Western Michigan University

History Department

Women in U.S. History

History 316 Office: 4406 Friedmann, before/after class by appt.

Spring 2002 Phone: 7-4641/616-233-9843 (home-GR)

Dr. Coryell email: coryell@wmich.edu (best way to reach me)

This is a survey level course examining the lives of women in American history from discovery through the modern era. By the end of this course, you should be familiar with important people and events in women's history. You will also have gained, I hope, a sense of how historians work and what is important about the discipline of women's history.

One thing historians provide is a "framework" for interpreting historical events. Frameworks provide ways of sorting through massive amounts of data in order to get to a narrative, or story, and thus provide some degree of understanding. The framework for this course is the notion that the history of women's lives are affected by cultural images and the degree to which those images reflect the reality of their lives. Lectures will frame the interpretation of historical events through this idea. Most lectures will contain an "image" of women popular in American culture at that time, and then will discuss the realities of women's lives that took place at the same time the image was popular.

Class meetings will contain lectures with a thematic approach to covering events and eras of importance to most American women. There will be some visual material that will provide additional coverage of materials and analysis of ideas expressed in lectures or the readings. You will need to synthesize all materials in your understanding of women's history.

Readings will consist of a textbook and some primary source documents. The books have been ordered and should be available at the university bookstores. You will also need to invest in a good dictionary to define terms in the primary sources you may not be familiar with. This is particularly true in the first half of class, as we deal with documents from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries.

Due to the compressed nature of this course, I strongly recommend that you do not fall behind. Keep up with the reading. Expect to spend between 1-3 hours per class session preparing for the time you spend in class.

What to Purchase:

Glenda Riley, Inventing the American Woman, vols. I & II, or the combined volume

Writing Women's Lives, edited by Markman, Boe & Corey

Glenda Riley's book serves as our textbook, so read it with that in mind. You will also find it useful to have access to a standard American history survey book to help provide the historical context you need to understand the events we discuss. Writing Women's Lives (WWL) contains documents written by American women over the last 300+ years to give you a glimpse inside their private worlds so you can see how public events had an impact on their lives. Read them with that in mind.

Lectures and Reading Schedule

(Read the listed items BEFORE class)

May 7: Introduction: Framework and Historiography, followed by a short


If you decide to drop the course at this point, please do so immediately. This is a popular general education class and a number of people are waiting to get in.


Lecture: Pocahontas; or, Babe in the Woods

May 9: The Colonial Era: Witches & Goodwives

Read: Chapter 1, Riley; Writing Women's Lives (WWL): selections: 1-5

Lectures: 1) Witches; or, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman

2) Goodwives; or, The Colonial Supermom

Watch: Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail (clip); The Witches of Salem: The Horror and the Hope

May 14: Midwifery: The Common Lot of Women

Read: Chapter 2 of Riley; WWL, 6-11, 20, 22

Lecture: Revolution and Republican Motherhood

Watch: The Midwife's Tale

May 16: Industrialization:

Read: Chapter 3 of Riley; WWL: 12, 19, 24

Lecture: Ideology, Employment & Invention

Watch: Sins of Our Mothers

May 21: FIRST HOUR EXAM, then a short


Then: Western Women: The Second Shift

Read: WWL: 14, 16, 23, 26, 31-33, 40

Lecture: Westering Women

May 23: Southern Ladies and Southern Women

Read: Riley, chapter 4; WWL: 15, 28, 29

Lectures: 1) Southern Ladies: The Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

2) Southern Women: Black and White

Watch: Gone with the Wind clip; Two Marys

May 28: Charging into Changes

Read: Riley, Chapter 5; WWL: 18, 25, 30

Lectures: 1) Reformers, Part One: Civil Rights

2) Civil War and Domestic Warfare

May 30: Give Us the Vote!

