15 November 2012

Article Published at Prairie Voices Website

Back in the days of my Masters program, I took a class title "Problems in American History 1877-1917". Seeing that I am really, really interested in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (and the fact that graduate classes that interested me were at times few and far between), I decided to sign up. I hoped that industrialization, unionization, or some other similar topic would be on tap. I checked the book list online and found that this was not to be.

The book list included a wide variety of books about women on the frontier. I have to confess that I generally do not have a big interest in women's or gender history, but seeing the other classes on the schedule that particular semester, I decided to stick it out.

The main paper for the class turned out to be a case study that tested the validity of any claim made by one of the authors we had to read during the class. I was not terrible interested in the assignment, but at least we got to choose the topic ourselves. I proceeded to utilize the texts from the course (as well as some other outside readings) to investigate whether women had more job opportunities open to them in the American West. From what I could find, it seemed that the job opportunities were quite similar with those available in the Northeast or the South. This was the main argument of the paper.

I left the paper alone for about four years. When I began my studies at UND, I decided to send an abstract of the paper to the Northern Great Plains History Conference, which was then being held in Grand Forks. I got on the program and read this paper. I also sent it to Emporia University in Kansas, to see if they would publish it in one of their journals. While I did not get it into the publication I first inquired about, they did agree to post it as an open-access article on their website. While it's not the American Historical Review or The Historian, it is a publication that can go on the CV. Here is a link to my latest publication at Prairie Voices of my paper titled "Workin' Nine to Five in the West? Western Women and Work, 1865-1945". The moral of the story is that papers for classes that may not seem to be worth much can actually add to one's professional vitae, which definitely helps in job searches.

03 November 2012

Gilded Age/Progressive Era American Christianity and Gender

Before I get into the main part of the post, I got information from the professor who was influential in editing my book that an older lady in California who grew up in Grand Forks visited this summer and was heartbroken to see that church had been torn down.  She contacted Dr. Caraher and he sent her a copy of my book.  I thought it was pretty cool to see that some work that I had done actually had a personal benefit to people. Here is the story as relayed on the New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World blog.

I've been reading quite a bit on Gilded Age and Progressive Era religion in America.  This is part of an independent study that I'm doing to prepare a historiographical essay on the period for my doctoral project/dissertation. I'm not really much into gender history, and any jobs that want an expert in that field are quickly ignored in my search for post-doctoral employment. However, I've read a couple of books this week that were pretty interesting on the subject, Clifford Putney's Muscular Christianity and Margaret Lamberts Bendroth's Fundamentalism and Gender, 1875 to the Present. The first focused mainly upon mainline churches, while the latter emphasized the more conservative branch of Christianity.

I personally found them both quite interesting in spite of my general aversion to reading gender histories. I especially found Bendroth's account a bit more interesting, given my personal background. One thing that I found a bit interesting was the ease with which women tended to operate in fundamentalist churches, given the goal of muscular Christianity held out by the mainline.

In other words, a picture appears in which the fundamentalist churches were actually more liberal for a time when it came to allowing women to preach and be evangelists. The proclamation of the message was more important than the messenger to these people. Even such such stalwart fundamentalist institutions as Moody Bible Institute and William Bell Riley's Northwestern College allowed women to study for the ministry, and Riley even personally endorsed traveling women evangelists. This liberality was quite surprising given the current reversal of attitudes on gender in which mainline liberals have no problem with women preachers and conservatives hold more to the view of John R. Rice, who wrote a book titled Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers, that supported the Victorian ideal of a woman.  Liberals who were afraid of the feminization of churches in the late Victorian age called for more adherence to the strenuous life and downplayed women's activity in churches. These books were actually a welcome respite from reading nearly exclusively about the Social Gospel.