Blogs > Cliopatria > Women and History Blogging*

Aug 28, 2006 12:41 am

Women and History Blogging*

Trillwing,"Women in Science, Historical Edition: Doris Cochran's Struggle for Promotion at the Smithsonian," The Clutter Museum, 23 August, reconstructs from primary sources the little known story of a female herpetologist at the Smithsonian Museum between 1919 and 1965. At the outset of her post, Trillwing takes a swipe at Cliopatria and women's history blogging
It's been bothering me lately that there aren't many women blogging about history. Sure, there are women historians blogging about grad school or teaching, and there are women historians who comment on current events, but I'm having a helluva time finding women writing about history on their blogs. I like Cliopatria but I sense very strongly the absence of women writing for that blog.

Trillwing, my female colleagues are fully capable of making themselves heard. Violets neither cower nor shrink here. But let me posit a thesis: most female historians who blog about history do so in their own names. Other female historians blog about things that are often equally important and interesting, but they do it anonymously or pseudonymously. Trillwing's pseudonymous post about Doris Cochran and Alterior's Fascinating History are the rare exception.

Meet my colleagues: Sharon Howard, the godmother of both the History Carnival and Carnivalesque and prolific blogger at Early Modern Notes. She's just come off a hiatus to tell us about her new job and having joined another group blog, The Long Eighteenth. Miriam Burstein blogs at The Little Professor and both Cliopatria and The Valve. Like Sharon, Rebecca Goetz is transitioning into a new job. Now an Assistant Professor at Rice, she will probably soon have an announcement that her (a)musings of a grad student is a thing of the past. We're looking forward to what her future holds in store!

Beyond the women who blog both at Cliopatria and their own spaces, there are many female historians who blog in their own names. Philobiblion's Natalie Bennett and Break of Day in the Trenches' Esther MacCallum-Stewart both also blog at Revise and Dissent, a good reason to be reading Revise and Dissent. Katrina Gulliver, Motoe Sasaki-Gayle, and Winnie Wong blog at Frog in a Well/China, Gyewon Kim and Yuna Kim at Frog in a Well/Korea, and Youngsoo Kim and Kuniko Yamada McVey at Frog in a Well/Japan.

Relaxing on the Trail's Sheila Brennan, Historiological Notes' Kristine Brorson, Kaffeehaus Blog's Esther Brunner, Egyptology News' Andie Burns, another boring academic has a blog's Elizabeth Carnell, Art History's Shelley Esaak, Ancient/Classical History's N. S. Gill, Miscellany's Katrina Gulliver, No Middle Name's Meagan Hess, Clews' Laura James, In the Middle's Eileen Joy, PhDiva's Dorothy King, Crescat Sententia's Amy Lamboly, Paternosters' Chris Laning, [Bracket]'s Sharon Leon, Women's History's Jone Johnson Lewis, History on Trial's Deborah Lipstadt, Deep Language's Pam Mack, Age of Enlightenment's Melissa Marsh, Public Intelligence's Barbara McGowan, Historical Fiction's Carla Nayland, Betsy's Page's Betsy Newmark, EHearth's Allison Meyer O'Connor, The Sheila Variations' Sheila O'Malley, History Talk's Paula Petrik, Adam Smith Lives!'s Sandra J. Peart, Even in a Little Thing's Gillian Polack, 20th Century History's Jennifer Rosenberg, 18th Century Cuisine's Carolyn Smith-Kizer, Medieval History's Melissa Snell, Digital Medievalist: Scéla's Lisa Spangenberg, Earmarks in Early Modern Culture's Kristeen Steenbergh, Aquaduct's Amy Stevens, Times and Seasons' Julie Smith and Rosalynde Welch, Eat Your History's Deborah Uhler, Jennie Weber of American Presidents Blog and Jennie's Rambles, Lauren Winner, Kelly in Kansas' Kelly Woestman, Damn Interesting's Cynthia Wood, Past Matters' Rebecca Jane Woods, and Owlfish's Shana Worthen are other female historians blogging in their own names and, for the most part, blogging about history.
*On this issue, don't miss Sheila O'Malley's,"A Boo-Hoo -- No Women!!" The Sheila Variations, 27 August; or the discussion at The Clutter Museum and a subsequent update there.

