Women Also Know Civil War History

This blog post title comes from the popular twitter hashtag #womenalsoknowhistory. The issue of gender equity at academic conferences has received a great deal of attention over the past few months. In March a conference at Stanford University, organized by Niall Ferguson, featured 30 white male historian and one female historian, who chaired a panel.

It’s safe to say that Civil War history, especially military history, has traditionally been though of as a man’s world. This has certainly changed in recent years. Two of the best recent unit histories were authored by Lesley Gordon and Susannah Ural. Caroline Janney and Anne Rubin have served as presidents of The Society of Civil War Historians and the incoming president is Nina Silber.

With this in mind I was thrilled to learn that Pamplin Historical Park’s upcoming annual symposium in October will feature an all-female list of speakers. They include:

  • Dr. Anne Sarah Rubin, University of Maryland
    Through the Heart of Dixie: Sherman’s March and America
  • Dr. Jennifer Murray, University of Virginia at Wise
    ‘And So The Murderous Work Went On’: Tactics of the Civil War
  • Dr. Lesley J. Gordon, University of Alabama
    General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend
  • Dr. Margaret Creighton, Bates College, Maine
    The Colors of Courage: Gettysburg’s Forgotten History Immigrants, Women, and African Americans In the Civil War’s Defining Battle
  • Dr. Kathryn Shively Meier, Virginia Commonwealth University
    Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia
  • Dr. Catherine Clinton, University of Texas at San Antonio
    Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War
  • Dr. Barbara Gannon, University of Central Florida
    Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in The Grand Army of the Republic

This is welcome news given that this past year’s symposium featured an all-male line up of historians. It’s also significant because while this symposium tends to feature academic speakers the audience is overwhelmingly non-academic. We still need to work on racial diversity at these types of events, but this is still a welcome development.

Definitely consider attending, not because they are women, but because they are all incredibly talented historians. They have certainly taught me a great deal over the years.

16 comments… add one
  • Dennis Lawrence May 23, 2018 @ 11:38

    On a similar note:

    Women in Guiding: A 50th Anniversary Celebration
    Posted on March 26, 2018 by Gettysburg National Military Park


  • London John May 23, 2018 @ 5:27

    The painting illustrating this post – is it our old friend Mort Kunstler? I couldn’t find it online (altho the search made me respect the quantity of MK’s output, whatever one thinks about the quality). And while on the subject, what is the blog’s current banner painting?

    • Kevin Levin May 23, 2018 @ 6:33

      Carlos Lopez, “Shaw at Fort Wagner, 1863” (ca. 1942-43)

  • London John May 22, 2018 @ 3:02

    WRT the ACW I would have thought racial diversity was more important than gender. Since I don’t know about US faculties of history, the only woman CW historian I’ve heard of (apart from those who post on this blog) is Barbara Fields, because she was on the Ken Burns series, and her absence from the list seems rather striking. So how many of the 7 women historians are African-American?

    • Kevin Levin May 22, 2018 @ 3:05

      So how many of the 7 women historians are African-American?

      There are no African American historians represented on this particular panel.

  • Shoshana Bee May 20, 2018 @ 17:35

    I get a little uneasy when the title of the panel emphasizes the gender of the speakers, rather than their expertise (which stands on its own) It might lead people to question:

    1. Was it the intention of the organisers to only choose females for this



    2. Were these historians chosen because they were the best qualified historians for the topic?

    Personally, I suspect the latter.

    • Kevin Levin May 21, 2018 @ 1:22

      In this case it was both, which was clearly their intention from the beginning.

  • Josh May 20, 2018 @ 13:27

    It’s probably worth noting that of the 7 female speakers listed for this year, 4 are speaking about social/cultural/racial topics, 1 about memory/remembrance, 1 about a prominent individual, and 1 about tactics.

    The previous year with 7 male speakers the topic was about prominent individuals.

    That’s probably not a coincidence.

    • Kevin Levin May 20, 2018 @ 13:29

      I’m not clear as to the point you are trying to make.

      • Josh May 26, 2018 @ 14:52

        I have long gotten the impression women are more likely to be interested in social/cultural history whereas the classic military history (battles and leaders, “great men”) remains more popular with men. The speakers & topics of the 2017 and 2018 panels reinforce that view.

        • Kevin Levin May 26, 2018 @ 16:36

          That distinction is more difficult to make in 2018.

        • Shoshana Bee May 26, 2018 @ 16:56

          It has been my experience that the people who put together conferences usually have an idea who their audience is and what sort of topic matter will appeal to them. Back in 2016, the Civil War Institute summer conference organisers took a big leap of faith, and set the overall theme of the presentations around Reconstruction. It is a long held belief that no one likes Reconstruction, thus, one would perceive this to be recipe for disaster; however, it was a resounding success. The Battles, Leaders, and “Great Men” have been covered time and again, and the folks who have lapped this up for decades are aging out and dying off. It is time for new scholarship and perspectives, with the resulting outcome being that folks like me — a minority female — might actually become interested in the study of the Civil War and go another step further and attend symposiums.

  • Terry Beckenbaugh May 20, 2018 @ 7:58

    Jen Murray recently accepted a position at Oklahoma State University. She starts there in August. Great to see good things happen to good people.

  • Barbara Gannon May 20, 2018 @ 6:18

    Thanks for the shout out! I have seen so many all men panels–even conferences that it makes me sick, particularity when I know women who do that subject. Great lineup, it should be fun.

  • Mike Furlan May 20, 2018 @ 5:05

    “organized by Niall Ferguson”

    I found your problem for you.

    • Kevin Levin May 20, 2018 @ 5:07

      That was just one example.

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