History of Women in the U.S. Course Syllabus


Instructor: Dr. Beryl Satter

This course surveys the history of American women from 1880 to the present. Topics covered include the women's club movements of the 1890s, turn-of-the-century debates about sexuality, women's labor militancy in the 1910s, activism and reaction in the 1920s, women's experience of the Great Depression, women and World War II, the Civil Rights movement, the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the 1980s backlash, and gender anxiety in the post-9/11 era.

Class Goals and Requirements

The course goals are first, to provide students with a clear sense of the history of American women from 1880 to the present; second, to train students to critically analyze primary documents as well as secondary sources; and third, to provide students with a solid historical perspective that enables them to better analyze contemporary struggles of American women.

Class Format

This class will be taught through lectures, class discussions and small group exercises.  Class exercises and discussions will focus on the readings and films listed in the syllabus that follows.  The exercises are intended to help you reach an understanding of the meaning of the readings and films.  Because of the central place of discussion in the class, it is essential that you complete the assigned readings by the date indicated on the syllabus.

Class Requirements

1) Attendance, careful reading of assigned texts by date indicated on syllabus, and participation in class discussion.

2) Six short written responses to class readings (a.k.a. homework).

3) Midterm exam held on Monday, Feb. 20th

4) Essay, 5-7 pages (typed and double-spaced, approximately 250 works per page), due on Monday, March19th 

5) Final exam (cumulative).


Short Written Responses/ Homework:  For most class sessions I will either give you one broad question that is intended to help you reflect on the assigned readings or films, or a series of more focused questions related to the readings.  You must prepare a short, informal written response to my question or questions.  Your response should be from a paragraph to a page in length, and can be hand-written.  I will collect these responses six times over the course of the semester.  I will not announce in advance when I will collect responses.  This means that you must always be ready to hand in responses. I will grade your responses with a check (if it is completed), a check plus (if it is particularly well done) or a check minus (if it is barely passable).   





Final Exam.........................30%


Participation:  Will be taken into account when considering final grade.


*Grading for Homework:

-If you get mostly check-minuses = D

-Mix of checks and check minuses = C

-Mostly checks = B

-Half or more check-pluses = A

-If you miss two homeworks:  FINAL GRADE LOWERED BY HALF A GRADE (from “B+” to “B,” for example).

-If you miss three or more homeworks:  FINAL GRADE LOWERED BY ONE GRADE (from “B+” to “C+,” for example). 


Items You Must Purchase

Most of the readings for this course are contained in a Course Reader.  It can be purchased at Affordable Copy, 49 Halsey Street (between New and Bleeker St.)    The phone number of Affordable Copy is 973-802-1007.  Course Reader contents are marked with asterisks on the syllabus.  One asterisk (*) means that the reading is a secondary source.  Two asterisks (**) means that the reading is a primary source. 


Also required are two books: Sara Evans, Born for Liberty, and Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound.  Both are available for purchase at New Jersey Books, 167 University Avenue (corner of University and Bleeker) and at the RU Bookstore.  NJ Book’s phone number is 973-624-5383.   Both books are also on reserve at Dana Library. 

Attendance policy

Attendance is required.  If you miss more than four classes, your grade will be lowered by half a grade (from B+ to B, for example).  If you miss more than six classes, your grade will be lowered by one full grade.  IMPORTANT:  If you miss more than 8 classes, through any combination of excused or unexcused absences, you will not earn credit for this course.  Such students should withdraw from the class. 


Cell Phone Policy

If your cell phone goes off in class, you will be sent out of the classroom to turn it off.  You can come back into class after that, but you will be counted as "absent" for that day (see above for policy on missing classes).


Late papers and exams

Papers and exams are due on the dates announced in class or indicated below.  Unless discussed with me in advance, late assignments will have their grades lowered.


Policy on Academic Integrity (Cheating and Plagiarism)

Rutgers University treats cheating and plagiarism as serious offenses.  The standard minimum penalties for students who cheat or plagiarize include failure of the course, disciplinary probation, and a formal warning that further cheating will be grounds for expulsion from the University.   You are required to read and sign an “Academic Integrity” pledge (on Blackboard) in order to take this class.


Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities, including learning disabilities, are advised to consult with the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, in Room 302, Robeson Center.  Upon submission of appropriate documentation, the Assistant Dean will arrange for necessary assistance and accommodation to enable any self-identified disabled student to meet all course requirements.


The syllabus is subject to change!


Wed. Jan. 18:  Introduction

            Sara Evans, Born for Liberty (hereafter "Evans") pp. 119-125

Mon. Jan. 23:  The Struggles of Late Nineteenth-Century Working-Class Women

*David M. Katzman, “Seven Days a Week: Domestic Work”

**Anonymous, “I Live a Treadmill Life” (1912), and Anonymous, “A Colored Woman, However Respectable, is Lower than the White Prostitute,” (1902), in Lerner, Black Women in White America, pp. 227-229, 166-168

*Tera W. Hunter, “Domination and Resistance:  The Politics of Wage Household Labor in New South Atlanta,” Labor History, March 1, 1993

Evans, pp. 125-138.