Read: Riley, chapter 6; WWL: 35, 39

Lecture: Struggling for the Franchise

Watch: How We Got the Vote

June 4: Women Wage Earners

Read: Riley, chapter 7; WWL: 41-46

Lecture: Reformers, part 2: Social Reform

Watch: Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice

June 6: SECOND HOUR EXAM, then a short


Then: Watch: Margaret Sanger

June 11: 1920s & 1930s

Read: Riley, Chapter 8; WWL: 47-54

Lecture: 1) Flappers: The Twenties Roar

2) The Depression: Men on Top

Watch: Imitation of Life clip

June 13: WWII and post & 1950s

Read: Riley, Chapter 9; WWL: 55-58

Lecture: The Anomaly of the Fifties: Why We Loved Lucy

Watch: The Life & Times of Rosie the Riveter; I Love Lucy episode

June 18: The Women's Rights Movement

Read: Riley, Chapter 10; WWL: 59-64

Lecture: 1) Reformers, part 3: Civil Rights Again

2) Women's Liberation Movement

Watch: The Long Walk Home clip

June 20: The Modern Era

Read: WWL: 65-69

Lecture: Anti-Feminism and Backlash

Watch: TBA

June 25: Final Exam

Evaluative methods

Attendance: As Woody Allen once said, "90% of life is just showing up." Please come on time.

Concretely: 150 possible points, 10 for each day of class. This grade measures how much material you expose yourself too. Half the points are for attending; half for participating in the "fair five" terms (see "Every single class" section below).

Three exams: MAY 21; JUNE 11; JUNE 23.


Concretely: 300 possible points for the first two exams; 450 for the final. All questions will be drawn from the list of terms given at the beginning of every class, so please be on time. Part of the final will be cumulative.

Every single class: I'll ask you to list five items that are fair game for the exams. The most popular twenty terms will be used to make up the exams. At least two of the five need to be from the readings, at least two from the previous time's class lecture, movie, or whatever. Your participation here will affect your attendance grade. Miss it, give terms from past classes or from your seat mate's paper, you lose attendance points. There are no makeups for the in-class "fair five." That means if you are late, if you forget to hand it in, whatever, then you lose those five points. To be sure you are counted, sit in your assigned seat!

Required work: all of it. If you don't turn an exam, you fail the course automatically. Excused absences are only for subpoenas, military service, and illness with documentation. Exam dates will not change. Having to attend a wedding is NOT an excused absence and I will not give a makeup for it.

Grading scale:  This class can earn you up to 1,200 points over the course of the semester. Equivalent letters grades are on the following scale: 1104-1200=A; 1044-1103=BA; 984-1043=B; 924-983=CB; 864-923=C; 804-922=DC; 744-803=D; >743 or fewer=E.

How to read/study/prepare: Educational theory has it that for every hour in class, the perfect student spends a minimum of three hours outside of class doing work for it.

Actually, it shouldn't take you that long. First, read Riley to follow along with the lectures, BEFORE you show up to class so when I mention Eliza Pinckney, you'll know more or less who she is. Then, read the selections in the Writing Women's Lives book that correspond to the same time-frame. The people in those writings are fair game for the questions: in fact, at least two of your terms should be taken from Riley and WWL each time.

TAKE NOTES on your reading, as well as class lecture notes. Notes are a lot easier to study from, and if you write items down into your own words, you've engaged the brain to puzzle out what it means and translate into something you understand. Some students have used flash cards to prepare for the exam and found them very useful, but be sure they contain the context for the term, or they won't be.

Just for your information: I, too, think big classes are less than optimal ways of presenting material to students, BUT: since we have no other alternatives, please follow these behaviors as listed to make life easier for everyone:

1) Please come on time. It disrupts my lecture and thus the class if you are late. If lateness is unavoidable, please sit in the back instead of your assigned seat until the break. Be sure that the TA records your presence.

2) Please do not chat with your neighbors during class. Acoustics are dreadful in this classroom, and I have hearing problems, so I cannot hear myself or students with questions if there is a low murmur in the room (which is what chatting sounds like from up front).

3) Please ask questions. Big classes can be intimidating to raise hands in. If you are more comfortable asking on email, ask there.

4) Please don't eat or drink anything that can attract bugs in the classroom. There will be a short break each class so you may refresh yourself, so please save food consumption for then. Drinks without sugar are ok.

5) Please communicate with me or my TA if there is a problem so we can fix it. The best way to reach me is by email. I tend to read my email early in the morning, but do not always check it before each class, though I will attempt to do so. I do not hold formal office hours during spring or summer courses, and but I'm in my office before and after class. Stop by or make an appointment if you want to be sure I'm there.