Special Topics in the History of the United States: Defiant Women: Gender, Power, and Violence in American History

History 100AC

Fall 2015
Location: 
101 Morgan
Day & Time: 
TuTh 2-330P
CCN: 
39318
Units: 
4

photo of rosa parks being booked into jail

 

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 are not required to purchase textbooks for this class. All materials will be made available via the bCourses site.