Tag Archives: US History

From the Archives: Jordyn May, PhD Candidate, visits the Huntington Library

Jordyn May – History department PhD Candidate (Cohort 2017-18) working with Dr. Kirsten Swinth – is currently completing his dissertation, entitled: “‘A campaign so splendid could not fail’: Reexamining the Woman Suffrage Movement through Interrelationships between the Eastern and Western Branches.” In this week’s From the Archives, Jordyn hares some of her experiences while researching at the Huntington Library in California.

What is your current research on?

My research for the dissertation currently examines the California and New York woman suffrage state campaigns from 1890 to 1920, specifically looking at how suffragists from the East and West influenced each other’s strategies, methods, and tactics. My research also delves into how tensions developed between Eastern and Western suffragists and how that influenced the national movement.

What archive did you visit and can you describe the archive a little?

I visited the Huntington Library in San Marino, California in July 2022. The Huntington is gorgeous as it is also a famous botanical garden. The library and reading room was situated close to the entrance of the garden, but after the end of the day, I was able to wander the whole area. The sunshine and fresh air was definitely nice after being in a freezing archive all day! The reading room was very nice and all of the archivists were incredibly helpful. I spoke to a curator who knew the collections inside and out and who was able to give me great advice on what collections to look at. 

What was the purpose of your trip? What type of documents did you plan to look at? What makes those documents unique for your research?

The purpose of my trip was to find crucial primary source information about how the state campaigns operated in Southern California as I had done a previous research trip to Northern California. I looked at a lot of correspondence between suffragists, organizational records, speeches and essays written by suffragists, suffrage newspapers, biographies of a couple suffragists, and histories of other organizations in California that helped with the campaigns. Reading the correspondence between various suffragists has been the most enlightening. These women were very sassy and did not hold back when discussing their views of other women and the tactics of the movement. These letters give me the best, unfiltered, view of the tensions between Eastern and Western suffragists.

What was a challenge you encountered during your research? How did you overcome it?

No one tells you how exhausting it actually is to sit in a reading room and look through documents all day. I had a month long fellowship at the Huntington which meant I was in the reading room Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm with a short break for lunch and I often went Saturday mornings as well. Research can be very exciting when you are finding documents that you need or find something you didn’t know existed, but the rest of the time is sorting through boxes and folders and can be incredibly mentally taxing, especially when you are trying to decipher handwritten documents! When I got too tired and mentally strained, I tried to change tasks or take more breaks to rest a little. 

The organization of the collections was also not standardized, so there were some collections that had no finding aids. I would have to request every box in the collection just to see if it was even worth looking at. It was frustrating, but I also found interesting material that I might not have requested in the first place.

Did you receive any funding to support your research?

I applied for and received a short-term fellowship from the Huntington to support my research. The application was due in November and was fairly simple. The application consisted of a 1,500 word project description, current CV, and two letters of recommendation. I received the award letter in March and spent my month in California in July. The grant was for $3,500 which helped cover travel and living expenses for the month, but the award money is paid out after you have already been there for a few weeks. Affordable housing was a little difficult to find within walking distance of the Huntington which was my only qualm with the award amount.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing historical research?

It may sound weird, but do your research before you do your research. You want to be fully prepared before you go into the archive. That means looking at all the finding aids for each collection you want to view and marking exactly which boxes and folders you need to see. One of the collections I investigated at the Huntington was over 100 boxes. I couldn’t feasibly look at all of them so I made a spreadsheet detailing what I absolutely had to look at to help narrow it down. You also need to prioritize your research. Make sure you are viewing the documents you know you need and then looking at documents that might be just interesting afterwards. Time goes by quickly in the reading room and you want to make sure your time is well spent, especially if you are only there for a few days.

The Yellow Ribbon was a short-lived suffrage newspaper specifically for the West Coast. The Huntington had all of the issues, and I think they are one of the only archives to have a complete collection.

From the Archives is a special series for the Fordham History blog which highlights the research experiences of members of the history department in an effort to both showcase their work and provide insight for future researchers preparing for their own archival projects.

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Filed under From the Archives, Graduate Student, Research

Dr. Kirsten Swinth publishes an article entitled “Debating the Fate of the Homemaker: The ERA and the Death of the Family Wage” in the journal of Gender & History

Dr. Kirsten Swinth, Professor of History, published her article entitled “Debating the Fate of the Homemaker: The ERA and the Death of the Family Wage” in the journal of Gender & History. Congratulations Dr. Swinth!

Below is the abstract of the article:

This article revisits the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution to argue that amendment adversaries fought over the future of women’s economic security. Post-war US economic growth stalled in the 1970s, bringing the family-wage ideal of male breadwinning and female homemaking down with it. In these unsettled years, how female economic dependence would be addressed was an open question: would it be by propping up male breadwinning, as ERA opponents wanted, or by combining good jobs with fairly compensated domestic labour and government assistance, as supporters believed the ERA promised? A revisionist interpretation of the ERA battle, this article shifts attention from conflict over gender identity and cultural values to economics and capitalist transformation. It examines arguments presented in pamphlets, the media and to Congress about how homemaking women could achieve security in the face of changing economic reality. The ERA’s defeat was a Pyrrhic victory for conservatives. The threat to government-sanctioned male breadwinning appeared to have been vanquished. But the family-wage system was truly on the rocks, and supporters’ vision of a working-family norm, with roles based on function, not gender, won out. Without the ERA, however, working mothers shouldered the consequences.

