US Women’s History from 1870
HIST 328
Spring 2012
TR 12:30-1:45

Jeffrey McClurken
Office Hours:  MW, 9-11; TR, 1:30-2:30, or by appointment
[Office hours updated outside my office and at ]

Course Description
This course is a survey of the history of women in the United States from 1870 to the present.  It examines the significant cultural, economic, and political developments that shaped the lives of American women, but places gender at the center of historical analysis.  The course also stresses the variety of women’s experiences, acknowledging the importance of race, ethnicity, and class in shaping female lives.  We will discuss women’s (political and social) organizations, daily lives, economic roles, and the various ways in which gender roles have been constructed and received.
This course counts in the History major, the American Studies major, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Major, as well as counting toward the Human Experience and Society General Education requirement
Departmental Learning Objectives
  • Ability to read critically primary sources and modern authorities.
  • Ability to write with clarity about the past.
  • Ability to communicate in a group setting.
Human Experience & Society Learning Objectives
  • Students will be able to explain human and social experiences and activities from multiple perspectives.
  • Students will be able to draw appropriate conclusions based on evidence.
  • Students will be able to transfer knowledge and skills learned to a novel situation.

Course Requirements

Students are expected to attend all lectures, read all assigned texts, participate in class, complete all the UMW-related research assignments, and take a midterm and a final examination.  Projects are due at the start of class on the day they are due.  They are considered late if turned in anytime after that deadline.  Late projects will be penalized one full letter grade or, after 24 hours, not accepted.


Students are expected to attend all weekly class discussions having read the material and having prepared 2-3 questions, comments, or topic suggestions for class discussions.  They should be aimed at provoking class discussions on the reading, and should focus on the primary sources.  [Comments on the reading might include (but are not limited to) parallels, problems, factual questions, reminders of past readings, and relevant connections to ideas from other classes or from your own life.]  Weekly discussions will take place on Thursday unless otherwise indicated.  Although I’m not planning on collecting these questions/comments, I reserve the right to do so at any point during the semester.  Class participation includes attending class and actively participating in class discussions.

Final Grades

Final grades will be determined based on class participation (20%), performance on the individual research logs and group research website (30%), contributions to the class re-enactment (10%), and on the midterm and final exams (20% each).

Required Texts

Ellen Carol Dubois and Vicky L. Ruiz, eds., Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women’s History, 4th edition.  [US]
Susan Ware, Modern American Women: A Documentary History, 2nd edition. [MAW]
Mary Beth Norton and Ruth Alexander, Major Problems in American Women’s History, 4th edition. [MP]
Other readings will be available online.


This project will be based around researching Mary Washington College classes in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, & 1960s (including course topics, pedagogical approaches, majors, gender stereotypes, technology, and clothing).  As our class lectures and readings look at the experiences of women in the United States in the late 19th and 20th Centuries, our parallel goal will be to understand what college meant to women who came to Mary Washington in the four decades in the middle of the 20th Century.

Each group of 6-7 of you will have a decade to research, using a variety of online and archival sources, as well as interviews with alums from these decades.  Rather than writing a traditional individual research paper, you’ll keep a research blog and work with your group to create a research site collecting together the information that you’ve found.

Primary source resources (many available in UMW Special Collections)

  • The Bullet
  • Course Catalogs
  • Academic Department and Faculty Files
  • Student Handbooks
  • Photographs (Centennial Collection online plus those digitized, but not online yet)
  • Alumni/Faculty Interviews (talk to me about interview waivers)
  • Resources from Historic Preservation (?)
  • Scrapbooks/Aubade/Alumni Magazine/President’s files

Secondary Sources

  • Crawley, William B. University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008. Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington, 2008.
  • Key UMW faculty and staff (Parsons, McClusky, Thaden, Snyder)

Decade-based Research Groups

I will assign each of you to a group of 5-7 each with a different decade at MWC to research, using a variety of online and archival sources, as well as interviews with alums from these decades.  Each person will keep their own research log/blog and work with their group to create a research site collecting together the information that you’ve found.

Part I — Individual Research Logs

Each student will take a particular set of primary sources (or will interview alumni) and research classroom experiences for their group’s decade.  Each student will share her/his work in progress in the form of four individual research log-style blog posts posted before class starts on four consecutive Tuesdays (1/31, 2/7, 2/14, 2/21).

UPDATE: The first research log post (1/31) should be 250-500 words long and should describe the primary sources you’ll be working with and researching based on an initial survey of the materials.  Include information about amount, condition of records, how you think they might be useful in understanding the classroom experiences of students during your decade.

Part II — Group Research Project

Building on the research done by each of the group members, each group will construct a site for their decade in UMWBlogs.  The design, format, and presentation of these sites will be determined by the group, with a broad audience in mind.  These sites are due by 11:59 PM on Monday, March 12.

