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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Spring 2005

AMS 315 • Women in America: From Seneca Falls to Sex and the City-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
27145 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
PAR 103

Course Description

This course will explore women’s experiences in America from the 1848 Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention to the present from an interdisciplinary perspective. Throughout the semester, we will pay particular attention to the development of the feminist movement(s) and to the ways in which main themes in American history, such as the rhetoric of independence and the centrality of religion, change when we look at American history from the perspective of women. What does the nation’s history look like when the experiences of women are put at its center? How do the stories of women alter or disrupt the narrative of American history? What are the intellectual origins, influences, and underpinnings of the American feminist movement? What is its relationship to other movements for social justice and civil rights? How are changes in gender roles reflected in and produced by literature, politics, art, education, labor, and popular culture? These are a few of the questions we will ask in this course. To more fully understand the history of women in America and their quest for liberation, discussions of race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, and sexual orientation will be central to this course.

This course will be organized chronologically into four sections according to the so-called “waves” of feminism. Unit One will focus on the first wave of feminism, 1848-1920, and the quest for women’s suffrage. Unit Two will focus on women’s participation and activism in labor, peace, the arts, and other arenas prior to the emergence of second wave feminism in the 1960’s. In Unit Three, we will examine second wave feminism from its origins in the Civil Rights movement to the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Unit Four will cover third wave feminism, feminism in popular culture, and women in contemporary America. In each of the four sections, we will study women in America from an interdisciplinary perspective. We will learn about women’s experiences with and interventions in medicine, science, labor, marriage and family life, the law, politics, popular culture, art, architecture, literature, education, theology, and religion. For example, we will trace the struggle for reproductive freedom and women’s attempts to carve out spaces for themselves, both literally and figuratively, in the workplace, the school, the community, and the church. We will study the art of Georgia O’Keeffe and Judy Chicago, and we will read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Sylvia Plath’s poetry, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. We will also examine popular culture from women’s magazines to music to movies to television shows such as “Sex and the City.” In addition to learning about the history of women in America, students will hone their critical thinking and writing skills. This class fulfills a substantial writing component, and a majority of the assignments will be written. Portions of several classes will be devoted to students’ presentations of their work and to discussion of college-level academic research, argument development, paper organization, and paper revision. Students will write a short book or film review, a research paper, and an oral history of three generations of women in their families OR a paper about a service learning project. In terms of class format, I will generally lecture for a portion of the class, but most of the class will be spent discussing the readings. To enrich our discussions, I will often bring in music, TV or movie clips, cartoons, or other items that pertain to our reading.


Course Packet, available for purchase at Speedway Copies in the Dobie Mall Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands, La Frontera: The New Mestiza Susan Ware, Modern American Women: A Documentary History, Second Edition (2002) Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience: A Concise History, Second Edition (2002) Films: “With Babies and Banners: The Story of the Women’s Emergency Brigade” “Thelma and Louise"


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