Publication Date

March 1, 2006

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

Robert Townsend'sarticle on the demographics of history students (Perspectives, December 2005, 8–11) concludes by noting that “the data does not tell us whether there is something in the form or structure of history departments and the discipline that attracts an unusually homogenous student population or, conversely, drives women, minorities, and foreign students away.” The same issue of Perspectives announces that Linda Kerber, one of the nation’s most accomplished women’s historians, has been elected the president of the AHA and reveals that most of the winners of the AHA’s recent elections are women. This would seem to be good news for those of us concerned about the gender politics of the discipline, but then comes the bad news: the AHA’s astonishingly retrograde 50-page annual meeting supplement. The supplement features 16 thematic articles about Philadelphia, none of which focus on (or even consider) women’s history, gender history, or the history of sexuality. Given the discipline’s disinterest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history (LGBT), it is not particularly surprising that the article on bookstores makes no mention of Giovanni’s Room, the city’s premier gay and feminist bookstore; or that the article on neighborhoods makes no mention of the fact that the convention is taking place within blocks of the city’s best-known gay neighborhood, the city’s LGBT community center, and the city’s LGBT library and archives; or that none of the other articles address relevant topics in the history of sexuality. More surprising is the supplement’s failure to address women’s history, either in a distinct article or in all of the thematic articles that deal with topics that intersect with women’s history. What could possibly be driving women students away from history?

—Vicki Eaklor, Alfred University

—Karen Krahulik, Brown University and Chair, Committee on Lesbian and Gay History

—Leisa Meyer, College of William and Mary

—Marc Stein, York University

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