Taking as its focus diverse groups of women who have shaped the course of North American history, this class will explore the relationship between gender, power and violence from the colonial period to the modern era. We will discuss how women have challenged conventional notions of “womanhood” through their words and their deeds, how their respective communities understood their behavior, and we will contemplate the ways in which these women simultaneously constructed narratives of power that do not conform to contemporary conceptualizations of their lives. Moreover, students will contemplate prevailing narratives of powerlessness which render these women, and their acts, invisible to us and the role gender ideologies played in their construction. Students will read about famous and less well-known cases of “deadly women” and in the process, they will understand how different bodies of law, social customs, and economic systems affected the lives of men and women differently and allocated disproportionate amounts and kinds of power to them. We will evaluate how these hierarchies of power facilitated women’s defiant, revolutionary and sometimes murderous acts. Conversations about the impacts that race, ethnicity, economic class, and religion had upon the lives of these women will be central to the course as well. Themes that will be covered include: involuntary servitude, witchcraft, interracial and same-sex love and relationships, infanticide, prostitution, murderesses, female victims of lynch mobs, and female members of revolutionary, terrorist, and racist/supremacist groups.
Students do not need to purchase any books for this class. All required materials will be available via bCourses.