire, Judith. “Native American Women’s Veterans.” The Women’s Memorial.
  4. Bennett, Pamela D. “Sometimes Freedom Wears a Woman’s Face: American Indian Women Veterans of World War II.” PhD Diss., The University of Arizona, 2012.
  5. Brown, Kathleen M. “The Anglo-Algonquin Gender Frontier.” In Negotiators of Change: Historical Perspectives on Native American Women edited by Nancy Shoemaker. New York, NY: Routledge, 1995. [ISBN: 9781136042621]
  6. Child, Brenda J. Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2013. [ISBN: 9780143121596]
  7. Cohen, Cathy C. et al., eds. Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader. New York, NY: NYU Press, 1997. [ISBN: 9780814715581]
  8. Barker Devine, Jenny. “The Answer to the Auxiliary Syndrome: Women Involved in Farm Economics (WIFE) and New Organizing Strategies for Farm Women, 1976-1985.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 30, no. 3 (2009): 117-141. 
  9. Eisenmann, Linda. “A Time of Quiet Activism: Research, Practice, and Policy in American Women’s Higher Education, 1945-1965.” History of Education Quarterly 45, no. 1 (2005): 1-17. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5959.2005.tb00024.x.
  10. Esterberg, Kristin G. “From Accommodation to Liberation: A Social Movement Analysis of Lesbians in the Homophile Movement.” Gender and Society 8, no. 3 (1994): 424-443. JSTOR.
  11. Floyd, Claudia. Maryland Women in the Civil War: Unionists, Rebels, Slaves and Spies. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2013. [ISBN: 9781625840196]
  12. Ford, Tanisha C. “SNCC Women, Denim, and the Politics of Dress.” The Journal of Southern History 79, no. 3 (2013): 625-658. JSTOR.
  13. Harrison, Cynthia E. “A ‘New Frontier’ for Women: The Public Policy of the Kennedy Administration.” The Journal of American History 67, no. 3 (1980): 630-646. JSTOR.
  14. Hunter, Tera W. To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997. [ISBN: 9780674893085]
  15. Klepp, Susan E. Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2009. [ISBN: 9780807838716]
  16. Lajimodiere, Denise K. “American Indian Females and Stereotypes: Warriors, Leaders, Healers, Feminists; Not Drudges, Princesses, Prostitutes.” Multicultural Perspectives 15, no. 2 (2013): 104-109.
  17. Marshall, Sarah. “Re-Examining Monica, Marcia, Tonya and Anita, the ‘Scandalous’ Women of the ’90s.” Splinter, April 19, 2016.
  18. Nadasen, Premilla. “Expanding the Boundaries of the Women’s Movement: Black Feminism and the Struggle for Welfare Rights.” Feminist Studies 28, no. 2 (2002): 271-301. JSTOR.
  19. Perkins, Linda M. “‘Bound to Them by a Common Sorrow’: African American Women, Higher Education, and Collective Advancement.” The Journal of African American History100, no. 4 (2015): 721-747. JSTOR.
  20. Pettit, Becky and Stephanie Ewert. “Employment Gains and Wage Declines: The Erosion of Black Women’s Relative Wages since 1980.” Demography 46, no. 3 (2009): 469-492. doi: 10.1353/dem.0.0061
  21. Ruiz, Vicki L. and Ellen Carol DuBois, eds. Unequal Sisters: An Inclusive Reader in U.S. Women’s History. New York, NY: Routledge, 1990. [ISBN: 9780415902724]
  22. Ruiz, Vicki L. and Virginia Sánchez Korrol, eds. Latina Legacies: Identity, Biography, and Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. [ISBN: 9780195153996]
  23. Snyder, Terri L. “Refiguring Women in Early American History.” The William and Mary Quarterly 69, no. 3 (2012): 421-450. JSTOR.
  24. Speed, Shannon. Incarcerated Stories: Indigenous Women Migrants and Violence in the Settler-Capitalist State. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2019. [ISBN: 9781469653136] 
  25. Toro-Morn, Maura I. “Gender, Class, Family, and Migration: Puerto Rican Women in Chicago.” Gender and Society 9, no. 6 (1995): 712-726. JSTOR.
  26. Traister, Rebecca. Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2018. [ISBN: 9781501181795]

Course Videos:

 “Eisha Love: A Trans Woman of Color in Chicago.” YouTube Video, 15:52. Published by “them,” October 18, 2018.

“Jennifer Chavez: A Trans Woman Working in a Male-Dominated Industry.” YouTube Video, 10:12. Published by “them,” October 25, 2018.

“Kai Shappley: A Trans Girl Growing Up in Texas.” YouTube Video, 18:03. Published by “them,” October 10, 2018.   

Weekly Themes:

  1. Indigenous Women & European Encounters
  2. Women in Colonial & Revolutionary America (1600-1780s)
  3. Revolutionary Backlash–Women of the Early Republic (1789-1849)
  4. Gendered Experiences in the American Civil War & Reconstruction (1750s-1877)
  5. Women of the Gilded Age (1870s-1900) & the Progressive Era (1890s-1920)
  6. The Jazz Age (1920s) & the Great Depression (1929-1939)
  7. Rosie the Riveter–Women of the 1940s
  8. Leave it to (June) Beaver: Women & the Baby Boom (1950s)
  9. The Sixties: The Birth of Second Wave Feminism
  10. The “Me” Decade: Life & Liberation in the 1970s
  11. The Age of Reagan: A Place for Women in the 1980s
  12. Clarissa Explains it All: Women, Tech, and the Dot Com Decade (1990s)
  13. Y2K & the War on Terror (2000-2010) [would go beyond 2010 if I were teaching it today to discuss things like the drawdown in Afghanistan]
  14. From Obama to Trump: Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, & the First Woman President?

