HIST 327 – U.S. Women’s History to 1870

Fall 2015

MWF, 10-10:50 AM

Jeffrey McClurken

Monroe 219/ITCC 419


MW, 9-10; TR, 10-11:30, by appointment



Course Description

This course is a survey of the history of women in America from the pre-colonial period to 1870.  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.  We will discuss women’s (political and social) organizations, daily lives, economic roles, and the various ways in which gender roles have been constructed and received.


This course counts in the History major, the American Studies major, and the Women’s and Gender Studies major, as well as counting toward the Human Experience and Society General Education requirement


Departmental Learning Objectives


•                  Ability to read critically primary sources and modern authorities.

•                  Ability to write with clarity about the past.

•                  Ability to communicate in a group setting.


Human Experience & Society Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain human and social experiences and activities from multiple perspectives.
  • Students will be able to draw appropriate conclusions based on evidence.
  • Students will be able to transfer knowledge and skills learned to a novel situation.


Course Requirements

Students are expected to attend all lectures, read all assigned texts, participate in class, annotate two primary sources, write a research paper (double spaced with standard 1 inch margins, 12 point font), and take an essay-based midterm and final examination.  Papers are collected at the start of class on the day they are due.  Papers are considered late if turned in anytime after they have been collected.  Late papers will be penalized one full letter grade or, after 24 hours, not accepted.



Students are expected to attend all weekly class discussions having read the material and having prepared 2-3 questions, comments, or topic suggestions for class debates.  The questions or comments should be posted on the appropriate week of the class wiki with your name at least two hours before class on discussion days (link is also on course site).  They should be aimed at provoking class discussions on the reading, and should focus on the primary sources.  [Comments on the reading might include (but are not limited to) parallels, problems, factual questions, reminders of past readings, and relevant connections to ideas from other classes or from your own life.]  Weekly discussions will take place on Friday unless otherwise indicated.  [Since these are intended to help prepare you for class discussion, late questions will not be accepted.]  Class participation includes completion of these questions and actively participating in class discussions.


Final Grades

Final grades will be determined based on class participation (20%), performance on the annotation assignment (worth 15%), on the research paper (7-10 pages and worth 25%) and on the midterm and final exams (20% each).  [Unsatisfactory mid-semester reports will be reported for anyone with a grade of D or below at that time.]


Honor Code

I believe in the Honor Code as an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience.  You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will almost certainly fail, and I will take you to the Honor Council, so do not do it.  On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing itself remains yours).  If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me sooner rather than later.


Required Texts

Mary Beth Norton & Ruth Alexander, Major Problems in American Women’s History, 4th ed. (not the new 5th ed.) ISBN 0618719180

Nancy Woloch, Early American Women: A Documentary History, 1600-1900, 2nd edition (not the new 3rd edition). ISBN 0072418222

Other readings posted online at various scholarly websites.



If you receive services through the Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs.  Bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment.  I will hold any information you share with me in the strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise.  If you need accommodations, (note taking assistance or extended time for tests), please consult with the Office of Disability Resources (x1266) about the appropriate documentation of a disability.


Assignments You must cite all facts, images, ideas, paraphrasing, and quotes, using either Turabian (8th edition) or the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition).  If you are on campus, you can access an electronic version of the CMS at  [Off campus – try ]


1st Assignment – Primary Source Annotation – DUE Friday, SEPTEMBER 18, AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS

Using an annotation tool known as (which I’ll introduce in class), you will publicly annotate two primary sources—one document, diary entry, letter, poem, or image—from each of the links below.  For each source, highlight and comment on at least five sections of each source.  Potential approaches: comment on examples of gender roles and expectations, define unfamiliar words, provide historical context, explore other factors or characteristics that shaped colonial women’s lives, or discuss the biases and reliability of the source. [Each annotation should include relevant citations of your sources.]

[ or]

[Only 1 person can work on a particular source (poem, letter, diary entry, set of pages from a book, etc.).  Let me know which two sources you’re planning on using no later than Wednesday, Sept. 9.]


2nd Assignment – Research paper – DUE Friday, November 13, AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS

Find a collection of primary sources written by or about an American woman (or group of women) during the time span this class covers (on the web or elsewhere).  Get it approved by me by Wednesday, October 7.  [Each student in the class must have a different topic/collection and none of them can be the same as their topics from the annotation assignment.]  After your topic is approved, using both primary and secondary sources, write a 7-10 page paper analyzing her (or their) experiences and beliefs, contextualizing her (them) within the context of her (their) time and place.  [e.g., Do these women identify themselves as women?  What are the gender roles that they describe?  How do they seem to perceive those gender roles?  What other factors may have been involved in shaping what was in your sources?  How reliable are these sources?]

