HIST 2506A: Introduction to Women’s and Gender History
Winter 2025

Professor Pamela J. Walker

Well-behaved women seldom make history, wrote Harvard historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. She was writing about ordinary women who lived quiet lives in rural New England in the 17th century.

This course asks how did women make history and how does history make gender?

In this course, we’ll revisit major historical events including the transatlantic slave trade, the French Revolution, the Industrial revolution and the Reformation with a focus on gender. We will look at enslaved women who toiled and created cultures of resistance. We will look at the women who enslaved other women. How does understanding the profound differences among women reshape our understanding of history?  And what of the “ill-behaved” women – the women who loved and had sex with women, who were British sex-workers who rebelled against the laws that restricted their lives, and the women who took to the streets to demand the vote, who escaped slavery, who resisted the Shoah, and who participated in riots and revolutions?

This course will offer a broad perspective on how women and men have negotiated their gendered subjectivity from the early modern period to the twentieth century. We will consider how gender has been constructed and deployed in relation to other categories including class, race, and sexuality.  The course will primarily focus on Europe and North America with attention to a wider, transnational perspective. Themes will include: industrialization; the transatlantic slave trade and women’s work; gender and race in the context of European colonialism and empire; women and religious change; the struggle for political representation in transnational contexts; the roles of women in war; and feminist organizing in comparative perspective.

Class will meet twice weekly for one and a half hours. Students are expected to read an assigned article before class, to attend the lecture, participate in class discussions, submit short writing assignments in class, and complete a research essay. Readings will include scholarly articles, book chapters, and primary sources that will be made available on Brightspace.