Grading Standards:

  • Reading Discussion/Participation: 25%
  • Primary Source Analysis: 15%
  • Film Review: 10%
  • Gender Studies Resource Database (GSRD) Midterm Project: 25%
  • Final Project: 25%

Course Requirements:

Reading Discussion Grade: The purpose of this course is to introduce you to the complex history of American women over the course of nearly 600 years. The readings are also designed to engage you with critical discussion in class. For each set of readings, I will have a series of discussion questions, but students will also be expected to come to class with at least three questions of their own. If you are supremely uncomfortable with talking in class to the degree that it causes you crippling anxiety, I have an alternative option for you: You can ask questions and provide a critical overview of each day’s readings in a short write-up that you submit to me via email prior to the start of class. I can then incorporate your written work into the day’s discussion. You can then answer questions raised in class and send to me via email before the next class.

Primary Source Analysis: Once during the term, you will critically engage with one of the critical activities of a historian: analysis of primary sources. A brief review of primary sources can be found under the “Miscellaneous Information” section of the syllabus. You will be given one primary source document and one primary source image/cartoon to analyze using questions from the National Archives Primary Source Worksheets to help guide you. In the In-Class portion of the assignment, you will work with an assigned partner to complete the worksheet. Once the worksheet is completed, you will individually write up a written version of your own analysis in short essay form, conducting a sort of comparison/contrast between the two of sources. You will submit both the worksheet and the write-up and will be assessed on both parts.

Film Review: You will choose one film from those on the approved film list and write a critical review of it. You are not confined the films listed, but you should run options by me first. You will take notes about the movie on a Film Study worksheet and use these notes—as well as the reading material, both primary and secondary, we’ve used in class—to compose a two to three page critical reflection paper. Each question on the worksheet can help you compose paragraphs, but you do not necessarily have to use them all. Using knowledge you’ve gained in the classroom as well as your notes from the movie, critique this film for things like historical accuracy, entertainment value, representation(s) of women, and impact. Some questions to consider would be: What would you change to improve the film/program? How much do these films/programs affect our ability to educate the public on history? How do we determine fact from fiction? How well does this film represent the variety of women’s identities/experiences? You might also choose to do a comparison/contrast of multiple films across a particular theme or time.

For film reviews check out this website:

Gender Studies Resource Database (GSRD) Midterm Project: This is a collaborative project with Dr. Shelley E. Rose and graduate students in the Department of History at Cleveland State University to construct a database of digital projects, archives, or open access/open educational resources. While her class focuses on projects about women in Europe, we will be taking the lead in projects focused on American women. Each of you will be assigned a different digital resource to research, complete an entry worksheet (provided for you) on, write an original 150-word abstract for, tag with one or more appropriate tags from a provided Master List, and participate in a peer-review process before submitting a final version for Dr. Rose to approve. Students wishing to work directly with the Omeka platform may be given the opportunity to do so at the end of the semester, but it is not a requirement of the assignment.

Final Project:

Option A (Popularly called an Unessay): To get you used to working with both primary and secondary sources and introduce you to the field of public history, you will create a public history product on a topic of your choice related to the course themes. You can choose to write about women’s experiences during a particular time period, focus on a particular issue, compare experiences across race/class/ethnicity/etc., take a biographical approach, etc.

Options for the “visual” portion of the assignment may vary widely, but suggestions include: creating a website; designing a museum exhibit, filming a video (think Drunk History or CrashCourse), making a physical artifact (like posters, cross-stitching, sculpture, etc.), blogging, creating a game (card game, board game, video/computer game, etc.), or even creating a “live-tweet” series of an event on Twitter! The options are nearly endless! A short explanatory/analytical write-up will accompany your “visual” product.

Option B (Research Paper): This option is also designed to get you used to working with both primary and secondary sources. Rather than crafting a public history project, you will write a traditional seven to ten page academic paper on a topic of your choice related to the course themes. A key element of this project is using both primary AND secondary sources to create a compelling historical argument.


  • The New World (2005)
  • Maïna: An Unusual Love Story (2014)
  • Mary Silliman’s War (1994)
  • The Witch (2016)
  • American Experience: Dolly Madison (2010)
  • Alex Haley’s Queen (1993)
  • Beloved (1998)
  • Songcatcher (2001)
  • The African Queen (1954)
  • Iron Jawed Angels (2004)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005)
  • His Girl Friday (1940)
  • All About Eve (1950)
  • Carol (2015)
  • Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
  • Hidden Figures (2016)
  • Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
  • No Más Bebés (2015)
  • Thunderheart (1992)
  • The Women of Brewster Place (1980)
  • 9 to 5 (1980)
  • Finding Dawn (2006)
  • G.I. Jane (1997)
  • Out in the Night (2014)
  • Real Women Have Curves (2002)
  • Tangerine (2015)
  • Wind River (2017)
  • The Pearl (2018)