American Women/American Womanhood, Colonial Times to 1870 (HIUS156)

  • Time and place: T/TR, 8-9:20 a.m. in CSB 005
  • Prof. Plant’s office: HSS 4062
  • Office hours: M, 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • email:

Course description: This course examines the history of American women from colonial times through Reconstruction. We will explore women’s changing status and experiences from a range of perspectives — political, economic, legal, social and cultural. Major areas of inquiry will include: the strategies women pursued in attempting to attain political power; their roles as producers and consumers in an evolving economy; cultural attitudes toward female sexuality and motherhood; and the relationship between gender ideologies and divisions based on race and class.

Ground rules: This is a no-electronics course, meaning that the use of laptops or other electronic devices, including phones, is not permitted in class. We all love our computers, but I have found that a significant percentage of students cannot refrain from going online during class. Moreover, studies have shown that even those students who use laptops only for note taking perform worse on conceptual questions—in other words, the most important questions—than students who take notes by hand. (This is because when you take notes on a laptop, you are more inclined to simply transcribe rather than processing information as you write). See: “To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand” 

Course requirements: A short document analysis (15%), a midterm (25%), a 5-page paper (30%), and a final examination (30%). The midterm will consist of a series of short answer questions. The final will have identifications, short answer questions, and two essay questions. Answers to the identifications should be roughly two sentences and should identify the person, event, or term and briefly explain its significance. Short answer questions require a long paragraph response. Essay responses should have a short introductory and concluding paragraphs, and at minimum three supporting paragraphs.

Teaching + Learning Commons offers the following services to help you with your writing:

  • One-on-one writing tutoring by appointment, 6 days/week
  • Supportive, in-depth conversations about writing, the writing process, and writing skills
  • Help with every stage in the writing process
  • Walk-in tutoring (Mon-Thurs 5pm-7pm, and by availability)

Policy regarding late papers: I will accept late papers without penalty only if an extension is requested by email at least seven days in advance of the due date. Otherwise, a letter grade will be deducted for each day beyond the due date.

Grading scale: 97-100 = A+; 94-96 = A; 90-93 = A-; 87-89 = B+; 84-86 = B; 80-83 = B-; 77-79 C+; 74-76 = C; 70-73 = C-; etc. Grading for this class will not be on a scale.

Academic integrity: I take the issue of academic integrity very seriously, and I will report suspected cases of cheating or plagiarism. Indeed, as a UCSD professor, if I suspect evidence of cheating or plagiarism in my class, I am required by the Office of the Academic Integrity Coordinator to file a report. (See the “Instructors’ Responsibility” and “Students’ Responsibility” sections of the University’s Academic Integrity Statement.) Please do not make me take this step.

The problem of plagiarism has become more pervasive since the rise of the internet. Obviously, purchasing a paper or taking a paper (or any part of paper) off of a website violates the principles of academic integrity. But plagiarism is not limited to these flagrant examples. Any time you take a sentence, or even a phrase, from another person’s work without using quotation marks and providing proper attribution, you are plagiarizing. When you write a paper, the best way to avoid plagiarism is to do all the necessary reading, including on-line reading, in advance. Once you begin to write, you should not go on-line again until the paper is done. If you have any questions as to what is or is not plagiarism, please review the attached MLA statement. If you still have questions, please contact me.


  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750, New York: Random House, 1991 (orig. 1980)
  • Hannah W. Foster, The Coquette (1797), ed. Cathy N. Davidson, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986
  • Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), ed. L. Maria Child, New York: Dover Publications, 2001
  • Kathryn Kish Sklar, Women’s Rights Emerges within the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1830-1870: A Short History with Documents, Boston: Bedford/St. Martin, 2000
  • Hannah Ropes, Civil War Nurse: The Diary and Letters of Hannah Ropers, ed. John R. Brumgardt (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993)

Course reserves: Access through Geisel website. Password: rp156.


9/28 Why Women’s History?

