Textbooks & Teaching Home
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

HIST 4280/6280
Fall, 2000, Tu/Th

Catherine Badura
Valdosta State University


On sale in the book store:
Mimi Abramovitz, Under Attack, Fighting Back: Women and Welfare in the United States, 2000
Kathleen M. Blee, No Middle Ground: Women and Radical Protest
Temma Kaplan, Crazy for Democracy: Women in Grassroots Movements

Additionally, readings on reserve at Odum Library:

Mimi Abramovitz, "From Tenement Class to Dangerous Class to Underclass: Blaming Women for Social Problems," in Nan Van Den Bergh, ed. Feminist Practice in the 21st Century

Selections from:

Diane Dujon & Ann Withorn, eds. For Crying Out Loud: Women's Poverty in the United States
Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg & Eleanor Kremen, eds. The Feminization of Poverty: Only in America?
Robert A. Goldberg, Grassroots Resistance: Social Movements in 20th Century America
Alexis Jetter, Annelise Orleck, & Diana Taylor, eds. The Politics of Motherhood: Activist Voices from Left to Right
Nancy Naples, ed. Community Activism & Feminist Politics: Organizing Across Race, Class, and Gender
Ruth Sidel, Keeping Women & Children Last: America's War on the Poor


This course examines the roles women have played in securing for themselves and others the promises of democracy ("liberty and justice for all"), or social justice, in the United States. The central focus this semester will be on economic justice, the particular ways women have been economically marginalized; the ways gender has affected social welfare policy; and the ways women have challenged economic marginalization through activism. We will be especially interested to discover ways women have been involved in seeking economic justice from the bottom up (grassroots activism). Crazy for Democracy provides a foundation for our objective by telling the stories of marginalized women who became activists involved in grassroots organizing. Abramovitz's Regulating the Lives of Women puts our subject in historic context by tracing the history of social policy responsible for marginalizing women. Abramovitz's Under Attack provides historical background and foreground to the state of women in poverty. Some of our course objectives are mirrored in statements that close Abramovitz's Preface in Under Attack: "My wish in detailing this history of women's activism is fourfold:
[1] to give visibility to the long neglected efforts of women to produce a better life for themselves and their families; [2] to further the work of welfare rights activists by touching base with the accomplishments of their foremothers; [3] to show that all women benefit from and thus have a stake in social programs; and finally [4] to stress the importance to social change of political pressure from below." Required readings on reserve in Odum Library will supplement the three required texts.


Students will be required to become part of an electronic mailing list that will provide you with local and national statistics and reports on homelessness and other issues of concern relevant to our class. You will be asked from time to time to share notices with class. The e-mail address to write for subscription is:

There are 24 chapters total in the three texts. Students will be required four additional readings from outside texts on reserve, making a total of 28 reading assignments. Two of the outside readings will be chosen for you; two you may choose from a list of options. For each reading, a written response is required. A summary/analysis of each reading assignment should include three parts:

1) the premise, central argument, or whatever you choose to call the thesis of the chapter or essay;
2) three additional points that support the central point or thesis;
3) a summary conclusion.

The reading responses should include points or arguments, not statements of fact, statistics, etc, unless the relevance or significance of the fact is presented clearly.

The other major assignment requires the student to choose between Plans A and B.

Plan A will require a twenty-five (25) page research paper on a related subject, the parameters of which will be specified at a later date.

Plan B requires two parts: fifteen to twenty (15-20) hours for students in 4280 and twenty to twenty five (20-25) hours for students in 6280 of community service work at either The Haven, a local shelter for victims of domestic violence, or LAMP, a local association that provides assistance to people out of resources. In addition to the hours of service, the student will be required to write a twelve to fifteen page reflective essay that relates what students have learned in the reading assignments with what they have learned in their service projects. Students will also be expected to present their projects to class.

GRADING for Students in Plan B   GRADING for Students in Plan A   
30 reading responses from texts 40% 30 reading responses from texts 40%
Presentation of readings 10% Presentation of readings 10%
Service 30% Research Paper 35%
Final Reflection 20% Final Exam 15%

Students' work in the associations will be assessed and evaluated by the Executive Director and other staff of the Association. Additionally, to compensate for any unusual inconvenience the student might encounter in managing the hours of Service, some class time will allotted. 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 45 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.


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. Four absences will be tolerated without penalty. Those four 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.


