AHA Activities

1989 Committee on Women Historians Report

Joan M. Jensen, February 1990

The CWH completed its nineteenth year with a strong sense both of the ways in which the Committee has fulfilled its mission to advance the status of women in the historical profession and of how much remains to be done. The Committee considered issues relating to affirmative action, worked to increase communication with professional women's groups, completed a new edition of the survival manual, sponsored a Conference on Women's History and Public Policy at Sarah Lawrence College, planned annual sessions for the yearly conference, organized an annual breakfast with Joan Scott as speaker, and began to plan its twentieth birthday celebration. The Committee lost Ronald Walters and Judith Walkowitz (chair), who completed their terms on the Committee, but gained Barbara Melosh and Robert Moeller as new members. As usual, it had the excellent support of Noralee Frankel, who provides the continuity, advice, and humor essential to the effectiveness of the Committee.

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action issues involved unadvertised searches, the AHA Job Register, and the recruiting and retention of minority women. Unadvertised searches seem to be done by history departments and institutions that perceive a need for what they call "excellence or diversity." Yet one of the major goals of advertised searches is to enlarge the pool of applicants, including minority candidates. At our suggestion, the Vice President of the Professional Division, John TePaske, requested members' opinions on unadvertised searches in the March 1989 issue of Perspectives. The Professional Division reaffirmed its commitment to advertised searches in the newsletter's Employment Information section. The CWH and the Professional Division are also studying the practices of partner/spousal appointments. These issues are likely to increase as the number of job openings increase, and CWH intends to continue to monitor the situation.

The CWH also encouraged the AHA to explore the possibility of setting up private meeting rooms as interview sites at the Job Register to reduce complaints by interviewees about the interview process at the annual meeting. This recommendation was implemented at the 1989 Job Register in San Francisco and proved to be both very popular and successful.

Two committee members participated in a joint AHA-OAH meeting at the University of California, Davis in September to develop proposals to increase the number of minority women going into the field of history. The Committee will continue to work toward this goal as a priority in the next year. We have increased liaison with OAH's Women's Committee and joined the newly formed National Network of Women's Committees.

Publications

Among our most concrete accomplishments has been the revision of the Survival Manual for Historians and its planned publication in 1990. Melanie Gustafson has carried the major burden of this revision and the result is a fine handbook that should be of assistance to all new members of the historical profession. We have published essays, one by Paul Boyer, "Graduate Applications: The Important Elements" and one by Linda Gordon, "Successful Interviewing," that were in the October and November Perspectives and that will be included in the final version of the manual. These are excellent introductions to our craft and to the diversification of it. The new Survival Manual for Historians reflects the transition from a manual primarily for academic women to one for all historians, including public historians, with specific advice for women.

Conferences and Sessions

The Committee also continues to develop sessions for the AHA and separate conferences. The Conference on Women's History and Public Policy, planned over the course of the last two years, cosponsored by Sarah Lawrence College and the AHA, occurred June 16–18 at Sarah Lawrence College. The Committee has begun to explore the possibility of an international conference on women's history and women historians. In addition, it sponsored two lively and well-attended sessions at the 1988 AHA Annual Meeting in Cincinnati, "Women's Studies and Women's History: The Nature of the Partnership?" and "Women and the Market." At the CWH breakfast Joan Scott reviewed some CWH history while she chaired the Committee, especially the heated atmosphere of the 1978 ERA boycott and the role of politics in the organization. The complete text of her talk "Politics in the Profession of History" is in the CCWHP Newsletter of January 1989.

That retrospective by Joan Scott marks the beginning of our twentieth year evaluation. We are looking for support—researchers and funding to complete oral histories of Committee members. Next year we will issue our twenty-year report on the status of women in the historical profession and on women's history. With new AHA computer printouts of membership lists we expect to be able to report more precisely where women are in the historical profession so that we can begin to set the agenda for the next decade.

Joan M. Jensen
Chair, Committee on Women Historians
Professor of History
New Mexico State University