Pedagogy in Public: Academic Programs and Community Partners

Pedagogy in Public: Academic Programs and Community Partners

Elyssa Ford, Northwest Missouri State University

For many public history programs, it is important to maintain close relationships with community partners.  Such relationships offer ways for faculty to remain involved in the community and in the field, real-world projects and experiences for students, a source of internships and assistantships, and the hope of full-time job opportunities post-graduation.  Yet sometimes these projects leave someone “on the edge” — the students who may be unprepared or uninterested in the project, the community institutions who may have not been included as equal partners or who might find themselves left with an unfinished or unusable project, and even the theoretical basis of the class, which may get pushed to the side in order to complete a client-based project on time.

This working group was held at the 1025 National Conference of Public History.  It addressed an array of issues that often arise in class projects and relationships with community partners, and it aimed to establish a set of best practices to help academic programs and cultural institutions move forward in creating these relationships in a more mutually beneficial way.  To do this, we wanted to avoid getting stuck in the cycle of individual project “show and tell” and instead pushed participants to think about larger questions, including how to initially find community partners and create those relationships, how to maintain those partnerships in a healthy way, and what to do when problems arise.  In addition, we focused on the central question of what is and should be the purpose of projects and partnerships like this.  Is the focus bringing hands-on experience and practice to students?  Is it fulfilling a professional, usable end product for a client?  Is it based more broadly on the idea of civic engagement and offering a service to our communities?  These are important questions and certainly will promote discussion among academics and perhaps encourage cross-university relationships as a way to form a support system.  However, we wanted to think not just about these relationships from the viewpoint of the college or university, but to extend this conversation to the community partners themselves.  These partners are often left “on the edge” or the periphery of project formation and completion, so it is important to bring them to the center of this discussion.  What are you looking for in these relationships?  Are they worthwhile to your organization?  From your viewpoint, what needs to be done to promote better relationships and communication streams?

The working group included approximately 15 members from academia, from cultural institutions, and from the graduate student community.  With this mix, we were able to see how academics already engage with community partners or who are considering reaching out to the community and establishing partnerships, how community partners have viewed these relationships or what questions they have in trying to set up these relationships, and what students who have completed class/individual projects and internships have gotten out of the projects and to assess their readiness to undertake the project.

While on the surface this may seem to have little relevance to RWSA members, it closely aligns with an interest at the last conference, which was to how to form better and stronger and closer relationships with community members and community activists.  Perhaps organizations like the RWSA should look to the public history field for guidance as public historians have long grappled with how to best form these ties and to overcome the town-gown barriers.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Advocate

In our previous post, we highlighted an exciting new volume from the South Dakota Historical Society Press, Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal (2017).   In this post, we highlight an essay that appears in that volume that we think will be of particular interest to our readers, regarding Laura Ingalls Wilder as an advocate for farm women and farming.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farm Advocate

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books immortalized her family’s efforts to build homes and farms on the nineteenth-century frontiers of Kansas, Minnesota, and South Dakota. In my small town in southern Minnesota, my grade-school teachers read to us from Wilder’s novels almost every day after recess. Her words changed my life. She described the beauty of the prairies, from the tiniest flowers to sweeping vistas and enormous skies. Her words and appreciation of place helped me articulate my love of the grasslands. Wilder’s reflections on family, memory, and time (along with its passing) laid the foundation of my personal principles for the study of history: individuals matter; everyone has a story to tell; human nature, personal history and experience, and circumstance profoundly shape the lives of everyone.

Laura Ingalls Wilder began her writing career as a farm columnist long before she became a novelist. Laura and Almanzo settled in the Missouri Ozarks in 1894 and lived on their Rocky Ridge Farm until their deaths. Laura was known regionally as a successful chicken farmer. In 1911, the editor of the Missouri Ruralist read her paper on chickens and promptly offered her a job as columnist for the publication. Laura began a long career as an ardent advocate for farm women, their families, and farming as a way of life and a calling.

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Wilder and Almanzo (left) posed with neighbors near Mansfield, Missouri, circa 1920. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.

