Committed not just to their own rights but rather to the greater social good, women in the United States since the nineteenth century have been key players in shaping a democracy. Ignoring resistance to their self-proclaimed authority and right to move from the domestic to the political sphere, they often allied with men in achieving urgent political and social reforms, from abolishing slavery to attaining suffrage, from eradicating exploitative labor practices to gaining civil rights for racial minorities and gays and lesbians. In 2017, the need for social justice is still urgent, and the challenges to their authority nearly as strong. Rising to the occasion, women have led protests and spearheaded movements in order to protect their right to make their own healthcare choices, to challenge laws that inhibit LGBTQIA people’s freedom to express their gender and sexual identity, to change economic and environmental policies that specifically harm disadvantaged people, and to end discriminatory practices that affect primarily racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants. Noteworthy as these efforts are, they have met with varying degrees of success.
Students in this course will grapple with difficult questions such as these: In fighting for equal rights and social justice, to what extent have women really been instrumental, and can their efficacy be measured? How have women responded to gendered challenges to their authority and how have white women in particular responded to race-based criticisms leveled against them in their effort to achieve social and political reform? This writing-intensive course will include work in a digital environment.