Remember, double space with standard 1-inch margins, 12-point font. Citations should be footnotes or endnotes done using the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition) or Turabian’s Guide (8th Edition).  You need page numbers on every page except the title page but your name should only be on the title page.

Starting places on the Web to find primary source collections

UMW Reference Librarian Jack Bales’s resource —

— See the tab on uncovering Primary Sources

UMW Library Women’s Studies Guide (see Primary Sources on the web) —

Digital Public Library of America —

Flickr Commons —  — Library of Congress web site on American Women  — Collection of links to online Women’s History resources.  — H-Women list-serve — online links to collections and catalogs. Library of Virginia’s collections on Women’s History


OPTIONAL ASSIGNMENT – If you wish, you may create a research-based website or a series of annotated primary-source-based blog entries or a documentary (instead of writing the research paper) using the primary source collection(s) you’ve found.    If you’re interested, talk to me as soon as possible.  You must commit to doing a web site by October 7, or I’ll assume you’re doing the written assignment.

Class Schedule and Reading Assignments

Week 1 – beginning Aug. 24

— Introduction and Defining Women’s History

Discussion of reading

  • Major Problems (MP), 1-23


Week 2 – beginning Aug. 31

— Native American Women: Before Contact and Early Interactions

  • No class Wednesday, Sept. 1
    • Work on which primary sources you will annotate.
    • On your own (or with help from DKC) set up your account. Email me your user name.

              Discussion of reading

  • Woloch, 1-24; MP, 24-35; Primary source readings and Ann Marie Plane essay (online )

Email choice of sources (with URL) for Annotation Assignment no later than class time on WED., SEPT. 9

Week 3 – beginning Sept. 7

— Women in Colonial North America, Part 1

              Discussion of reading

  • Woloch, 25-62; Katherine Kish Sklar, “To Use Her as His Wife” (online)




Week 4 – beginning Sept. 14

— Women in Colonial North America, Part 2

  • No class Friday, Sept. 18

              — Discussion of reading (WEDNESDAY)

  • Woloch, 98-117; MP, 52-59, 79-90, 97-103


Week 5 – beginning Sept. 21

The American Revolution: A Revolution in Women’s Rights?

Discussion of reading

  • Woloch, 121-136; MP, 113-119; “Mary Jemison Views the Revolution” at; and, online, “Thomas Paine Admits Women Have Some Rights”; “An American Woman Asserts Women’s Rights, 1780”


Week 6 – beginning Sept. 28

MIDTERM EXAM –Friday, 10/2 – Bring blue books for test

— “A Midwife’s Tale”

— Discussion of reading (WEDNESDAY)


Week 7 – beginning Oct. 5

— Women in the New Republic

Discussion of reading

  • Online readings from Susanna Rowson, Judith S. Murray, Catherine Scholten



Email name and location of primary sources for research paper by class time on Wednesday, October 7


Week 8 – beginning Oct. 12

— FALL BREAK – NO CLASS Monday (10/12)

— Women and the Law

— Discussion of reading

— Woloch, 70-90; Suzanne Lebsock on single women (online)


Week 9 – beginning Oct. 19

— The Creation of Separate Spheres and the Cult of Domesticity

Discussion of reading

  • Woloch, 139-184, 187-192, 195-208


Week 10 – beginning Oct. 26

— Women and Slavery

              Discussion of reading

  • Woloch, 211-223, 226-229; MP, 175-179, 181-188




Week 11 – beginning Nov. 2

— The Experiences of Female Immigrants

Discussion of reading


Week 12 – beginning Nov. 9

— Activism and Reform Movements: Temperance, Abolition, and Women’s Rights

Discussion of reading

  • Woloch, 232-249; MP, 141-166, 188-194


Week 13 – beginning Nov. 16

— The Civil War: Female Gender Roles amid the Chaos

Discussion of reading

Woloch, 257-284; MP, 202-212 – [Read both selections from Mary Livermore.]


Week 14 – beginning Nov. 23

— Dealing with the Impact of the Civil War and Its Aftermath

— Have A Good Thanksgiving!

              — No Reading This Week


Week 15 – beginning Nov. 30

— The Failure of the 14th and 15th Amendments for Women’s Rights

              —  Discussion of reading

  • Woloch, 293-311, 357-374



Exam, Friday, December 11, 8:30-11 AM




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