Trillwing's point is not that female historians are under-represented on the net, but that they tend to concentrate on issues in their academic lives (graduate school, professional and pedagogical matters) rather than on history. If it's true, I think it's related to the fact that many female historians blog anonymously or pseudonymously. After all, Invisible Adjunct, the patron saint of the history blogosphere, largely established the pattern. After the Flood, Ancarett's Abode, at the moment, Baraita, Blogenspiel, CityGirl, Classical Archaeologist, Creating Textiles, Don't Forget Your Shovel, Dr. History, Eating an Elephant, elle, abd, epistolae unde ambitus, Fascinating History, Fear of a Female Planet, Heo Cwaeth, History is Elementary, I'm Too Sexy for My Master's Thesis, In Saecula Saeculorum, inmatesrunningtheasylum, The Life & Times of a History Ph. D. Student, Medieval Woman, Meg's Blog, My Research Blog, The Naked Tree, New Kid on the Hallway, The Old Foodie, Pretty Hard, Dammit, Queen of West Procrastination, Quod She, Real History Blog, A Shrewdness of Apes, Streams of Consciousness, Verbal Privilege, and Kate Marie and Darryl Ann at What's the Rumpus continue in it. Some of them were blogging before IA and some of them continue in it long after she became a memory.

By my calculation, about 60% of the female historians who are blogging are doing so in their own names. It is they, I'd suggest to Trillwing, who are likely to see a blog as a place to do history. The other 40% of blogging female historians see it primarily as a vehicle for doing other, often equally important things – things that may be most effectively done anonymously or pseudonymously. There's lots of good history being done on the net by female historians. Look for it where women are blogging in their own names.

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elementaryhistory teacher - 9/1/2006

Thanks you so much for the clarification. Also, another huge thank you for such an extensive list of women who blog about history. You listed many sites I was unaware of and can't wait to check them out.:)

Ralph E. Luker - 8/31/2006

There certainly was no intention to offend with those concluding lines. Most of the women who blog anonymously or pseudonymously do not, in fact, blog about historical material and do not do so for reasons indicated: that to do so might tend to reveal their identity. That may not be true for you, but it is for women who are graduate students or professors with rather highly specialized historical interests. It is symptomatic of that reality that a woman who blogs pseudonymously and who reads primarily the blogs by female historians claimed not to know of blogs by female historians on which they actually discussed history. My point was to recommend that she introduce herself to the other 60% of the female history blogosphere, where women routinely blog about history. If you blog anonymously or pseudonymously and you blog about history, then you are one of those rare exceptions that I mentioned.

elementaryhistory teacher - 8/31/2006

Interesting post and I appreciate you mentioning me within your list of female historians who blog pseudonymously. Originally, it was a decision I made regarding job security since I include many aspects of my teaching day, and for safety reasons. However, I find almost nine months after I started blogging I am not posting anything that would cause my employer distress. I am actually coming out of the closet so to speak very soon, but even if I posted my real name on my site I would still use elementaryhistoryteacher. I like it.

That being said your last two lines concern me. Yes, it's true I post about many different things including items from my personal history as do many of the writers you listed who do use their own names. So why can't I be considered as someone who creates "good history" simply because I don't use my real name on my blog?

Oscar Chamberlain - 8/28/2006

I wonder if the differences between the membership of email lists and blogs is largely generational? If so, then the demographics of the profession would have more men on list serves (as a percentage of the whole) than on blogs.

Gillian Sarah Polack - 8/28/2006

There are plenty of men researching adn teaching Medieval history. Thinking about it, the main online place they reside is the email lists, not blogs (in my experience, anyhow). There used to be a joke that the Medieval religion list comprised mainly of graduates from the University of Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies/Pontifical Institute.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/28/2006

Yes, it is a bit curious. I don't think that women would be predominant among ancient history bloggers or among early modern history bloggers, though I'm less certain about the latter. Could it be that there's something about medieval history that is particularly attractive to women?

