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Writing Women’s History

Writing Women’s History: A Tribute to Anne Firor Scott

Edited by Elizabeth Anne Payne
Laura F. Edwards
Crystal Feimster
Glenda E. Gilmore
Jacquelyn Dowd Hall
Darlene Clark Hine
Mary Kelley
Markeeva Morgan
Anne Firor Scott
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Deborah Gray White
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  • Book Info
    Writing Women’s History
    Book Description:

    Anne Firor Scott'sThe Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830-1930stirred a keen interest among historians in both the approach and message of her book. Using women's diaries, letters, and other personal documents, Scott brought to life southern women as wives and mothers, as members of their communities and churches, and as sometimes sassy but rarely passive agents. She brilliantly demonstrated that the familiar dichotomies of the personal versus the public, the private versus the civic, which had dominated traditional scholarship about men, could not be made to fit women's lives. In doing so, she helped to open up vast terrains of women's experiences for historical scholarship.

    This volume, based on papers presented at the University of Mississippi's annual Chancellor Porter L. Fortune Symposium in Southern History, brings together essays by scholars at the forefront of contemporary scholarship on American women's history. Each regardsThe Southern Ladyas having shaped her historical perspective and inspired her choice of topics in important ways. These essays together demonstrate that the power of imagination and scholarly courage manifested in Scott's and other early American women historians' work has blossomed into a gracious plentitude.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-174-8
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. A Student’s Perspective
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    I have asked myself how I could possibly represent Dr. Scott’s students, having taken one course from her that lasted a mere three weeks and was not even held at her home institution. Then I had an aha moment, a moment of clarity, even a revelation: I cannot. But ifIcan recall with such pleasure my experience in Dr. Scott’s class and the passion and energy she invested in it as well as the individual interest she demonstrated in my classmates and me—she can still remember where each of us sat—during that one course, what more must...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-2)

    This book is a tribute to a scholar who has changed the way we see the past. Since 1970, when her first book,The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830–1930, launched the modern study of southern women’s history, Anne Firor Scott has pursued a stirring project: making the invisible visible, teaching us to hear the unheard.¹ In so doing, she has driven home the simple yet transformative point that we can never understand the history of the American South while ignoring half of its people. Likewise, Scott and the younger scholars who followed her have reversed what we...

  6. Equally Their Due: Women’s Education and Public Life in Postrevolutionary and Antebellum America
    (pp. 3-27)

    Practically every page of this essay bears the imprint of Anne Firor Scott. Scott’s “The Ever Widening Circle: The Diffusion of Feminist Values from the Troy Female Seminary, 1822–1872” introduced historians to one of the first schools to offer women an education equal to that offered by the male colleges. Scott invited us to explore with her the social and cultural implications of this unprecedented emphasis on women’s intellectual capacities. In “What, Then, Is the American: This New Woman?,” the pathbreaking article she published in theJournal of American Historyin 1978, Scott identified the female counterpart to Hector...

  7. Down from the Pedestal: The Influence of Anne Scott’s Southern Ladies
    (pp. 28-63)

    I first read Anne Scott’sThe Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politicsas an undergraduate at Northwestern University in the early 1980s, while writing a paper on the status of antebellum plantation mistresses for a course in U.S. social history. When I selected the topic at the beginning of the quarter, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The only knowledge I had was what I had gleaned from popular culture. I knew the topic was not well studied, but that was why I wanted to do it. The challenge appealed to me. As an undergraduate, however,...

  8. “How are the daughters of Eve punished?”: Rape during the Civil War
    (pp. 64-81)

    Anne Firor Scott’s publication in 1970 ofThe Southern Ladyhas proved invaluable to anyone interested in understanding the lives of women in the American South. Scott described her purpose as “fourfold: to describe the culturally defined image of the lady; to trace the effect this definition had on women’s behavior; to describe the realities of women’s lives which were often at odds with this image; to describe and characterize the struggle of women to free themselves from the confines of cultural expectation and find a way to self-determination.”¹Indeed, it has been with similar intentions that I examine the...

  9. “A Quilt unlike Any Other”: Rediscovering the Work of Harriet Powers
    (pp. 82-116)

    In an essay published inMs. magazine in 1974, Alice Walker wrote of “a quilt unlike any other in the world” that she had seen on exhibit at the Smithsonian: “It is considered rare, beyond price. Though it follows no known pattern of quilt-making, and though it is made of bits and pieces of worthless rags, it is obviously the work of a person of powerful imagination and deep spiritual feeling.” Walker thought that the quilt had been made by “an anonymous Black woman in Alabama, a hundred years ago.” This woman, she thought, was “one of our grandmothers—an...

  10. Taking Care of Bodies, Babies, and Business: Black Women Health Professionals in South Carolina, 1895–1954
    (pp. 117-141)

    Anne Firor Scott enjoined my generation of students and scholars to make women and their activism for social reform visible, to relocate their experiences and contributions from the intellectual, cultural, and political margins to the core of American and southern history. She, in her own body of work, made centering and seeing critical processes essential to truth telling and the reconstruction of our nation’s past.¹ Without her scholarship and friendship, and her enormous mentoring of countless women scholars, myself included, women’s history would not today stand as a legitimate and respected field of inquiry. Her gifts and our debts are...

  11. From Jim Crow to Jane Crow, or How Anne Scott and Pauli Murray Found Each Other
    (pp. 142-171)

    Guion Johnson was home alone on an early spring afternoon in 1939 when the ringing telephone pierced the silence. It was a school day, and she was president of the PTA at Chapel Hill High School. Her husband, Guy Johnson, was up in New York talking to a visitor from Sweden, Gunnar Myrdal, whom the Ford Foundation had hired to study race relations in the United States. Guy might have learned more about race relations if he had stayed at home that day.

    A male graduate student from the University of North Carolina was on the line, and his words...

  12. The Million Mom March: The Perils of Color-Blind Maternalism
    (pp. 172-202)

    On the first Mother’s Day of the new millennium, a Connecticut mother told hundreds of thousands gathered for the Million Mom March the story of her son. He had survived a head shot by a gunman who took a .380 semiautomatic Beretta handgun to the top of the Empire State Building and opened fire. “I received a phone call that changed my life forever,” she recalled. Another mother, a Californian, told a similar story with a familiar refrain: “I received the phone call that every parent dreads,” she began. Her daughter, a camp counselor at a California community center, had...

  13. Writing Women’s History: A Response
    (pp. 203-210)

    Only forty years ago it was possible to read all the books on women’s history in the University of North Carolina library in a week. Now we all complain about the impossibility of keeping up with the flood of books and articles, conferences and sources. The rapid growth of the field of women’s history in four decades may be unprecedented for a new field. The multiplication of such things also suggests that we need intelligent ways of separating the wheat from the chaff.

    In the meantime, I have no hesitation in saying that these papers are good, sound wheat. At...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 211-222)
  15. Index
    (pp. 223-231)