Week 1: Women’s Status in the British Colonies

10/3 Early Modern Views of Gender and Social Order

10/5 Slavery and Gender in New England and the Chesapeake

  • Lois Green Carr and Lorena S. Walsh, “The Planter’s Wife: The Experience of White Women in Seventeenth-Century Maryland,” William and Mary Quarterly 34.4 (1977): 542-71 (e-reserves)
  • Wendy Warren, “‘The Cause of Her Grief’: The Rape of a Slave in Early New England,” The Journal of American History 93:4  (March 2007): 1031-49 (e-reserves)

Week 2: “Heathens” and “Disorderly” Women

10/10 Native American Women and European Colonization

  • Theda Perdue, “Columbus Meets Pocahontas in the American South,” Southern Cultures 3.1 (1997): 211-24 (e-reserves)
  • Juliane Barr, “From Captives to Slaves: Commodifying Indian Women in the Borderlands,” Journal of American History 92 (June 2005): 19-46 (e-reserves)

10/12 Dissenters and Witches

  • Ulrich, Goodwives, 89-105, 167-83, 202-35
  • Elizabeth Reis, “The Devil, the Body, and the Feminine Soul in Puritan New England,” Journal of American History 82:1 (June 1995): 15-36  (e-reserves)

Week 3: Gender, Society and Politics in the Eighteenth Century

10/17 Women and the Social Change in the Eighteenth Century

  • Cornelia Dayton, “Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an 18th-Century New England Village,” William and Mary Quarterly, 48 (1991): 19-49 (e-reserves)

10/19 Women and the American Revolution

WRITING ASSIGNMENT #1 DUE: PRIMARY SOURCE ANALYSIS: Please read these excerpts from the popular treatise Domestical Duties (1620), by William Gouge, a English clergyman. Using any of the course readings to back up your arguments, explain in 2-3 pages how Gouge in his treatise articulated fundamental beliefs about families, marriage and motherhood held by early English colonists.

Week 4: The Post-Revolutionary Era

10/24 Progress and Reaction

10/26 The Rise of Literacy and the Novel

  • Foster, The Coquette, vii-169

Questions for discussion: The Coquette

Week 5: Biological Reproduction and Women’s Lives

10/31 Pregnancy and Childbearing

  • Susan Klepp, “Revolutionary Conceptions: Women and the Fertility Transition in the Mid-Atlantic Region, 1760-1820,” Journal of American History 85:3 (1998): 910-45 (e-reserves)
  • Jan Lewis and Kenneth Lockridge, “‘Sally Has Been Sick’: Pregnancy and Family Limitation among Virginia Gentry Women, 1780-1830,” Journal of Social History 22 (Fall 1988), 5-19 (e-reserves)


Week 6: Domesticity and Labor in the Antebellum North and the West

11/7 Poor Women and Wage Laborers

  • Christine Stansell, “Women, Children, and the Uses of the Streets: Class and Gender Conflict in New York City, 1850-1860,” Feminist Studies 8.2 (1982): 309-35 (e-reserves)
  • Thomas Dublin, “Women, Work and Protest in the Early Lowell Mills”  (dropbox)

11/9 True Women and Moral Mothers

Week 7: Slavery in the Antebellum South

11/14 Enslaved Women

  • Jacqueline Jones, “‘My Mother Was Much of a Woman’: Black Women, Work, and the Family under Slavery,” Feminist Studies 8.2 (1982): 235-69 (e-reserves)
  • Annette Gordon-Reed, “Celia’s Case” in Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 48-60 (e-reserves)

11/16 Harriet Jacobs and Women’s History

  • Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, chaps. 1-19 and 41

Week 8: Thanksgiving break

11/16 NO CLASS

11/23 NO CLASS

Week 9: Woman’s Activism and the Suffrage Movement

11/28 Women, Protest Against Cherokee Removal and the Anti-Slavery Cause

  • Theda Perdue, “Cherokee Women and the Trail of Tears,” Journal of Women’s History 1.1 (1989): 14-30 (e-reserves)
  • Mary Hershberger, “Mobilizing Women, Anticipating Abolition: Anticipating Abolition: The Struggle against Indian Removal in the 1830s,” Journal of American History 86.1 (1999): 15-40 (e-reserves)

11/30 The Woman’s Rights Movement

  • Sklar, 1-76, docs. 3-5, 7, 14, 16, 31, 34, 39-43, 49-54

Week 10: The Civil War and Its Aftermath


12/5 The Civil War, Gender Ideology, and Women’s Experiences

  • Ropes, Civil War Diary of Hannah Ropes, 47-129
  • Stephanie McCurry, “Women Numerous and Armed: Gender and the Politics of Subsistence in the Civil War South,” in Joan Waugh and Gary Gallagher, eds., Wars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 1-26 (e-reserves; 25 pages)

12/7 Postwar Disappointments

  • Hannah Rosen, “Testifying to Violence,” chap. 6 in Terror in the Heart of Freedom: Citizenship, Sexual Violence, and the Meaning of Race in the Postemancipation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 222-42 (e-reserves; 20 pages)