Approaching Gender Equity in Your Civil War Reading List
For much of my teaching career I have worked to achieve some level of gender equity in the books and articles that I assign my students to read. This has been especially the case in the many elective classes that I have taught on the Civil War era. My overall goal has been to challenge both the tendency to see the Civil War as a masculine subject and the historians and enthusiasts that it attracts as overwhelmingly male. This goes far in tearing down some of the barriers that prevent female students from fully embracing the subject as their own and one that is worthy of serious study.
It should come as no surprise that this outlook helped to shape the reading list for my research seminar at the AAS, which begins next week. Of the six books that I ordered three are authored by women. This past spring Joseph Adelman reflected on similar concerns regarding his reading list for a course on the American Revolution, only he took it a step further. He wondered whether the reading list for an entire undergraduate course on the Revolution could be filled with books by female authors. I didn’t find the results particularly shocking, but it was certainly worth the effort if only to visualize it for the sake of discussion.
Given my earlier point regarding the gender assumptions about the field of Civil War history it might be worth the time to see if a similar list can be achieved. Let me emphasize that this is just a first pass at a list. I fully expect that you will offer your own suggestions in the comments section below.
It goes without saying that no undergraduate class could read this many books. My goal is to cover as much ground as possible in a reading course on the Civil War from a broad narrative of the Civil War era to more narrow military, cultural and memory studies.
There are a few noticeable gaps. I had trouble with biographies of Lincoln as well as with locating a traditional battle/campaign study and a study of United States Colored Troops. I am not all that surprised by some of the gaps in the literature, which I believe are negligible at best. How much this matters, of course, depends on the focus of your particular course.
What, if anything, this list reflects within the field of Civil War historians I leave to you.