(First semester—even years/3 credits)
This course explores the impact of historical events on the lives of American women and the varied roles women have played in shaping United States’ history from the colonial period to the present. It will focus specifically on how class, ethnicity and race has influenced American women’s work, family life and organized activities. Topics include: Native American women’s lives; gender and family life under slavery; the impact of industrialization on women of different classes; the ideology of separate spheres; women’s political activities including the antislavery movement, the suffrage movement, the Nineteenth Amendment and the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s; and transformations in the lives of modern women including work, politics, sexuality, consumption patterns and leisure activities. While tracing larger trends and identifying common experiences, the course pays close attention to the specific experiences of individual women in order to shed light on the differences and divisions among them. Throughout, it investigates the ways in which notions of gender difference have changed over time and how a wide variety of women both created and responded to shifting and contested cultural, political and social roles.