Victorian Women

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Victorian Women
Humanities Course
Course CodeVICT
Years of Operatiobn1999
Sites OfferedCHS
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Course Description

From the CTY Course Catalog (1999):

The phrase "Victorian woman" typically conjures an image not unlike that of aged Queen Victoria herself staid, prim, and painfully proper. How, then, is the Victorian era also the time when women in the US and abroad fought in public forums for abolition, suffrage, temperance, public education, and other social reforms?

In this course, students begin by considering the methodologies within the field of history with particular attention to social history and discuss how the selection of historical sources, and different approaches to those sources, yield different versions of history. Applying the tools of social historians to primary documents, students identify and focus on three main themes in the Victorian era: the social networks women formed; misconceptions and advancements in women's health care; and women's changing roles in the home, workplace, and political arena.

Students engage in contemporary historical debates by exploring what women were reading and writing, from letters and diaries to didactic fiction and political manifestoes. Students analyze personal and published writings that led an increasing number of women to political consciousness and also investigate the written and oral histories of working-class women's organizations. They then situate these documents in their larger socio-political context. In the American context, for example, they reconsider political history as abolitionists and suffragists at the Seneca Falls Conference saw it, explore the educational reforms of former slave Dr. Anna Julia Cooper, or look at westward expansion through the feminist utopian vision of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Through simulations, class discussion, and analytical writing assignments, students gain expertise in the Victorian period, sharpen their critical thinking skills, and experience firsthand the craft of the historian.