Giveaway: Why Study Women’s History?

noturningbackWomen’s History Month draws to a close today. I’ve just started reading Estelle Freedman’s “No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women ” (2007).

And I realised I have a spare new hardcover of this sitting on my shelf. If you’d like a copy of No Turning Back, all you have to do is respond to this quote from her Preface:

Working with college students, I often recall myself as a sophomore at Barnard College in 1966. I wanted nothing to do with women’s movements or women’s history. When my advisor, Annette Baxter, suggested that I enroll in her course on U.S. women’s history, I had the nerve to reply that I would rather study “real” history.

In 1-3 paragraphs, how would you have responded to the young Ms Freedman, and to women like her?

I’ll take comments for about a week, then choose a recipient at random from the substantive respondents. Go!

[Australian-address entrants only, sorry. Please feel free to spread the word about this giveaway amongst your Aussie blog networks.]

Categories: gender & feminism, history

Tags: , ,

10 replies

  1. I think I would have asked her what real history was and why there weren’t any women in it. Did they not exist?

  2. I’ve been thinking about this and like Mindy, the only approach I am comfortable with is the Socratic:
    What do you mean by “real” history?
    How do you know there’s no “real” history in a women’s history course?
    How do you detect and deal with history that isn’t “real” in your other classes? Or are all the other history courses (magically) only “real” history?
    And I would be genuinely interested in the answers, and try to continue the conversation based on them. Sorry it’s not a standalone couple of paragraphs!

  3. But aren’t women real people, with real lives? Aren’t our stories real stories? How then can women’s history not be real history? There are just as many stories of courage and passion and tragedy and all the other things that history teaches us about the human condition. I get just as many chills from ‘Bread and Roses’ as I do from Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon.
    (It’s hard to do this without falling into the stereotype that all women in history were just keeping house, or that the only important women in history were the ones that did ‘masculine’ activities)

  4. I would start with: So who writes history? Have you heard the saying that history is always written by the winning side? Why is that? Winning means getting more of the resources. It also means getting to be in charge. It means getting control of the platform to make your voice the one that is heard.
    All good historians recognise this, and work to find out what the people who didn’t win thought about the situation, as well. You’ll never be a historian worth your salt if you only take into account one point of view, and if that is the view of the winning side. You’ll just be a propagandist, and historians will ask why you weren’t more thorough and skeptical.
    Throughout history, men have consistently been the ones who have gained control of the most resources, and who have had control of the platforms that people have needed in order to be heard. They were able to prevent women from learning to read and write, from visiting libraries, from speaking in parliament, from having their work and opinions published and valued. In this sense they have been the “winners”. If you only learn men’s history, you will only be learning winners’ history, and the quality of your work as a historian will always be partial, partisan, and fundamentally flawed.

  5. Thanks for all your contributions – keep them coming!

  6. This is such an interesting topic – I’d actually love to write a whole post in response, but won’t get around to it until Friday morning or so. Can I still be counted then? That book does look good. *drools over book*

  7. Jo: Yes – I won’t be picking out a winner until Sunday or Monday. Come join in! And links to longer responses are welcome.

  8. Awesome, thanks Lauredhel!

  9. I would have said, ‘Real history according to whom?’
    I just have to publicly drool over the cover of that book. All hail the designer, whoever they are, it’s very articulate visually.

  10. Annndddd… using a random number generator at, I have determined the winner to be: orlando! Congratulations, orlando – I’ll email you.

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