CFP: Rethinking Women’s History (Paris, June 2016)

For your Sunday, we present a call for papers for a conference to be held in Paris next June on the history of women in the early United States.

One-day conference

June 17, 2016

Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3 (CRAN/CREW) and Université Paris-Diderot (LARCA)


As Teresa Anne Murphy has shown in Citizenship and the Origins of Women’s History in the United States, women’s history as a genre appeared during the first decades of the American Republic, and “is woven into the very creation of the United States in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.”[1] Since the Early Republic and thanks to early-twentieth-century pioneers like Mary Ritter Beard and a revival prompted by the feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s, the field of women’s history has become more complex, widening its reach to include discussions on topics such race and intersectionality, femininity, intimacy and sexuality, “women’s culture,” and marriage, and leading to“a reconception of the substance and the subject of history” itself.[2] In the more recent decades, the emergence of gender history, “looking at women and men as such,” has led to another important reconfiguration of women’s history, written not concurrently, but in dialogue with men’s history.[3]

The Early American Republic has been a particularly fertile ground for women’s historians. In the words of Jeanne Boydston, the civil society of that period had an “unfixed quality” linked to “the tumult of voices that characterized public opinion in the early United States,” which has proved particularly challenging to women’s historians.[4] As this year marks the 40th anniversary of two landmark articles in women’s history – Gerda Lerner’s“Placing Women in History” (Feminist Studies, III, n°1-2, Fall 1975), and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg’s“The Female World of Love and Ritual: Relations Between Women in Nineteenth-Century America” (Signs, Fall 1975) –, this one-day conference will address the necessity or mere possibility to rethink women’s history along the following lines:

  • What does it mean to write women’s history in France and the United States today?
  • Is writing women’s history today limited to rewriting what has been studied, or are there new topics and approaches to consider?
  • Can we think about new, more collaborative, ways to write women’s history, as the recent creation of the project called “Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women” suggests?[5] And how, in the meantime, can all women (including common women, Native Americans, Black slaves) be included not only as a counterpart of men but as actual agents of a global history of the Early American Republic, as Theda Perdue has suggested regarding Cherokee women for instance?
  • Can we think about new ways to think about the relations between women’s history and gender history using the history of women in the early American Republic?
  • Can we rethink the national framework when it comes to women’s history?

The conference will address these questions through specific case studies related to the history of women in the Early American Republic, which will allow scholars to reflect on their methodology, sources, and perception of women’s and gender history from French and American perspectives, and hopefully start a dialogue between French and American women’s historians on the topic.

Proposals (300 words) and short CVs are due October 1, 2015. They should be sent to Augustin Habran ( and Hélène Quanquin (

The keynote address will be delivered by Prof. Lori Ginzberg (Pennsylvania State University).


Augustin Habran, Université Paris-Diderot

Hélène Quanquin, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3


[1] Theresa Anne Murphy, Citizenship and the Origins of Women’s History in the United States, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015, p. 193.

[2] Nancy F. Cott and Drew Gilpin Faust, “Foreword: Recent Directions in Gender and Women’s History,” OAH Magazine of History, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Mar, 2005), p. 4.

[3] Cott and Faust, p. 4.

[4] Jeanne Boydston, “Civilizing Selves: Public Structures and Private Lives in Mary Kelley’s “Learning to Stand and Speak,”” Journal of the Early Republic, Spring 2008, Vol. 28, No.1, p. 56, 52.

[5] Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women is a research project with aims at recovering the voices of black women as “producers of knowledge.” SeeMia E. Bay, Farah J. Griffin, Martha S. Jones, and Barbara D. Savage, eds., Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women, The University of North Carolina Press, 2015.


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