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Journal of American History

2002 Syllabi
Teaching outside the Box

Editors' Introduction
Gary J. Kornblith & Carol Lasser

U.S. Women Activists
Catherine Badura
Syallbus: 1998, 2000 | Article

The Black Athlete
Amy Bass
Syllabus | Article

Recovering Detroit's Past for History & Theater
Charles Bright

American History Since 1865
A. Glenn Crothers
Syllabus | Article

Intro to American History
John J. Grabowski
Syllabus | Article

American History
Cecilia Aros Hunter & Leslie Gene Hunter
Syllabus | Article

In Search of America's Civil Rights Movement
Alyssa Picard & Joseph J. Gonzalez
Syllabus | Article

Out of Many: Histories of the U.S.
David A. Reichard
Syllabus | Article

Women & Social Movements
Kathryn Kish Sklar
Syllabus | Article

Law & Society in American History
John Wertheimer
Syllabus | Article

Colonial & Revolutionary History of the Southern Tidewater
James P. Whittenburg
Syllabus | Article

American National Character
Michael Zuckerman
Syllabus | Article

U.S. Women Activists

History 305/505
Spring Quarter, 1998 M-F 9:00-9:50 a.m.

Catherine Badura
Valdosta State University



Anne Witte Garland, Women Activists: Challenging the Abuse of Power, New York, 1988
Moody, Anne, Coming of Age in Mississippi, New York, 1976
Deming, Barbara, Prisons that Could Not Hold, Athens, GA 1995
Dog, Mary Crow, Lakota Woman, New York, 1991

Additionally, there are readings on reserve at Library


This course examines the roles women have played in securing for themselves and others the promises of democracy, or social justice, in the United States. This is a history course. Therefore we will begin this course by turning to the origins of our belief in "liberty and justice for all," namely the documents in US history that articulate the meaning of liberty and justice for its citizens. Through the use of a time line we will reflect on how much of our nation's history has been that of individual and collective quests to claim the promises made in those documents. The goals of this course are twofold: To identify the numerous ways women have interpreted and claimed the promises of democracy, and to understand why and how certain women have become activists. Although community service is strongly encouraged (see Plan B below under assignment three), the ultimate purpose of the course is not to turn us into community activists, but rather to make us aware of the role activism, and especially women involved in activism, have played and continue to play in making the promise and hope of America a reality in our lives.
Our means of achieving the stated goals are many-fold: We will do so through reading, thinking, discussing, reading, writing, thinking, reading, watching films, thinking, reading, researching, reading, working in the community, reading, interviewing community activists, reading, thinking, and reading some more. Reading and reflecting thoughtfully are the most essential requirements of this course. For each subject we choose, we will attempt to discover and clarify several things about her and her work for social justice:
1) for whom was she seeking justice;
2) what was her relationship with the ones for whom she worked for justice;
3) was there an identifiable incident or event that sparked her work in their behalf and if so, what was it;
4) how far removed legally, socially, and personally from the promises of democracy were those for whom she sought justice;
5) what obstacles to gaining social justice did she encounter;
6) how did she meet the challenges she faced; and, finally,
7) what was it in the woman's personality, family background, training, life experience, etc. that made her receptive to becoming an activist?


This course is not for everyone. It requires a considerable amount of self-discipline, self-motivation, organizational and time-management skills, and a sense of commitment to the community, or if not to this particular community (for students who are transient) at least a commitment to the principles of community service. Success will depend upon the measure students have of each of these traits.

There are three major assignments in this course. The first is the only assignment that distinguishes between graduates and undergraduates. The distinction includes the length of paper and the number of sources required. Graduate students registered in History 505 will turn in a short paper of 7-10 pages; undergraduates will turn in a paper 3-5 pages in length. The first paper will look at a woman activist (to be chosen from a list provided by the professor) who lived and worked in the US sometime between 1850-1950. In this very brief research essay the student will address the questions posed above; additionally graduate students will use not fewer than five sources and undergraduates not fewer than four. One source must be primary (the author's own written work), and only one reference source (encyclopedia, biographical dictionary, etc.) may be cited. (Do not hesitate, in fact I encourage you, to use the Internet as a source.)