Wilder wrote her columns during a time of crisis and rapid change. World War I, woman suffrage, the changing roles of women, rapid industrial change, mass migration from the countryside into the big cities, automobiles, radio, mass advertising, and the birth of consumer culture—all posed challenges to traditional ways for farmers and their families. Wilder wrote as a steadying force for her farm audience. She believed that farm wives had the opportunity, more so than in any other occupation, to be full partners in the enterprise, as she and Almanzo were.  Some of her ideas might surprise her modern fans. She saw suffrage for women as an obligation rather than a right and opposed it. She feared the impact of the vote, and of politics generally, on women’s most important role, rearing the next generation of children to be good, productive citizens. Wilder did not share the suffragists’ belief that women voting would bring wonderful social reforms. In her opinion, women were not a class apart but instead were individuals who would vote according to their personal inclinations. When suffrage became law, however, she urged women to do their duty and vote.

Wilder’s columns in the Ruralist resonated with her love of the farm. Love of nature, the changing seasons, the birth of livestock, birds, flowers, the rhythms and rituals of farm work animated her days. Even as the mass movement from farms to cities continued, Wilder extolled the beauty in nature to remind women that their most important and primary duty to their communities and the nation was raising the next generation of farmers and citizens.

Wilder’s vision of farm life continues to be a lodestone for me. Since first hearing a Little House novel, I have frequently dreamed of being a farmer in Wilder’s time.

 

Cross-posted by permission of Paula Nelson and the South Dakota Historical Society Press.

Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder

To celebrate the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder in 2017, the Pioneer Girl Project of the South Dakota State Historical Society has released a new book on the writer’s legacy.

pioneer-girl-perspectives_frontcoverIn 2014, the South Dakota Historical Society Press released Wilder’s Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, which became a national bestseller. The new book, Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder takes a serious look at Wilder’s working life and at circumstances that developed her points of view. This rich source book from these Wilder scholars from across North America also explores, among other topics, the interplay of folklore in the Little House novels, women’s place on the American frontier, Rose Wilder Lane’s writing career, the strange episode of the Benders in Kansas, Wilder’s midwestern identity, and society’s ideas of childhood.

 

The book’s contents include:

  • “Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder,” an Introduction by editor Nancy Tystad Koupal
  • “Speech for the Detroit Book Fair, 1937,” by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • “The Strange Case of the Bloody Benders: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and Yellow Journalism,” by Caroline Fraser
  • “‘Raise a Loud Yell’: Rose Wilder Lane, Working Writer,” by Amy Mattson Lauters
  • Pioneer Girl: Its Roundabout Path into Print,” by William Anderson
  • “Little Myths on the Prairie,” by Michael Patrick Hearn
  • “Her Stories Take You with Her: The Lasting Appeal of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” an interview with Noel Silverman
  • “Laura Ingalls Wilder as a Midwestern Pioneer Girl,” by John E. Miller
  • “Women’s Place: Family, Home, and Farm,” by Paula M. Nelson
  • “Fairy Tale, Folklore, and the Little House in the Deep Dark Woods,” by Sallie Ketcham
  • “The Myth of Happy Childhood (and Other Myths about Frontiers, Families, and Growing Up),” by Elizabeth Jameson
  • “Frontier Families and the Little House Where Nobody Dies,” by Ann Romines

 

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When Scholars Collaborate: New Book on Rural Women

When Scholars Collaborate: New Book on Rural Women

Linda M. Ambrose, Laurentian University, Sudbury, Canada

lambrose@laurentian.ca

 

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There’s a new book about rural women and it’s hot off the press! We are very pleased to announce the release of: Women in Agriculture: Professionalizing Rural Life in North America and Europe, 1880-1965, edited by Linda M. Ambrose and Joan M. Jensen and published by University of Iowa Press, 2017. https://www.uipress.uiowa.edu/books/2017-spring/women-agriculture.htm

 

 

The book consists of ten chapters written by contributors from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. In addition to Ambrose and Jensen, the authors are: Maggie Andrews, University of Worcester; Margreet van der Burg, Wageningen University; Cherisse Jones-Branch, Arkansas State University – Jonesboro; Amy L. McKinney, Northwest College; Anne L. Moore, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Karen Sayer, Leeds Trinity University; and Nicola Verdon, Sheffield Hallam University.

