Go to navigation


Vassar presents a public series on the topic of the history of gender and education, September 1 - December 8, 2011.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—In celebration of Vassar College’s sesquicentennial this year, the History Department will offer a lecture series this fall entitled "Liberations and Contradictions: Moments in the History of Gender and Education." Free and open to the public, this program is part of the course "Pathways to Vassar: The Rise of Women’s Higher Education in Historical Context" (History/Women’s Studies 285).

The eleven presentations will be offered weekly on Thursdays, September 1 through December 8, from 5:15-6:30pm in Taylor Hall, Room 203. [Please note that there are no lectures October 13, 20, or November 24.] In addition, the public may access these programs remotely as there will be a live weekly webcast, which will be archived for future access.

Organized by Vassar history professor Rebecca Edwards, this series will explore topics ranging from the rise of new ideas about literacy, education, and women’s rights to intersections of gender, class, and race in the Era of Emancipation. In addition to nine lectures by members of the Vassar faculty, the series will include a panel discussion with guest scholars (11/17) and will conclude with a dramatic reading by Vassar students enrolled in the course (12/8).

To attend the entire series in person, please reserve a seat by contacting Michelle Whalen in the History Department by email at miwhalen@vassar.edu or by phone at(845) 437-5670. To attend individual lectures, no advance reservation is necessary and seating is first-come, first-seated. For those planning to access the lectures via webcast, please go to: http://bit.ly/totalwebcast_vclectureseries. (For information on accessing the webcast, see http://bit.ly/totalwebcasting_help.) For additional information about the lecture series, please visit the events section of Vassar's sesquicentennial website: http://150.vassar.edu.

Schedule of Lectures 
Liberations and Contradictions: Moments in the History of Gender and Education
Taylor Hall, Room 203
Webcast at http://bit.ly/totalwebcast_vclectureseries

September 1: "Renaissance Men (And Women)," a lecture by Nancy Bisaha, Professor of History
Professor Bisaha will examine the medieval roots of the university movement. She will discuss the students (party animals, town-gown rioters, and tavern dwellers, as well as the studious, brilliant achievers of the age) and their often aloof and unpredictable masters. She will explore two important questions: What options for education were available to young women? And how did Elena Cornaro-Piscopia, whose image graces the stained glass window of the Thompson Library, achieve the first doctorate awarded to a woman in 1678?
The suggested reading is available via a PDF document: John of Garland, "How Students Should Behave," from The Portable Medieval Reader, ed. James Bruce Ross (Vassar '25).

September 8: "Constructions of Femininity and the Enlightenment Debate over Women's Education," a lecture by Sumita Choudhury, Associate Professor of History
During the Age of Enlightenment, women’s education generated heated debates as various 18th-century writers argued over what form of learning enabled women to realize their true “nature.” This lecture will describe how treatises, novels, and pornographic satire explored women’s minds and bodies, and the connection between the two. The “curriculum” writers prescribed was designed not to bring out female intellectual potential but rather, to enhance women’s social roles as wives and mothers.

September 15: "'A New Era in Female History'?: Women During the Revolutionary Era," a lecture by James H. Merrell, Lucy Maynard Salmon Professor of History 

In March 1776 Abigail Adams wrote to her husband John, asking him to “remember the ladies” when he and his colleagues in the Continental Congress made a new nation. Despite her plea, women in this period have been forgotten more often than remembered. Countering the amnesia, this lecture will ask: Was there an “American Revolution” for women, ushering in what Judith Sargent Murray called “a new era in female history”?

September 22: "Ladies' and Gentlemen's Proper Behavior in the Age of Domesticity," a lecture by Rebecca Edwards, Eloise Ellery Professor of History, and Ronald D. Patkus, Head of Special Collections, Vassar College Library, and Adjunct Associate Professor of History
Using original copies of Godey's Lady's Book, professors Patkus and Edwards will explore the 19th-century code of respectable behavior: thrift, self-control, piety, and domesticity. They will devote special attention to depictions of the home, "woman's sphere." Emerging in the turmoil of industrialization, such ideals were unevenly interpreted and often contested. The lecture will explore two alternative ideals of gender behavior: "martial manhood" and "public womanhood."
The suggested reading is available via a PDF document: Excerpt from Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife (1832).