Week 1
17 Syllabus; Introduction to HIST 4280/6280; discussing myths

Week 2
22-24 Discussing Goldberg & Abramovitz "From Tenement Class..." in Van Den Bergh
Haven & LAMP representatives to speak

Week 3
29-31 Stansel, "Women, Children & Uses of the Streets,"
Gordon, "Black & White Visions of Welfare Reform"

Week 4
5-7 Hunter, "Domination & Resistance: The Politics of Wage Household Labor in New South Atlanta"
Rodrique, "The Black Community & the Birth Control Movement"

Week 5
12-14 Kunzel, "Unwed Mothers, Social Workers, & the Postwar Family"
Kornbluh, "A Human Right to Welfare? Social Protest among Women Welfare Recipients after WWII

Week 6
19-21 Readings & discussion of domestic violence

Week 7
26-28 Abramovitz, Under Attack, Fighting Back

Week 8
3-5 Fox Piven "Women and the State: Ideology, Power, and Welfare" [6280 students report]
Fraser & Gordon, "The Genealogy of Dependency: Tracing a Keyword of the U.S. Welfare State," [6280 students report]
Readings from Sidel & Dujon [4280 students report]

Week 9
10-12 Withorn, "For Better and For Worse: Women Against Women in the Welfare State" 269-286 [6280 students report]
Schaffner Goldberg & Eleanor Kremen, eds., The Feminization of Poverty Only in America? (1990) [6280 students report]
Readings from Sidel & Dujon [4280 students report]

Week 10
17-19 Readings from Kaplan

Week 11
24-26 Readings from Blee

Week 12
31-November 2 Readings from Blee

Weeks 13 & 14
7-9; 14-16 Service Project
20-24 Thanksgiving Holidays

Week 15
28-30 Review and presentations on service

Week 16

FINAL EXAM Friday, Dec. 8, 2:45-4:45

Required outside reading on reserve at Odum for HIST 4280/6280

Readings 1 through 4 required of everyone:
(Articles, request by name in bold print)

1. Goldberg, Robert A. "What is a Social Movement," from Robert A. Goldberg, Grassroots Resistance: Social Movements in Twentieth Century America

2. Stansel, Christine, "Women, Children & the Uses of the Streets"

3. Gordon, Linda, "Black & White Visions of Welfare: Women's Welfare Activism, 1890-1945"

4. Abramovitz, Mimi, "From Tenement Class to Dangerous Class to Underclass: Blaming Women for Social Problems" in Van Den Bergh, ed., Feminist Practice in the 21st Century

Readings 5 through 8 Required for students taking HIST 6280
(Books, request by name in bold print)

5. Frances Fox Piven "Women and the State: Ideology, Power, and Welfare" 183-200, From Diane Dujon & Ann Withorn, For Crying Out Loud

6. Nancy Fraser & Linda Gordon, "The Genealogy of Dependency: Tracing a Keyword of the U.S. Welfare State," 235-268, From Dujon & Withorn, For Crying Out Loud

7. Ann Withorn, "For Better and For Worse: Women Against Women in the Welfare State" 269-286, From Dujon & Withorn, For Crying Out Loud

8. From: Gertrude Schaffner Goldberg & Eleanor Kremen, eds., The Feminization of Poverty Only in America? (1990)
     Skim Chapter 1 "The Feminization of Poverty," and
     Read/respond fully Chapter 2, "The United States"

Readings 9 through 12: Students taking 4280, choose one reading from either Sidel (#9) or Dujon & Withorn (#10); students taking 6280, choose one from each: Sidel and Dujon & Withorn

9. From Ruth Sidel, Keeping Women and Children Last

1. "The Enemy Within"
2. "The Assault on the Female-Headed Family"
3. "Who are the Poor?"
4. "Targeting Welfare Recipients"
5. "Teenage Mothers: Casualties of a Limited Future"
6. "Poor Children: The Walking Wounded"
7. "A Return to Caring"

10. From Diane Dujon & Ann Withorn, For Crying Out Loud: Women's Poverty in the United States (1996)

Dujon "Out of the Frying Pan: Reflections of a Former Welfare Recipient" and Withorn, "Why Mother Slapped Me" 9-16
Flanders with Jackson & Shadoan, "Media Lies: Media, Public Opinion & Welfare" 29-40
Kennedy, ed, "A Hole in my Soul: Experiences of Homeless Women" 41-56
Stevenson & Donovan, "How the U.S. Economy Creates Poverty and Inequality" 67-78
Cerullo & Erlien, "Beyond the 'Normal Family': A cultural Critique of Women's Poverty" 87-106
Catanzarite & Ortiz, "Family Matters, Work Matters? Poverty among Women of Color and White Women" 121-140
Lee, "Working in America: The Female Immigrant Experience" 141-150
Cummings & Mandell, "Finding Voice: Beyond Building Community at Survival News" 163-182
Felder, "Welfare: The Basement of the Wage Scale" 215-222

Readings 11 through 12, Students in both 4280 & 6280 working with The Haven, choose one reading from 11 and those in 4280 & 6280 working with LAMP choose one reading from 12

11. On Battered women:

James & Harris, "Gimme Shelter: Battering and Poverty" 57-66, in Dujon & Withorn
Kendrick, "Producing the Battered Woman: Shelter Politics and the Power of the Feminist Voice," in Naples, ed. Community Activism and Feminist Politics

12. On "subsistence struggles"

Jetter, Orleck, & Taylor, The Politics of Motherhood
Childers, "A Spontaneous Welfare Rights Protest by Politically Inactive Mothers" 90-101
Orleck, "'If it Wasn't for You, I'd Have Shoes for my Children'" 102-118
Duncan, "'I got to Dreamin'" Interview with Ruby Duncan 119-126