Wed. Jan. 25:  Settlement Houses and the White Woman's Club Movement, 1890s-1900s

*Annelise Orleck, “From the Russian Pale to Labor Organizing in New York City”

**Agnes Nestor, "Birth of a Rank-and-File Organizer" and New New Yorker, "A Letter of Protest,” pp. 176-183. 

** Frances Willard, “The Coming Brotherhood” (1892)

**"Charlotte Perkins Stetson on the Effects of the Ballot on Mothers, 1890, "Anna Garlin Spencer on the Effects of Women...," Mary Church Terrell, "Club Work of Colored Women," and "Jane Addams on the Political Role...." 

**Rheta Childe Dorr,  What Eight Million Women Want (1910), pp. 17-58

**Grover Cleveland, "Woman's Mission and Woman's Clubs" (1905)

Evans, pp. 138-143

Mon. Jan. 30th:  FILM:  "Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice"

**Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, "Duty to Dependent Races" (1891), and Ida Wells-Barnett, "U.S. Atrocities" (1892)  

**”The Beginnings of the National Club Movement,” Margaret Murray Washington, “The Beginnings of the National Club Movement,” Fannie Barrier Williams, “The Ruffin Incident – 1900,” and “Club Activities,” pp. 440-453.

**Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, “Let There Be Justice” (1891) and “How To Stop Lynching” (1894), pp. 194-195.

Evans, pp. 145-156

Wed. Feb. 1 : Black Women's Political Activism, 1890s-1900s

*Elsa Barkley Brown, "Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of Saint Luke,” Signs 14 (Spring 1989)

*Darlene Clark Hine, “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West:  Preliminary Thoughts on the Culture of Dissemblance,” Signs 14 (Summer 1989)

Mon. Feb. 6:  Early Twentieth-Century Debates over Sexuality

*Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, Introduction, Chapters One and Two (pp. 1-4, 11-51)

*Blanche Wiesen Cook, "Female Support Networks and Political Activism”

**Frances Willard, diary entries (1861), and William Lee Howard, "Effeminate Men, Masculine Women" (1900)

*Dr. Irving Steinhardt, “Ten Sex Talks to Young Girls” (1914), in Skinner, pp. 268-269

Wed. Feb. 8:  "White Slavery"

*Kathy Peiss, "`Charity Girls' and City Pleasures: Historical Notes on Working-Class Sexuality,1880-1920"

**Edward W. Sims, "The White Slave Trade of Today" in Ernest Bell, Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls (1910) and Emma Goldman, "The Traffic in Women" (1911)  

Mon. Feb. 13:  Radical Women of the 1910s

Evans, pp. 156-164, 164-173

**Margaret Sanger, "My Fight for Birth Control”

**Crystal Eastman, "Birth Control in the Feminist Program" (1918), "Feminism: A Statement Read at the First Feminist Congress in the United States" (1919), and "Now We Can Begin" (1920)

*Judy Yung, “Unbound Feet:  Chinese Women in the Public Sphere,” pp. 257-266

Wed. Feb. 15:  Film:  “One Woman, One Vote” 

**Helen Todd, “Getting Out the Vote” (1911)

Mon. Feb. 20:  MIDTERM

Wed. Feb. 22: American Women in the 1920s

**Elise Johnson McDougald, "The Double Task"(1925), Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness (1928), Sigmund Freud, "Some Psychological Consequences of the Anatomical Distinction Between the Sexes," (1925), and Karen Horney, "The Flight From Womanhood" (1926)

*George J. Sanchez, “Go After the Women:  Americanization and the Mexican Immigrant Woman, 1915-1929”    

Evans, pp. 175-196

Mon. Feb. 27:  "Flappers" and the 1920s Sexual Revolution

            *Christina Simmons, "Modern Sexuality and the Myth of Victorian Repression"

            *Hazel Carby, "`It Just Be's Dat Way Sometime': The Sexual Politics of Women's Blues”

            **Dorothy Dunbar Bromley, "Feminist--New Style" (1927), in MP-AWH

            *Vicki L. Ruiz, "The Acculturation of Young Mexican American Women"

Wed. Feb. 29:  Race, Immigration, and the Racial Division of Reproductive Labor

*Evelyn Nakano Glenn, “From Servitude to Service Work:  Historical Continuities in the Racial Division of Paid Reproductive Labor,” Signs 18:1 (1992)

Evans, pp.197-218

Mon. March 5:  Women in the Great Depression

**Meridel Le Sueur, "Women on the Breadlines"(1932) and Tillie Olsen, "I Want You Women Up North To Know”

**Jacqueline Jones, "Harder Times: The Great Depression"

Wed. March 7:  Women Radicals of the 1930s

*Vicki L. Ruiz, "A Promise Fulfilled: Mexican Cannery Workers in Southern California”

**Mary Inman, "Manufacturing Femininity," and Grace Hutchins, "Women Under Capitalism" and "The Double Burden"

 **Genora Johnson Dollinger,  “Struggling to Unionize, ” pp. 516-518

March 12, 14:  SPRING BREAK

Mon. March 19:  FILM:  "Rosie the Riveter"

