28 April 2012

"a more accurate national history"

In 1984, when I was asked by editors of the British journal Social History to write an article reviewing the field of American women's history, I was a young assistant professor with an agenda. Like most of my generation of feminist scholars, professional ambitions were fired by political awakenings. Converted, and I do mean converted, to anti-war politics and radical feminism as a first-year student at Smith College in the late 1960s, I became convinced that history offered a critical lever for opening the minds of women and men to the oppressive character of American military, political, and social institutions and attitudes. The American history survey course I took in my sophomore year, in which Dr. Allen Weinstein catalogued a national tradition of racism and militarism from the colonial era through the Vietnam War, convinced me that if Americans had truly understood their history, they would not continue to support U.S. interventions in the domestic and economic affairs of other nations. The consciousness-raising that would be provided by a more accurate--that is, antiracist, anti-imperialist, and feminist--national history was critical, I thought, to mobilizing movements for progressive social change.

Nancy Hewitt, "Beyond the Search for Sisterhood," in Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History (Vicki Ruiz and Ellen Carol DuBois, eds.), p.1