Gillian Sarah Polack - 8/28/2006

Curious. You're right though. When I did a quick headcount of the blogging Medievalists I know, the ratio is 3:1, with a lot more women.

I'm not sure we have enough data to draw conclusions, though. John Scalzi recently did a list of the 50 most-noticeable sff writers (using technorati rankings) and instantly a whole bunch of us wondered why we weren't in there, when our numbers fitted. That's why I like the salon idea: we connect through groups and common individuals and we can't know who isn't connected at this stage. Cliopatria's list is a good start, though, because it gives people something they can look at and measure against.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/28/2006

That would really be difficult to generalize about, wouldn't it? I haven't quantified it, but I suspect that the medievalist blogosphere may be predominantly female. If so, I'm still not sure what to make of that.

Gillian Sarah Polack - 8/28/2006

I read Cliopatria regularly. Mostly it isn't my sort of history (European, mainly Middle Ages; modern views of the Middle Ages), which is why I've been silent.

I'm now curious if male and female history bloggers take a different approach to history in their blogs.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/27/2006

Thanks for visiting Cliopatria and speaking up. I've added Even in Little Things to the list of blogs by female historians who blog in their own names.

Gillian Sarah Polack - 8/27/2006

Thanks for the list.

A blogfriend has a rather nice theory about blog society resembling 18th century salons. If someone doesn't see women historians then that person has simply not discovered which salons they attend. There are a bunch of us out there who don't often make lists for the same reason: I tend to be found on the lists made by sf/f writers, for instance, but I am an historian and I *do* post about history. I also post about food and about fiction, but that's because I have a faction of culinary history in my makeup and I publish fiction and review it etc. So I don't blog *only* history.

I use technorati to trace the visibility of bloggers in the eyes of other bloggers, and I think Sartorias (her LJ user name) is completely right about the salon effect.

Identity and race disucssions also fit the salon notion. We talk with the people we know and extend from there, so there will always be people who don't know we exist or that we are saying anything of note.

Rebecca Anne Goetz - 8/27/2006

Thanks, Ralph, for pointing out that there are plenty of women historians out there blogging away under their own names and pseudonymously as well. We're here, and we're proud! :)

Jonathan Dresner - 8/27/2006

Actually, I think "sporadic and spirited" describes discussions of race in the blogosphere, too, though they haven't touched the history field quite so much. Bloggers like Kevin Elliot and blac(k)ademic, for example, have been involved in discussions on the subject. There's even a carnival of radical women of color...

The recent discussion (at Blogenspiel, Airminded, etc., I think) about identity and history could easily have been about race, but it's a general problem as well as a specific one.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/27/2006

I think that is true, Manan. True, not only of the generators (I know of no African American historian who is also a blogger), but also of the audience. Cliopatria's audience, for instance, is largely a function of national wealth. We have readers in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia, but their numbers are very limited. There are still huge problems of access for impoverished people.

Manan Ahmed - 8/27/2006

While the gender divide gets sporadic, and spirited, attention, some other absences do not.

For example, the history blogosphere still seems pretty white to me. And as this NYT piece demonstrates, "Mr. Macha, who was the only African — or African-American — to attend the entire three-day {wikipedia} conference", this lack appears to be quite prevalent.

Jonathan Dresner - 8/27/2006

It is a fantastic list, Ralph. There's nothing like data, for having a discussion....

You might also take a look at Natalie Bennet's Friday Femme Fatales some day. There's usually a history blog in the mix....

Leslie Madsen-Brooks - 8/27/2006

Thanks for this wonderful resource list. I guess I've been looking in all the wrong places. The corner of the academic blogosphere in which I participate is mostly occupied by anonymous women bloggers, and many of the bloggers you mention here who blog under their own names aren't appearing on the blogrolls I regularly surf.

I'll definitely be adding these women's blogs to the Research & Academia blogroll at BlogHer.

Thanks again!