Evans, pp. 219-241


Wed. March 21:  Alternative Experiences of World War II

*Valerie Matsumoto, "Japanese American Women During World War II”

**Allan Berube, "Murder in the Women's Army Corps"

Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound, Intro and Chapter One (pp. i-xxvi, 10-29)

Mon. March 26:  1950s: Anxiety and Reaction

Evans, pp. 243-262

May, Homeward Bound,  Chapters 3- 5 (pp. 49-118)

**Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham, "The Psychopathology of Feminism" and "Modern Woman: The Lost Sex" (1947)

**Life magazine, "American Women's Dilemma" (1947)

Wed. March 28: Anti-Feminism in the 1950s

            May, Homeward Bound, Chapters 6-8, pp. 119-162

            **Betty Friedan, “The Problem That has No Name,”

Mon. April 2:  Battles Over Race, Sex, and Motherhood in Mid-20th Century America

*Regina Kunzel, “White Neurosis, Black Pathology,” from Not June Cleaver

*Faderman, “Butches, Femmes, and Kikis:  Creating Lesbian Subcultures in the 1950s and ’60,” from Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, pp. 159-187

Wed. April 4:  Women and the Civil Rights Movement

            Evans, pp. 263-285

*Danielle L. McGuire, “’It Was Like All of Us Had Been Raped”: Sexual Violence, Community Mobilization, and the African American Freedom Struggle,” Journal of American History 91: 3 (Dec. 2004)

*Charles Payne, “Ella Baker and the Models of Social Change,” Signs 14:41 (Summer 1989): 885-889

**Charles Payne, “A Woman’s War:  African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement,” pp. 631-634

            **Ann Moody, “Involved in the Movement,” pp. 450-454.

**Joanne Grant, “Mississippi Politics:  A Day in the Life of Ella J. Baker,” pp. 56-62.

Mon. April 9:  Beginnings of the Women's Liberation Movement

            May, Homeward Bound, Chapter 9, pp. 186-208

Wed. April 11:  The 1960s Women's Liberation Movement: The Personal is Political

FILM:  "Women's Liberation" (1971)

**Excerpts from Robin Morgan, ed., Sisterhood is Powerful (1970): Introduction, pp. xxiv-xxxii; Pat Mainardi, "The Politics of Housework," pp. 501-510; "How to Name Baby," pp. 590-591; "No More Miss America," pp. 584-588;  Martha Shelley, "Notes of a Radical Lesbian," pp. 343-348’ Frances M. Beal, "Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female," pp. 382-396; Enriqueta Longauex y Vasquez, "The Mexican American Woman," pp. 426-432

**Ellen Willis, “I See Men Who Consider Themselves Revolutionaries…”, pp. 539-540, and Lawrence Lader, “A National Guide to Legal Abortion,” Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1970

THURSDAY APRIL 12:  CONFERENCE on Gender, Immigration and Domestic Service

Mon. April 16:  Women and Politics in the 1970s:  The Battle over the ERA and the Rise of the New Right

            *Matthew D. Lassiter, “Inventing Family Values,” pp. 13-28

**Excerpt from Roe v. Wade, 1973,” Phyllis Schlafly, “The Positive Woman, 1977,” and “A Letter from a Battered Wife” (1983), pp. 376-382    

*Catherine E. Rymph, “Neither Neutral nor Neutralized:  Phyllis Schlafly’s Battle Against Sexism,” pp. 501-507

Evans, pp. 287-307, 307-314

Wed. April 18:  Feminist Thought in the 1970s

 **Judy Grahn, "Common Woman Poems" (1978)

**Paula Gunn Allen, “Some Like Indians Endure,” in Making Face, Making Soul, pp. 298-301

**Audre Lorde, "Poetry Is Not A Luxury," "Scratching the Surface," "Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference" (1977-1980), in Sister/Outsider

**Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” in Powers of Desire, pp. 177-205

Evans, pp. 307-314

Mon April 23:  The Late 20th Century "Feminization of Poverty"

**Secretary of Labor Ann McLaughlin Makes the Case for Home Work, 1988," and "Return of the Sweatshops, 1988”

**"Jerry Falwell Sees a Threat to the American Family" (1980)

**Fu Lee, “After Working So Hard,” 1993, pp. 580-581

*Xialan Bao, "When Women Arrived: The Transformation of New York's Chinatown”

*Gail Paradise Kelly, "To Become An American Woman: Education and Sex Role Socialization of the Vietnamese Immigrant Woman”

**Susan Faludi, Backlash (1991), pp. ix-xxiii, 3-19, 27-41, 70-72

Wed. April 25: Gender and Post 9/11 America

            *Mary Romero, “Go After the Women,” Indiana Law Journal, 83:4 (Fall 2008)

*Judith Resnik, “Sisterhood, Slavery, and Sovereignty:  Transnational Women’s Rights Movements from 1840 through the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century,” pp. 781-790

*Emily Rosenberg, “Rescuing Women and Children,” in History and September 11, pp. 81-91

Mon. May 4:  Class Summary