Signal Boost:  An Open Letter and Invitation to Nicholas Kristof

Great post — I’d like to invite him to CCSU too!

“Dear Mr. Kristof, I recently read your op-ed on the “The Dangers of Echo Chambers on College Campuses.”  Many things trouble me about your piece but for now I wish to address the cardiac…”

Source: An Open Letter and Invitation to Nicholas Kristof

The Problem with Criticizing Identity Politics

This past Sunday, I struggled to explain to my husband what was wrong with historian Mark Lilla’s  New York Times op-ed on “identity liberalism.”

Now the Junto has done most of the work for me — thanks!

To this, I would add that the “accomplishment” of the Founding Fathers excluded most of the population from the franchise and enshrined slavery in the U.S. Constitution.  Not a great model of inclusion.

I was disappointed to hear Senator Sanders say something similar on last night’s PBS news hour. It’s easy to criticize “identity politics” when your identity (white, male, heterosexual) is considered the default.

Should I answer this CFP for #nastywomen and #badhombres?

via H-Women  Which topic should I choose?

CFP: Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gendered Disruptions in the 2016 Presidential Election and the Ghost of Susan B. Anthony

Call for Book Chapters (issued Nov. 3, 2016)

Working Book Title: Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gendered Disruptions in the 2016 Presidential Election and the Ghost of Susan B. Anthony

Christine Kray, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rochester Institute of Technology
Hinda Mandell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Communication, Rochester Institute of Technology

Gendered disruptions with historical echoes played prominently into the volatile 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The campaign featured historic elements from the beginning. It marked the first time that a woman was nominated to lead a major political party in the race for president of the United States. With the potential of Clinton to crack the “highest, hardest glass ceiling,” ritual activity reached new levels at the Rochester, NY gravesite of Susan B. Anthony, the nineteenth-century activist who dedicated her life’s work toward women’s suffrage. Throughout the year, visitors paid tribute and left tokens of gratitude, and in what has become a new Election Day tradition—propelled by social media—on the day of the New York State primary in April 2016, visitors affixed “I Voted” stickers to her tombstone. Plans were laid for ceremonial gatherings at her gravesite on Election Day and the day after.

Throughout the 2008 primary campaign and again in 2015, Clinton appeared reticent to position herself as a woman candidate. And yet, events pushed gender front and center, conjuring up memories of earlier suffragist struggles. In April 2016, Trump accused Clinton of “playing the woman card.” In July, when Clinton accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination, she noted that her mother had been born on the very day that Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which would give women the right to vote. Then, just weeks before the election, after audio recordings were released in which Donald Trump boasted of committing sexual assault, and polls revealed that women were increasingly rejecting Trump’s candidacy, a #RepealThe19th social media hashtag was created. While Anthony had not lived to see the 19th Amendment ratified, she and her fellow suffragists wrote the language that would enfranchise women in 1920. And suddenly this nineteenth-century figure and the ideals she fought for became increasingly relevant in an election that saw a woman candidate and women voters as key players. The website,, features women who were born before the ratification of the 19th Amendment who intended to vote for Hillary Clinton. Video “history lessons” and memes circulated on social media as contributors aimed to teach others about the historical advances of women, implying that the work remains unfinished.

As an interdisciplinary project, this book invites contributions from historians, anthropologists, sociologists, political theorists, journalists, and media and public history scholars to investigate how public memory of Susan B. Anthony and the 19th Amendment has shaped narratives of the 2016 presidential election, and the ways in which the campaign has brought fresh attention to her work and life. This book project speaks to the ways in which politics are not merely pragmatic, but are always enveloped in personal and historical imaginations. Through our electoral engagement, conversations, and voting practices, we reach out to revered historical figures, engage in practices of deep symbolic significance, and position ourselves within a grand historical trajectory.

Possible chapter topics include:

  • Susan B. Anthony’s grave as a place of pilgrimage during the election season
  • Intersectionality of race and gender—for example, how the complicated friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass was invoked in the competition between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama
  • The #RepealThe19th social media hashtag
  • Suffragist fashion and Hillary Clinton’s sartorial choices
  • Bad hombres and “locker room talk”: Masculinist discourse and spectacle
  • The role of women voters as potentially holding the balance of power in this election
  • Efforts to disenfranchise women voters who support Clinton
  • Ways in which some women have coalesced around Clinton’s historic nomination
  • Public memory of Susan B. Anthony, feminism and anti-feminism in the 2016 election season
  • Memory, media and gender in this election
  • Women who opposed the 19th Amendment and women supporters of Donald Trump—Are there similarities in rhetoric, belief, or socio-economic position?
  • Theorizing of feminism and misogyny in public spaces on the campaign trail
  • Generations: Are younger women inspired by historical women’s rights activists or does their inspiration come from elsewhere?
  • “History lessons” on social media: Positioning Clinton with respect to a century of women’s rights activism
  • What are the consequences (—for public engagement and the discipline of history—) of calling an election “historic”?
  • “But that happened forty years ago!”: When history does and doesn’t matter in an election cycle
  • “Nasty women,” “grab him by the ball-ots,” “pussy grabs back”—Does “civil discourse” matter?
  • Would Susan B. Anthony have voted for Hillary Clinton?: A close reading of her writings and speeches
  • Pronouncements from the (pro-life) Susan B. Anthony List about Clinton’s candidacy