Cover of Gender & History

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Undergraduate Grace Rooney Presents Poster at the 136th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Philadelphia

Undergraduate Grace Rooney (Fordham class of 2023) presented her poster entitled “Lesbian Activity and Participation in the National Organization for Women in the 1980s” at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting in Philadelphia which took place 5-8 January 2023. Over 1,500 individuals participated in the event and Grace was one of 20 undergraduates to present a poster. Great work Grace!

To learn more about Grace’s research you can read her poster abstract below:

My research question revolved around how the National Organization for Women (NOW), as a mainstream feminist organization, advocated for and included lesbian members in the 1980s. Publications that I examined from the 1980s, including an annual Lesbian Rights Resource Kit, a Lesbian Rights Lobbying Kit, and a Lesbian Rights Conference. These sources are unique and distinct from the 1980s, and no such sources exist for the 1970s. This distinction shows the escalation of NOW’s work on lesbian rights, and more in-depth issue areas which targeted rising homophobia from the right, as well as defending the idea of lesbian rights as a women’s issue. Since lesbian rights had long been controversial in NOW, I also examined the resulting controversies within the organization over lesbian rights in the 1980s. One of the controversies within the organization was over how to respond to homophobic attacks from the right. There was a major debate within NOW at the time between members, who advocated for the organization to take a step away from gay rights work and advocate for feminism as a “pro-family” ideology in line with the rhetoric of the right-wing at the time, while leadership dismissed this view and increased their public-facing work in support of gay rights. Another controversy I examined was over the 1980 Resolution on Pornography, Sadomasochism, and Public Sex. This resolution stated that all of these sexual issues were exploitative of women and that any association with gay rights was entirely and always erroneous. Many lesbian members and outside organizations took issue with the authoritative and definitive tone of NOW when describing the relationship between feminism, gay rights, and sex. Overall, the 1980s presented a unique context of rising conservative power, as well as internal controversy over issues areas of feminism like sex and pornography. 

Grace also shared some thoughts on her experience:

I really enjoyed my experience at the AHA. One of the best parts of the conference was being able to meet other undergraduate students who were presenting their research from around the country, and who are going through similar experiences as me. The AHA felt intimidating at first as an undergraduate, but meeting other students who were doing the same thing, and talking about our research really helped. Also, they are all applying to graduate school and figuring out what they want to do with history as a career, so talking to them about that was also very helpful and encouraging. 

I was able to go to a variety of sessions, the first being the plenary session about the role of historians in teaching and examining through the lens of social justice. I found this panel very interesting, as those are questions I think about when considering the field as well. There were a lot of very interesting things that the panelists said, but I enjoyed their discussion of the idea that history and the history we study tend to be autobiographical, which I found resonated with a lot of scholars and made me think a little differently about the field. Also, I was able to attend two Fordham professor’s panels, Professor Huezo and Professor Miki. I found their panels to be very fascinating and also useful for me as their subject matter is fairly far away from my own, and they both came and listened to my poster as well, which was very nice to have a friendly face there as well. As far as panels in my field, I attended one on global feminism that I found to be particularly interesting, as well as one on Irish women’s communication networks which taught me a lot, and made me question similar topics in the United States and their relationship to Irish groups given how close the countries work in a lot of areas. 

Presenting the poster was definitely the highlight of the conference though. I was able to talk to a variety of professors, and undergraduate and graduate students. Discussing my research helped me a lot in how I could cohesively organize and present the information that I had found, which I had struggled with in writing the corresponding paper because I felt a little bit all over the place. I received a lot of good feedback on the poster, and I also was able to talk about graduate school and further my research with a variety of people, which was great. My major takeaways from the conference will be greater confidence in my research and its organization of it, as well as a wider understanding of the diversity of the field, and how more difficult questions within it can be answered. I also am very reaffirmed in my interest in research, and continuing that in my graduate school and career.

Grace Rooney stands in front of her poster “Lesbian Activity and Participation in the National Organization for Women in the 1980s” at the 136th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Philadelphia, which took place 5-8 January 2023.

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Filed under Conferences, Uncategorized, Undergrad News, Undergraduate Research

Former Fordham History student offered Harvard-Newcomen Post-Doctoral Fellowship

Former undergraduate student Melanie Sheehan (class of 2017) has been offered the Harvard-Newcomen Post-Doctoral Fellowship for the 2022-2023 academic year. She is a current PhD candidate in the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Melanie Sheehan
(Rose Hill, class of 2017)

Melanie is currently finishing her dissertation, titled “Opportunities Foregone: US Industrial Unions and the Politics of International Economic Policy, 1949-1983,” which demonstrates the critical but underexplored role of trade union leaders in shaping US international trade and investment policy. The project draws on research from business archives at Hagley Museum and Library and labor archives at the Walter P. Reuther Library, the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive, Penn State University, and the International Institute of Social History, as well as several presidential libraries.
Congratulations, Melanie!

