Presidential Lecture 1987 Presidential Lecture 1987 About the Author

This is a day on which we celebrate scholarship. I am particularly happy that the scholarship we celebrate is women's history, a field which, when 1 was in graduate school, was so neglected that we were unaware that it once had flourished. The modern feminist movement, like its predecessors, has been accompanied by a hunger for women's history. The first women's movement of the mid‑nineteenth century had been accompanied by the historical investigations of Lydia Maria Child and Elizabeth Ellet, as well as careful documentation of its own experience by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The suffrage movement of the Progressive era had been followed by the first wave of graduate trained feminist historians, among them Mary Beard, Caroline Ware, and Mary Summer Benson, who went to college and graduate school in the teens and 1920s and published their first books in the 1920s and early 1930s.

I feel lucky to have done my work in the Department of History at Iowa. In the early 1970s, to teach women's history was a political act. In other universities, historians who wanted to teach women's history often had first to engage in bitter fights with department chairs, deans, and curriculum committees. Here at Iowa, Sydney James, who then chaired the history department, asked only one question: "Do you want to teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays or Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays?"

Women's history also had a warm welcome in American studies, the field of my undergraduate major, and at the time very much an outsider in the academic community.

It is also a pleasure to feel that this day is another marker in the maturing of the women's studies program here. Now more than 12 years old, and one of the oldest in the the country, we enter our adolescence as a group of warm colleagues, under splendid leadership of Margery Wolf, energized by national trends that support some of the most exciting interdisciplinary scholarship of our generation.

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