September 29: "Goodness! Gender and Religious Faith," a lecture by Rebecca Edwards, Eloise Ellery Professor of History
Professor Edwards will explore some of the complex ways in which religious faith both hampered and encouraged 19th-century women's emancipation. She will trace the rise of evangelical Protestantism during the Second Great Awakening. She will then consider three vibrant examples of alternative religious practice, all of which challenged prevailing ideas about marriage and domesticity: Shakerism, Mormonism, and Spiritualism.

October 6: "Reform, Antislavery, and Women's Rights," a lecture by Rebecca Edwards, Eloise Ellery Professor of History
This lecture will describe women's and men's various antebellum reform efforts and explore their consequences for gender relations and public life. Among other things, attendees will leave with a historical explanation for why politically prominent women—for example, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman—may tend to be more politically extreme than male party leaders.
The suggested readings are available via a PDF documents: Angelina Grimké, Speech at Pennsylvania Hall, Philadelphia, 17 May 1838; Antislavery Poems: Anon., "Persecuted Children's Complaint," The Liberator, 11 Jan. 1834; John Greenleaf Whittier, "The Yankee Girl" (1835); Frances Ellen Watkins (Harper), "The Slave Mother" (1854) and "Free Labor" (1857).

October 27: "Inventing Women's Education," a lecture by Rebecca Edwards, Eloise Ellery Professor of History
Professor Edwards will discuss experiments in women's higher education, the founding of Vassar, and the early curriculum and student life. Since Vassar promised young women an education equivalent to that provided by Harvard or Yale, the lecturer will make a detour to Harvard to consider how elite men's colleges did and did not provide a useful model. She will compare women's single-sex education with the simultaneous rise of co-education, especially in the South and West.
The suggested readings are available via a PDF documents: Matthew Vassar, Founding Statement to the Board of Trustees, 26 Feb. 1861, courtesy Special Collections and Archives Library; excerpts from Vassar College Catalogue, 1876-1877 and Vassar College Catalogue, 1921-1922.

November 3: "Emancipations in Context: Liberalism and Nationalism," Rebecca Edwards, Eloise Ellery Professor of History
The 19th century was a great era of liberalism and nationalism. Professor Edwards will consider the meaning of those terms at the time and explore some of the ways in which American women's emancipation, like the end of slavery, was inextricably tied to the terrible war to preserve the Union. Tracing the revolution in federal governance forged during the war, she will consider how Americans ended up, in the words of historian Thomas Bender, "forgetting liberalism and remembering nationalism."
The suggested reading is Zitkala-Sa, "School Days of an Indian Girl,Atlantic Monthly (1900), courtesy Online Archive of Nineteenth-Century U.S. Women's Writings, ed. Glynis Carr.

November 10: "'Not the Boys Less, But the Girls More': Black Women and Higher Education after Reconstruction," a lecture by Quincy T. Mills, Assistant Professor of History

November 17: "Vassar Graduates and Progressive Reform: Julia Lathrop, Josephine Roche, Julia Stimson," a panel discussion by Miriam Cohen, Evalyn Clark Professor of History at Vassar; Robyn Muncy, Department of History, University of Maryland; and alumnus William Elfant '79, Chair: Elisabeth Israels Perry, St. Louis University
At the end of 19th century and during the early decades of the 20th, many women made critical contributions to American social reform, tackling issues of health care, children’s welfare, women's rights and labor rights. Three such women were Julia Lathrop, Vassar Class of 1880; Julia Stimson, Class of 1901; and Josephine Roche, Class of 1909. This panel looks at the lives of these illustrious women and the Vassar education that helped nurture their lifelong careers on behalf of social justice.

December 1: "The College and the Cold War," Robert K. Brigham, Professor of History on the Shirley Ecker Boskey Chair of International Relations
Professor Brigham will explore the complex and contested relationship between elite educational institutions and the Cold War national security state. Specifically, he will trace the role of the academy in McCarthyism, cold war research, and the Vietnam War.

December 8: "The Many Meanings of Education in 19th-Century America," a dramatic reading by the students of History/Women's Studies 285

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, August 19, 2011