The second assignment will include a longer paper (10-12 pages) in which the student first addresses the above questions for each of the three autobiographers in the required reading list (Anne Moody, Barbara Deming, and Mary Crow Dog), and then analyzes the differences and similarities among the experiences of the three women. Each of these women was active in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and seventies. Moody and Deming fought primarily for Civil Rights for African Americans while Mary Crow Dog devoted her life to gaining Civil Rights for Native Americans. The purpose of this assignment is to determine comparatively how class, race, and ethnicity as well as gender shaped these women's experiences.

The third major assignment requires the student to choose between Plan A and Plan B. Plan A will require a forty-five (45) page research paper on a related subject, the parameters of which will be specified at a later date. Plan B requires two parts: twenty (20) hours of community service work in an agency to be chosen after careful consideration and discussion including the student, the professor, and the Association Directors. In addition to the twenty hours of service, the student will be required to write a fifteen to twenty (15-20) page paper that is a mini-history of the agency or association with whom one works and a mini-biography of the woman/women who were instrumental in its origins or have been involved in its continuation. As a model for this paper, the student will follow one or more of the essays in the text, Women Activists by Anne Witte Garland, each of which implicitly if not explicitly addresses the seven questions posed above. This assignment will require the student(s) to interview the current Director of the association and any others who are available for interview as well as staff suggested by the Director. For the purposes of convenience for both the Association staff and the student, students may be allowed a maximum of three hours of the twenty hours of time committed to service to conduct these interviews. In other words, three of the twenty hours committed to service may be used by the student to conduct the interview(s) or compile resources offered by the Association. But at least seventeen hours must be left to service. The exception to this allowance will be if the project designed for the student by the Director of the Association requires all twenty hours of service to complete the project agreed upon by the student and agency Director. In that case, the student will be required to conduct interviews and collect sources on time over and above the twenty committed to service. Students are encouraged to work together on the research (much of which will come from oral interviews) required for this assignment, being careful not to duplicate each others' interviews. The staff at all of the associations chosen for participation are extremely busy and have agreed to participate in this part of the assignment with the understanding that their time for such interviews is limited.

Suggestion for the three assignments: Every good essay has a purpose or thesis clearly stated in the introduction. (A thesis is an arguable point defended or proven by the body of the paper.) Any combination of the seven questions posed above might provide such a purpose for your paper, but questions three and seven especially lend themselves to crafting an arguable point.

GRADING for Students in Plan B
  GRADING for Students in Plan A  
Assignment One 15% Assignment One 15%
Assignment Two 25% Assignment Two
Assignment Three   Assignment Three 40%
    Service 15%* Final Exam 20%***
    History/Biography 25%   100%
Class Participation
Final Exam 10%***

* Students' work in the associations will be assessed and evaluated by the Executive Director of the Association. The assessment will be consulted by the professor to determine the students' grade for Service. Additionally, to compensate for any unusual inconvenience the student might encounter in managing the twenty hours of Service, class will not meet the week of May 18-22. Please note that this is an act of mercy on the part of the professor. Given the assumption that students are expected to spend three hours outside class for every hour they spend within class, a five hour course (total of 50 in-class hours) theoretically assumes 150 hours outside work over the course of the quarter. Proportionally speaking, assignment number three is two-fifths of the student's grade, which would theoretically require 60 hours+ of outside class work, but your service is limited to 20 hours. (That leaves 40 hours to prepare the paper.) Please be governed by this formula before voicing complaint over the course requirements.

**Class participation includes everything from informed discussion to scores on pop quizzes over films, readings, lectures or discussions.