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Filed under Alumni Awards, Alumni News, Fellowships, Undergrad News

Student Perspectives: Second Annual Women’s Liberation Teach-In

On November 7, 2017, Fordham students gathered for the second annual women’s liberation teach-in at Rodrigue’s Coffee House, on the Rose Hill campus. Part of Professor Kirsten Swinth’s Modern U.S. Women’s History, students in the teach-in emulated women’s liberation groups of the 1960s and 1970s. The teach-in is a valuable tool Dr. Swinth has used to move students from the pages of their textbooks into the lived experience of the subjects they study. Here’s what some of the students had to say about that experience. Continue reading

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The Professor and the Process: Dr. Steven Stoll and Ramp Hollow

The History Department blog recently caught up with Dr. Steven Stoll to discuss his newest book, Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia (Hill and Wang, 2017). The book illuminates how the persistent poverty and pejorative perceptions associated with Appalachia are a result of the industrial powers that utilized the people to strip the land of its natural resources.

History Department: So how did the entire project begin?

Steven Stoll:  I originally set out to write a book about the collision between agrarian people (peasants, settlers, campesinos) in the Western Hemisphere. I then decided Continue reading

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Dr. Kirsten Swinth Discusses “Having It All”

Dr. Kirsten Swinth enjoyed a packed crowd earlier this month as she spoke about her upcoming book, “Having it All:” Feminist Struggles over Work and Family, 1963 – 1978 (Harvard University Press, 2018). The book comments on the challenges that working professionals have faced as they have sought to build a career while raising a family from the 1970s through the present. She also discussed Continue reading

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Thinking About the History of the Digital Era at the Society for the History of Technology

Philadelphia was the location on the weekend of October 26-29 for the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT). For the conference, Professor Asif Siddiqi organized a panel titled “Democratizing the Technologies of Pop Music: Songs in the Key of Gender, Fandom and Digital Sampling.” The panel forms the basis for a new book project by Professor Siddiqi, a collection of essays provisionally titled One Track Mind. The book will bring together academics and cultural critics to talk about Continue reading

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Filed under Alumni News, Conferences, Department Events, Digital Resources, Essays in History, Events, Faculty News

Fordham Professors in the News

Dr. Saul Cornell, the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History, the author of A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America, and a recognized authority on the Second Amendment, has recently published two online articles about the gun debate: “Gun Anarchy and the Unfree State, the Real History of the Second Amendment” in The Baffler (October 3), and in Salon (October 22), “Five Types of Gun Laws the Founding Fathers Loved: Were muskets in 1777 better regulated than assault rifles in 2017?”

Dr. Asif Siddiqi’s highly regarded book, Challenge to Apollo: The Soviet Union and the Space Race, 1945-1974, was quoted in a recent New Yorker article. The article, “Remembering Laika, Space Dog and Soviet Hero” (November 3, 2017) quoted Dr. Siddiqi’s description of the stringent requirements that Soviets followed in choosing dogs for the space mission.

Dr. Steven Stoll’s forthcoming new book, Ramp Hallow: The Ordeal of Appalachia (Hill and Wang) received an in-depth review in Washington Monthly, published jointly with ProPublica (October 30). As described by the reviewer, Stoll, “has set out to tell the story of how the people of a sprawling region of our country—one of its most physically captivating and ecological bountiful—went from enjoying a modest by self-sufficient existence as small- scale agrarians for much of the eighteen and nineteenth centuries to a dreary dependency on the indulgence of coal barons or the alms of government.” Dr. Stoll will discuss his new book at The New School on November 13.

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Filed under Essays in History, Faculty News, Publications, This week in Fordham History

Dr. Laurence Jurdem (Ph.D, 2015): Trump, FDR, and The Washington Post

Dr. Laurence Jurdem (Ph.D, 2015) sat down recently with The Washington Post‘s podcast to discuss his July 2017 article, “Fighting his party in Congress didn’t work for FDR. It won’t work for Trump.”  Dr. Jurdem was motivated to write the article by the news of President Trump’s frustration with members of his own party and his efforts to recruit candidates to run in primaries in the hopes of defeating those members of the GOP who disagree with him. In his article, Dr. Jurdem argues that the current situation is similar to FDR’s attempts to encourage primary challenges to those southern Democrats in 1938 who were unhappy with the “New Deal” policies that Roosevelt was pursuing. With the podcast interview Dr. Jurdem provided context about how delicate the New Deal coalition was and how its complexities resemble the many parts of today’s Republican Party. It was the first podcast interview for Dr. Jurdem and he reports that he very much enjoyed it. To listen to the interview, click here. Continue reading

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Filed under Alumni News, Essays in History