The Equal Rights Amendment and the Rise of Emancipationism

I am thrilled to see my article, “The Equal Rights Amendment and the Rise of Emancipationism,” published in Frontiers‘ special issue on the ERA. My article is based on a paper that I presented at “The ERA in the 21st Century” conference in November 2013. It also builds upon two chapters from my PhD dissertation, which I successfully defended in March 2014.

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Historical Research: Philosophy and Practice

To borrow from Joyce Appleby, I consider myself a practitioner of “practical realism.” I appreciate post-modern theorists’ suspicion of supposed essential universal truths; however, I still strive to obtain a degree of professional objectivity in my reconstructions and interpretations of the past.

Joyce Appleby
Joyce Appleby

In general, I investigate the interplay between language and ideas, particularly in the realms of religion, politics, gender, and the law. My current research examines the dueling civic ideologies embedded in the conflict over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in order to shed light on the gendered ideas that have influenced social initiatives, political positions, and legal philosophies. In total, my work seeks to explore how the construction of ideas through language helps to create communal identities and values.

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Breaking the Silence: The Historiography of the Haitian Revolution

 

“Why am I just now learning about the Haitian Revolution, especially in a modern European history course? Is it really that significant?” She was a young student. Although I cannot fully remember, I think she was a freshman. I stared back at her desperately trying to pretend that I was not frantically searching my brain for a clear answer. The problem was not a lack of answers; on the contrary, the problem was an overflow of ideas. It was my first semester working as a teaching assistant for a course on the history of modern Europe. At this stage, I still thought that as the instructor, I was supposed to know everything and anything at any given moment. In these early days, my discussion sections felt like twice-weekly pop quizzes.

Returning to the young student, I cleared my throat, broke my silence, and insecurely delivered what I prayed was a satisfactory answer. Gazing at her inquisitive eyes and feeling the other student’s predatory stares, I explained how the Haitian Revolution is significant to our understanding of the French Revolution.[1] I continued: “The Haitian Revolution signals the inconsistencies within the French Revolution.” Gaining a little bit more confidence, I turned the question back to my class exclaiming, “The Haitian Revolution makes us ask, ‘was the French Revolution about liberty and equality or was it about private property rights?” I finished: “It makes us question the nature of revolution, or if there is even a nature that can be indentified.” Realizing I was getting a little carried away with my own thoughts, I turned back to the student. She seemed satisfied since she now had some discussion points on the Haitian Revolution to include in her midterm exam. While my student was satisfied, I was not. In all honestly, that was the first time I had ever studied the Haitian Revolution and I began to wonder why the history of the Haitian Revolution appeared to be such an obscure topic.

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Exorcising the Past: The Historiography of Witchcraft Cases in England and New England

 

I have been fascinated by witchcraft trials since I was a child. This fascination is partly rooted in a childhood that was filled with my Grandma’s stories of our ancestor who was hung as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials.[1] Today, I am more drawn to understanding the array of interpretations historians have developed to explain the phenomenon of witchcraft accusations. It is believed that the last legal execution of an alleged witch occurred in 1782 at Glarus, Switzerland.[2] Astonishingly, even before the last execution took place skepticism surrounding witch hunts developed among educated European elites. In an attempt to rationalize witch hunts, these early interpretations enlisted “monocausal” explanations blaming the trials on the alleged bigotry and ignorance of the clergy and judges. Essential to these explanations was the assumption that witch hunts occurred because of a pre-enlightened past in which irrationality and a lack of science enabled persecution. This Crucible- like interpretation is still the most widespread understanding of witchcraft trials in popular culture. [3]

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RESEARCH TOOL: ZOTERO

Zotero is an invaluable resource for anyone who is organizing and analyzing research.

Even though I first encountered Zotero during a graduate-level digital history course, it took me another year to fully realize its benefits. When I began conducting research for my dissertation I became completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume and diversity of sources that I had to collect and examine. After three trips to the manuscript room at the Library of Congress produced scattered and indecipherable research notes, I decided to return to my Zotero account. This was probably one of the smartest decisions I ever made as a PhD student, as, to put it simply, I would not have finished my dissertation without the help of Zotero.

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