Women and Gender in 19th-Century America, Led by Stephanie McCurry, Columbia University

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This course provides the opportunity to engage with critical historical questions about the position and role of women in the new American republic and about the struggle to redefine relations of power between the genders. In ways that are not well understood, these matters of women and gender were central, not marginal, to the ongoing transformation of American life in the nineteenth century: to the emerging and highly contested sphere of democratic politics in the aftermath of the Revolution; to the imperial ambitions of the United States on the continent and abroad; to the struggle over slavery, emancipation, Civil War, and race that launched the second republic (as we might think of it); and to the new political economy and culture of industrializing America.

Using a combination of primary sources and key contributions to the secondary literature, the course focuses on six different moments in the nineteenth century when the matter of women and gender was tied up with fundamental struggles over the nature of the republic itself. The course adopts a view of the “long nineteenth century,” spanning roughly the period from the American Revolution to the early twentieth century. It will move between canonical subjects (Abigail Adams, Catherine Beecher, the Grimke sisters, and Ida B. Wells) and debates and other crucial but far less-studied examples. Throughout, there will be a focus on the theme of marriage and the way it functions both to set the normative identity of adult women (as wives) and as a foundational institution of political life, structuring the domestic polity and the international order alike.

Additionally, teachers should come out of the course with the knowledge and tools to integrate women’s history and gender into the K–12 curriculum and to move beyond any sense of women’s history as an extraneous, separate, or inessential subject.


• Six seminar sessions led by Professor McCurry

• Four pedagogy sessions led by a Gilder Lehrman Master Teacher

Primary source readings that supplement Professor McCurry's lectures

• A certificate of completion for 15 hours of professional development credit

Readings: The optional readings for each seminar session are listed in the “Resources” tab on the course page. Please note that you are not required to read or purchase any print materials. Quizzes are based on the content of the seminar recordings rather than the readings.

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Dr. Stephanie McCurry

Stephanie McCurry is a professor of history at Columbia University. She taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2015 and was a visiting professor of history at Princeton University from 2006 to 2007. In addition to those faculty appointments, Professor McCurry served as director of the California History Project (a K–12 initiative) from 1996 to 1998 and director of the Alice Berline Kaplan Center for the Humanities at Northwestern University from 2002 to 2003, and (with David Blight) co-chaired the program committee of the Organization of American Historians in 2003. Since 2005 she has been an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. She has held a number of fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution, the American Association of University Women, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Professor McCurry’s 2010 book, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South, won the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.