Call for Chapters:
We issue this Call for Chapters for a book intended for peer-reviewed publication. We seek contributions that are appropriate for scholarly audiences yet also accessible to undergraduate and public readers. If you would like to participate in this volume, please send us ( a 500-word abstract by January 15, 2017, along with a bio not to exceed 250 words. We also welcome creative contributions, including fiction, poetry, cartoons, photography and song. Completed chapters (of 5,000 words) would need to be submitted by April 15, 2017. This book project has strong interest from a Palgrave Macmillan editor with whom we have worked before. All scholarship and submissions should be previously unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere.

Phyllis Schlafly and the Making of Grassroots Conservative Sexual Politics — NOTCHES

Stacie Taranto Phyllis Schlafly, the longtime conservative activist and prominent antifeminist, died on Monday, September 5, 2016. Her political career spanned seven decades and indelibly shaped the histories of gender and sexuality in the postwar United States. She began her career as a staunch advocate of anti-communist foreign policy in the late 1940s and, in response…

via Phyllis Schlafly and the Making of Grassroots Conservative Sexual Politics — NOTCHES

Jill Stein’s Skewed Interpretation of Recent American History


In an interview with Salon, Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein made the following  observations about the U.S. Supreme Court during President Nixon’s administration:

“We are the ones who should be pressuring the Supreme Court. This is how we got Roe v. Wade to start with an extremely conservative court. This is how we brought the troops home from Vietnam, how we got the EPA, the Clean Air Act the Clean Water Act, and protections for workers under one of the most corrupt conservative presidents ever in the form of Richard Nixon. ”

Since I’m a historian of reproductive rights, I’ll focus on her remarks about Roe v. Wade.  Yes it is true that Chief Justice Warren Burger’s court was more conservative than its predecessor. According to an article by Ira Krakow from Daily Kos,

“Nixon appointed [Warren] Burger in 1969 to succeed Earl Warren, who was perceived as a liberal interventionist, especially in areas like school desegregation and civil rights, as Chief Justice.  Nixon wanted the Court to follow a more conservative, go-slow attitude, especially in civil rights.  This was the era of school busing and integration, real political hot buttons.  Burger was a conservative Minnesota judge.”

Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the opinion for Roe v. Wade, was also a Nixon appointee.  Blackmun also served as an attorney for the Mayo Clinic, so he was as concerned  with the right of physicians to practice medicine as we was with women’s rights to privacy (maybe even more so).  Krakow writes,

“Blackmun had worked closely with doctors, respected them highly, and wanted to ensure that they could practice medicine to the maximum of their professional skills.  He considered that the Hippocratic Oath forbade abortions, but in practice abortions had been practiced throughout recorded history, from ancient Egypt and Greece to the present. . .

In later drafts, Blackmun added references to the right of privacy.  He was influenced by Justice Douglas, who had written about the penumbras, i.e., implied rights to privacy, in Griswold v Connecticut, a 1965 case involving a Connecticut contraception law that I discussed earlier.  Douglas wrote the majority opinion in Griswold.  He also was influenced by Justice Brennan, a Catholic who was a strong advocate of privacy rights and who would vote with the majority in Roe.”

As I’ve written elsewhere, the right of privacy described in the Griswold opinion was a reflection of its era, one of traditional family values and the sanctity of marriage.   The the Court declared that marriage involved “a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights — older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.” The Court asked, “Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.” Even the two dissenters, justices Hugo Black and Potter Stewart, who said there was no constitutional “right of privacy,” nevertheless considered the Connecticut statute “an uncommonly silly law.”

In 1972, the Court extended the right of privacy to unmarried persons seeking birth control, stating in their ruling Eisenstadt v. Baird that “if the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” A year later, the right of privacy was extended to cover abortion in Roe v. Wade.

However, none of this was the result of activists pressuring SCOTUS.  Justices are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate.  They are not beholden to voters or activists.  So, Dr. Stein’s claim that we can pressure a court to do what we like is shear fantasy.




