Women’s History

A Flag, a Dinner Bell, and a Hand-Dug Well: Using Artifacts to Make Meaningful Connections to the Past

By Michelle M. Martin

When I began my directorship of the Little House on the Prairie Museum south of Independence, Kansas, the promise and challenges the museum faced swirled in my mind. For any small historic house museum, problems tend to outweigh the possibilities. Founded in 1977, the Little House on the Prairie Museum preserves the Kansas homesite where Charles Ingalls and his family lived from 1869–71. The museum features a replica of the one-room cabin the family lived in while in Kansas along with a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse and post office moved to the site to ensure their preservation.

Clothes as Historical Sources: What Bloomers Reveal about the Women Who Wore Them

By Laura J. Ping

My interest in textiles came from my grandmother and her collection of carefully preserved family heirloom quilts. My favorite was the crazy quilt; my grandmother and I would spend hours examining the fabrics used in the patchwork and guessing if each piece had once been a man’s shirt, a woman’s dress, or perhaps a set of sheets. This early lesson in the importance of textiles has inspired my research on fashion, a flourishing field of study.

February 13, 2017
Nurses in the Navy attending class, 1940. Wikimedia Commons

Pink-Collar Pain and Our New President

By Katherine Turk

In the wake of this year’s presidential election, many of Hillary Clinton’s supporters are struggling to understand why her calls for sisterhood did not persuade the 62 percent of white non-college-educated women who voted for her opponent, Donald J. Trump.[1] One explanation came in Trump’s acceptance speech. In a 21st-century twist on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Depression-era appeal to the working class, the president-elect praised the “forgotten men and women” who hoisted him to victory. Many of these women are indeed the pink-collar workers the civil rights revolution forgot.

December 27, 2016

Time to Right the Record: American Conservatism in the Archives

By Michelle Nickerson

“We don’t have anything on conservative women, however . . .”

This is what archivists would tell me during the earliest days of my dissertation research. It was the turn of the 21st century, and I was enthusiastically joining a wave of new scholars taking up what Alan Brinkley had called, in his path-breaking 1994 American Historical Review essay, “The Problem of American Conservatism.”

Far from the Harlem Crowd: Rediscovering the Work and Life of Augusta Savage in Saugerties, New York

By Eric Fitzsimmons and Sarah E. Elia

In 1945, Augusta Savage, a sculptor and a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, traded the hustle of Harlem for a secluded house, 100 miles north, tucked at the end of a dirt drive in Saugerties, New York. For a long time, her story was said to end there in a retreat from society and the Harlem art world—a narrative that ignored her ongoing work and active social life in her adopted town.

A portrait of Mary Church Terrell by Betsy Graves Reyneau. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Mary Church Terrell: The Great-Great Grandmother of Black Lives Matter

By Joan Quigley

Black Lives Matter, the protest movement launched by three African American women, has ignited a search for new role models. One Black Lives Matter co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, has cited the influence of Harriet Tubman; another co-founder, Alicia Garza, has invoked Sojourner Truth. And, as Jelani Cobb wrote recently in the New Yorker, Black Lives Matter has reclaimed a grassroots activist, Ella Baker, whose career included stints with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.