We are very excited to say that this publication is the result of collaborations that were nurtured at the Rural Women’s Studies Conferences and Agricultural History Society meetings over the past few years. The book reflects our ongoing transnational conversations, which have expanded the history of rural women from the United States to other countries, and continues to grow by uncovering previously untold stories and contributing to discussions and debates about feminism in rural settings. The collection advances our understanding of female experts, women’s collective action, and the local responses to advice offered from state and educational authorities. We focus as well on rural women’s greater participation in postsecondary education, paid work, and public roles.

The essays in this volume profile women whose work was embedded in specific national contexts and together they form a collective biography of women who graduated into a world that was not always prepared to welcome them into the public life that professions demanded. It was also a time when various academic social sciences—economics, sociology, and political science—were emerging. Middle-class men were already creating these new disciplines and prescribing more traditional gender roles for these New Women. Professional women contributing to food sciences, commodity production, and community outreach sometimes encountered opposition from men (a resistance we call the “new patriarchy”). At times, however, these women received important assistance from men, especially those who shared a common rural background and an interest in rural life and agricultural production. Given the complexity of this history of women entering rural professions related to food, it is important to explore both practice and policy through a lens that is gendered. Thus, a primary goal of our book is to emphasize the intersection of food studies and gender studies.

The scholarship of these authors forms part of the ongoing conversations within various disciplines of history—agriculture, gender, education, and public policy. By joining these ongoing scholarly discussions to food studies, we introduce new issues not always recognized as crucial to food studies. We framed our book as a discussion of the work done by various rural professionals who made major contributions to food production, food security, and food science. The essays recover untold stories of women who were significant to history in various ways, but most importantly, the collection emphasizes how food studies can be enriched by paying close attention to gender. The volume is listed in the Food Studies and Women’s Studies series from the University of Iowa Press.

A session dedicated to the story behind Women in Agriculture will be held on June 10 as part of the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Agricultural History Society in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The editors, several of the authors, and two reviewers of the book will participate. For details on the AHS program see: http://www.aghistorysociety.org/meetings/

 

Berks Panels of Interest, Part V

We’re highlighting panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part V

s1093 – American Empire through the Eyes of Indigenous Women: Paradigms, Sources and Challenges

Sunday, June 4, 2017: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM

SC 143 (Hofstra University)

Chair:

Kathryn Kish Sklar, Binghamton University

Resistance in the Highlands: Activism among Mayan Women and Interpretations of the Guatemalan Civil War, 1960-1996
Rachel O’Donnell, York University

The Historical Internalization and External Manifestations of Trauma Among African American and Native American Women 
Christine W. Thorpe, NYC College of Technology

Indigenous Women’s Leadership on the Columbia Plateau: Community Activism, 1900-2000
Laurie Arnold, Gonzaga University

Women’s Activism and the Colonial State in the Philippines, 1898-1930
Febe Pamonag, Western Illinois University

Comment:

Cynthia Enloe, Clark University

Session Abstract

This interdisciplinary session explores the creation of a useable past for activists and historians that embraces both indigenous and imperial women in territories dominated by the United States, 1898-2000.  Its three case studies are also offered as paradigms for the study of women in modern empires comparatively and globally considered.  Focusing on examples of indigenous women’s responses to American imperial power since 1898—in North America, the Philippines and Central America–the papers address questions designed to help us analyze and understand the options that indigenous women chose in their interactions with imperial coercion.  Our commentator will compare those options.

The papers ask:

  • How did Native traditions of women’s leadership promote the survival of Native people in North America, 1900-2000? by Laurie Arnold of Gonzaga University;
  • How did the adoption of women’s rights agendas by Philippine women enable them simultaneously to support and oppose American colonization, 1898-1930? by Febe Pamonag of Western Illinois University;
  • How did Mayan women’s participation in resistance movements in Guatemala limit American colonization, 1960-2000? by Rachel O’Donnell of York University, Toronto.