***The final "exam" for students choosing Plan B will not be an exam in the proper sense, but rather a reflective piece on one's experience in community service and in gathering the material for and writing a mini-history and biography of the institution and the woman currently and/or formerly directing the institution. The final exam for students choosing Plan A will be comprehensive in scope and will be a subjective and objective exam covering all the readings, films, lectures, and class discussions throughout the quarter.


If enrollment permits, most days we will conduct the class much like a seminar, wherein discussion and dialogue rather than monologue and lecturing characterize the class. In any event student participation is encouraged. An exception to the rule of participation will apply if any one or a small number of students begins, for whatever reason, to monopolize student response. An additional exception to the rule of participation will apply if the expression of dissenting or differing opinions becomes disruptive or anything but diplomatic and well-meaning. Independent thinking is highly encouraged as long as it is informed thinking--that is, thinking informed by credible sources (your textbooks, for instance)--but especially as long as diplomacy, respect, and tact govern its sharing and expression.

Attendance is required. Five absences will be tolerated without penalty. Those five absences include both legitimate as well as not so legitimate excuses. Legitimate excuses are illnesses, yours or your family's, deaths in the family, etc. athletic obligations, and any other allowable university functions. Doctor's excuses, notes from coaches, etc. are not necessary. The penalty for each absence beyond five will be a reduction of 2% in your final grade. For instance, seven absences would subtract 4% from your final score, 10 absences would subtract 10% from your final score, etc.

For policies regarding withdrawal, please refer to the VSU annual bulletin for university policy.

(This schedule is tentative for a number of reasons. Not all of the planned speakers have been able to commit to a date at the time of the making of this syllabus. Nor have all of the films ordered arrived. Priority will be placed on thorough coverage of the required readings and presentation of research.)

Week 1
March 31-April 3 Introduction; Syllabus; Brief look at the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution and a recollection of the Pledge of Allegiance; Time Line; Video "Social Justice," from A Century of Women series; "Forward," "Preface," and "Introduction" in Garland, Women Activists; Discussion of Assignment Three; Choosing subjects for Assignment One;

Week 2
April 6-10 Brief look at legal & social realities of women in the Antebellum US; Video "Family," from A Century of Women series; Chapters 1 & 2 in Garland (Cirillo, "Every Mountain Hollow" & Kaczynski, "The Human Element"); Speaker;

Week 3
April 13-17 Discussion of legal and social realities for women in Gilded Age and Progressive Era; film, "One Woman, One Vote"; presentation of research by students on Assignment One; Speaker; Chapter 3 in Garland (Cincotta, "We Found the Enemy");
Assignment One due April 17

Week 4
April 20-24 Discussion of legal and social realities for women in Twenties, Depression Era, WWII and Cold War Era; beginning of film series Eyes on the Prize and Fundi: the Story of Ella Baker; Chapter 4 in Garland (Fava & Tudy, "Education's the Thing");

Week 5
April 27-May1 Discussion of Anne Moody; Eyes on the Prize; discussion of legal and social realities of women in Cold War Era cont'd; Women Strike for Peace; discussion of women in Civil Rights Movement; Chapter 5 in Garland (Sinclair, "The Tongue of Angels");

Week 6
May 5-8 Discussion of Barbara Deming; Eyes on the Prize; discussion of rebirth of Women's Movement of the 1960s; Chapter 6 in Garland (Hinds," "Vociferous Residents");

Week 7
May 11-15 Discussion of Mary Crow Dog; Savagery; The Learning Path; The Pow Wow Highway;
Assignment Two due May 15

Week 8
May 18-22 Week off;

Week 9
May 25-29 Discussion of women in the military: the Vietnam War Memorial; Chapters 7-9 in Garland (Weinstein & Weisfelner, "Common Sense"; Tucker, "Good Noise"; Greenham women, "Emboldened");

Week 10
June 1-5 Presentation of research on Assignment Three;
Assignment Three due June 5

Last Day of Class: Monday, June 8

Final Exam Thursday, June 11, 1998 8:00a.m.-10:00a.m.