The History of Women in the United States before 1900

History 100AC.001

Fall 2016
2040 VLSB
Day & Time: 
TTh 930-11A
  • This course satisfies the American Cultures Requirement.
  • This course is a survey of the history of women in America from the pre-colonial period to the turn of the twentieth century.  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.

    Topics we will cover include European-indigenous encounters; colonial settlement in the North and South; women and witchcraft; women and captivity; sex, early medical innovation and the female body; women and the American Revolution; women and the law; voluntary and involuntary migration to the West; the Civil War; the impact of Reconstruction on women; and the migration of Chinese women from their homelands to the United States.

    Some of the questions that will animate our class discussions are:  What was it like to be a woman in the colonial period and the nineteenth century?  How did race, ethnicity, religion, and class shape women's experiences? What made their experiences distinct from men's?  What were relations between different groups of women like and how did relations of power shape these interactions?  How have women contributed to the development of the United States?  And how have they shaped its politics, economy, society, and culture?

    Students will leave this class with a clear understanding of the history of women in American from pre-colonial contact to 1900, they will possess the ability to critically analyze primary documents as well as secondary sources, and they will be equipped with a historical perspective that enables them to better analyze the current experiences of American women.