Dear Colleagues: It’s Okay to Take a Summer Vacation


My AAUP chapter President asked us faculty to post what we’re doing this summer. This came in response to a silly message from a book rep suggesting we’re spending our entire summers lounging on the beach.

Some of my colleagues wrote about the myriad projects they’re working on in order to bust the myth that we’re all a bunch of beach bums.

I’ve hesitated to do the same, even though I have some work-related projects I’m working on over the summer (see below).  My first reaction to my colleagues’ posts was, OMG, I’m not doing enough!

Then I asked myself, isn’t it counterproductive to tell taxpayers that we’re willing to bust our butts even when we’re not getting paid to do it? (We’re on ten month contracts, so the only ones who get additional pay are those who teach summer school)

I was reassured by Prof Hacker has a column suggesting that making time for fun can help us be more productive.

So, I’m giving some advice to my colleagues:  give yourself permission to have at least some fun this summer.

Here’s what I’ve been doing so far:

Took a bike trip to Provence, where I ate some great food, drank some awesome wine, and climbed Mont Ventoux. Here’s a picture of me and my husband at the summit:


Done two triathlons, and have two more coming up.

Trained for said triathlons

Started taking a yoga teacher training class (one of my explorations of alternative careers post-retirement)

Gone  stand-up paddle boarding

Grown some veggies in my garden

Read  a bunch of books, some of them work related, some of them just for fun

And, of course, done a fair amount of knitting!

Along the way,  I have written a couple of book reviews, reviewed some manuscripts, and am working on revising a paper a gave last fall for publication. At some point I’ll start thinking about Fall classes.

But mostly I’m enjoying the summer as much as I can while it lasts. I have one last trip to Maine to visit my family, and I’M NOT TAKING ANY WORK WITH ME!  I’m not going to regret it. I can’t imagine myself sitting at my desk in February wishing I’d spent more time working in the summer.

So, readers, what are you up to this summer?



Dropped out of Blogging U, Need Some Inspiration

Well, I did a few days of #everydayinspiration, and discovered it wasn’t working for me. It appears more suited for creative writers (fiction and creative non-fiction). I’m also feeling too lazy to keep up with it.

So, I’ve dropped out and looking for inspiration.  Of course, there’s the usual suspects.  For example, I could write about how pleased I am with the SCOTUS decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. So, yay!  Other than that, I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said already elsewhere.

So, to the handful of folks who still read this blog — any suggestions?


Feminist grassroots organizations as peer-to-peer network

Via JStor Daily: Why the Future of the Internet May Depend on the History of Abortion

This thought-provoking article by Alexandra Samuel discusses how to preserve or reestablish connectivity in case of a disaster that brings down communication networks.  The author argues that to guard against such catastrophes, we need to “radically expand the number of people who have the technical know-how, hardware, and emergency power to set up and sustain an peer-to-peer mesh network.”

The model for creating this kind of “grassroots self-reliance” comes from a surprising source: the movement for abortion rights, which spread knowledge about an early abortion technique known as “menstrual extraction” through the feminist self-help movement and alternative feminist press. (for more on the history of this technology, see  Johanna Schoen’s fabulous new book, Abortion After Roe).

As I observed in my book, The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States, knowledge about other women’s health technologies like emergency contraception were also spread through these type of self-help networks.  The Web has replaced the fanzines and other alternative publications, but maybe there should be print backups just in case this information gets suppressed, or, as Samuel warns, the Web goes down because of a catastrophe.

Samuel argues that “we need a grassroots movement for disseminating networking knowledge that is just as ardent as the radical feminist movement of the 1960s and 1980s.”

Great point:   As a start, perhaps someone could bring back an updated print version of “The Whole Earth Catalog“?



Blogging U #everydayinspiration: I Write Because, I live for “likes”


Well,  I took the plunge and registered for the (free) Blogging U course “Finding Everyday Inspiration.”  My school year is over, so why not take a class myself (I’m also auditing a class in ARC GIS to prep for my digital history class this fall).

Day One’s assignment:  answer the question, “why do I write?”

I did a 15 minute free write offline, and the key phrase that leaps out at me is, “I live for likes.”  This is probably why I spend more time on social media (see my Twitter feed below) then writing for this blog. I don’t need to write a lot! Instant gratification!

The longer material I do also is aimed at getting “likes” — i.e. admiration from colleagues, good karma for my own writing (in the case of book reviews), etc.  I hate getting negative reviews.  So, this may be why I find staring at a blank screen so paralyzing:  the internal editor kicks in almost immediately.

I supposed the thing to do is to focus on writing that I like, rather than aiming to get likes, right?  Find something I want to write, not something I have to write.

Whew!  That wasn’t so bad.  I may even do my “assignments” over Memorial Day weekend!