Using indigenous language sources, the papers explore patterns of cultural revival, assimilation and resistance.  Each pattern was present to some degree in all the cases, but each paper helps us understand why one pattern prevailed as indigenous women adopted different strategies in different circumstances.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part IV

We’re highlighting panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part IV

s1355 – Black Women and their Property: comparing 18th and 19th-Century Brazil and Africa

Friday, June 2, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

BRESL 28 (Hofstra University)

Chair:

Mariana L. R. Dantas, Ohio University

Ironies of Brazilian slave society: African freedwomen, freeborn, and freed Afro-descendent women and their slaveholding, c. 1750 – c. 1850
Douglas C. Libby, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Female Landowner Strategies in Pre-colonial Saint Louis, Senegal, 1758-1819
Lindsey Ann Gish, Michigan State University

Black Women’s Labor and Property Ownership in Rural Brazil, 1860-1930
Mary Ann Mahony, Central Connecticut State University

Women and Property in Nineteenth Century Luanda
Vanessa dos Santos Oliveira, York University

Session Abstract

The scholarship on African and African-descending women within the Atlantic world has often emphasized the role they played in local commerce as market women and peddlers of foodstuff and other regional commodities. Indeed, historians have more than once attempted to link the commercial activities of slave and free African-descending women in Brazil to the known predominance of women in market activities in pre-colonial and colonial West and Central Africa. Yet these women were important economic agents in ways that exceeded their involvement in commerce. As the papers in this panel argue, African and African-descending women in Brazil and Africa often owned land and slaves and engaged in the dominant activities of their local and regional economies. Moreover, these women’s ownership and claims to property placed them at the center of legal and social negotiations of rights and privileges that challenged societal expectations of how property holding and economic power should be circumscribed by race and gender. The comparative discussion of Black female property holding proposed by this panel will thus explore parallel ways in which these women helped to shape patterns of ownership of property in Brazil and West and Central Africa. It will also promote a discussion of potential Atlantic connections between these women’s experiences as property owners and economic agents who influenced much more than local commerce.

 

 

Berks Panels of Interest, Part III

We’re highlighting panels of interest at the upcoming Seventeenth Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities to be held June 1-4, 2017, at Hostra University in Hempstead, New York, USA.  While these panels do not necessarily bill themselves as being about rural women, all of those we’ve chosen to highlight will examine issues of rurality in significant ways.

Berks Panels of Interest, Part III

 

s1481 – Intersections of Gender, Racialized Labor, and Colonial Formations in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Great Lakes

Friday, June 2, 2017: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM

BRESL 111 (Hofstra University)

Chair:

Lucy Murphy, Ohio State University

From Raised to Trade to Razed by Trade: French and Native Women in the Eighteenth-Century Fur Trade
Karen L. Marrero, Wayne State University

Maple Sugar Trade Tensions: Abolitionist Expansion and Ojibwe Women’s Land Claims in the Upper Great Lakes, 1787 to 1840
Emily J. Macgillivray, University of Michigan

We are Real Indians in Our Everys: Domestic Work, Wage Labor and the Making of Anthropology
Maeve Kane, University at Albany, SUNY

Comment:

Lucy Murphy, Ohio State University

Session Abstract

This panel positions gender as a central lens for interpreting Great Lakes history from the early 1700s to the mid-1800s by demonstrating that multiple forms of labor performed by women of African, Native, and European descent shaped important events in the region, including political conflicts, legal trials, and treaties. Taking women of different racial backgrounds and the various forms of labor they engaged in as departure points, these papers explore the relationship between gender, racialized labor, and French, British and American forms of colonialism in the Great Lakes.  From the labor of enslaved women of Native and African descent in the Illinois Country under French rule, to French and Native women’s procurement of trade goods in eighteenth-century economic hubs after the British gained control of the region, to the relationship between Ojibwe women’s production of maple sugar and the expanding American republic in the nineteenth century, this panel explores the various ways women with differing access to power performed multiple forms of labor as a central part of their livelihood. Together these papers illustrate how women accessed and participated in economic networks while control of the region shifted between imperials powers and non-Native settlement intensified throughout the Great Lakes.  By looking at the ways women engaged in free and unfree labor, this panel makes both historiographical and methodological interventions by foregrounding the importance of a gendered and racialized history of labor in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Great Lakes.