Grading for Parts I and II – 30% overall, with an individual grade for research logs and group grade for the research project.

Part III – Class re-creation

Based on those group research sites, we will collectively decide (with the help of some alums), which decade we will then use for the final project, a re-creation of a course session or two from that decade.  The form these class sessions will take is still yet to be determined (depending in part on the decade picked), but they will involve everyone in some way in preparation and presentation.  Specific tasks will be determined after the decade is chosen.  This recreation will take place during the week of April 17.

Grading for Part III – 10%, with individual grades defined by student’s participation in the re-creation process.

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout these projects, all ideas, phrases, and quotes must be cited using footnote-style citations and bibliographies done using the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition) or Turabian’s newest Guide (7th Edition).   


If you receive services through the Office of Disability Services and require accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs.  Bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment.  I will hold any information you share with me in the strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise.  If you need accommodations, (note taking assistance, extended time for tests, etc.), please consult with the Office of Disability Services (x1266) about the appropriate documentation of a disability.

Honor Code

I believe in the Honor Code as an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience.  You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will almost certainly fail, and I will take you to the Honor Council, so do not do it.  On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing itself remains yours).  If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me sooner rather than later.
Class Schedule and Reading Assignments

Week 1 – Starting Jan. 17

— Introduction
— Defining Women’s History
—    Discussion of reading — MP, 1-23
—    Project – Introduction to Research Logs & Group assignments


Week 2 – Starting Jan. 24
— Women in the 1st half of the 19th Century
— The Impact of the Civil War and Its Aftermath
—    Discussion of reading — US, 130-155, 156-177


Research Log Post #1 DUE TUESDAY, January 31, AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS
Week 3 – Starting Jan. 31
— The Failure of the 14th and 15th Amendments for Women’s Rights
— Women in the Multiracial West
            — Discussion of reading US, 178-193, 194-220; MP, 231-245, 252-258
Research Log Post #2 DUE TUESDAY, February 7, AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS
Week 4 – Starting Feb. 7
The “New Woman” in Public Life, 1880s-1930s
—  Online Discussion of reading US, 221-247, 259-270; MAW, 4-27, 30-46, 76-92
—    Project – Group meeting
Research Log Post #3 DUE TUESDAY, February 14, AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS
Week 5 – Starting Feb. 14
— Working Women in the late 19th and early 20th Century
— Discussion of reading MAW, 49-73; MP, 261-274


Research Log Post #4 DUE TUESDAY, February 21, AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS
Week 6 – Starting Feb. 21
— The “New Woman” – The Fight for the 19th Amendment
Discussion of reading US, 271-288; MAW, 95-114; MP, 304-306


Week 7 – Starting Feb. 28
— The 1920s & the Roots of Modern Feminism
— Tuesday Discussion of reading – MAW, 121-142, US, 289-303
—    Project – Group Meeting
MIDTERM EXAM –Thursday, March 1
                        — Bring blue books for test


SPRING BREAK! – While I grade your tests, work on your group projects.
Group project sites DUE TUESDAY, March 13, AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS
Week 8 – Starting Mar. 13
— American Women, Sexuality, and Marriage in the late 19th and early 20th Century
            Discussion of reading – US, 325-341, 342-362.


Week 9 – Starting Mar. 20
— The Great Depression and the New Deal
Discussion of reading — MAW, 145-178; US, 401-416; MP, 337-350
—    Project – Divide up roles for re-creation
Week 10 – Starting Mar. 27
— World War II: A War Fought on Multiple Fronts
— Postwar Idealized Femininity: A Modernized Domesticity in the American Suburbs?
Online Discussion of reading – MAW, 179-180, 185-205, 208-220, 226-229; MP, 371-378, 410-426, 435-444; photos at;US, 363-378
—    Project – Discuss work on re-creation.


Week 11 – Starting Apr. 3
— Postwar Idealized Femininity (Continued)
— Confronting Oppression, Part 1:  Women and the Civil Rights Movement
Discussion of reading – MAW, 220-226; US, 535-550, 551-563; MP, 455-457


Week 12 – Starting Apr. 10
— Confronting Oppression, Part 2:  Second-Wave Feminism
Discussion of reading – US, 495-520, 521-534; MAW, 237-267, 300-307


Week 13 – Starting Apr. 17

— Re-creation of MWC class

— Confronting Oppression, Part 2:  Second-Wave Feminism (Continued, if needed)


Week 14 – Starting Apr. 24
— Women and Politics in the era of ERA and Roe v. Wade
— Women in ContemporaryAmerica
            — Discussion of reading – US, 592-597; MAW, 270-297, 307-358; MP, 459-469, 506-524

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