AHA Activities

Report of the 1993 Committee on Women Historians

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, February 1994

The members of the Committee on Women Historians for 1993 included two who completed terms at the January 1994 meeting, Margaret L. Grimshaw and myself, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn. I especially thank Margaret for the graduate student perspective she brought to the committee as well as for her diligent efforts during the tenure we shared. In addition to the outgoing members, the team included Iris Berger, Gerald R. Gill, Carla Hesse, and Cynthia J. Little. The Committee on Committees nominated for three-year terms Eleanor Alexander, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University, and the new committee chair, Susan Kent, University of Colorado.

During 1993, the CWH continued efforts to advance the status of the diversity of women in the profession. With steadfast assistance from AHA staff, primarily Noralee Frankel, we met several goals. First, we reported the results of the "Survey on Experiences of Gay and Lesbian Historians," which was published in the April 1993 issue of Perspectives. One hundred and thirty historians responded, representing a cross section of the profession. The dual goal of the survey was to gather information about experiences of discrimination and to use the results to inform the profession about ways to avoid discrimination on the basis of lifestyle. The results indicated that 50 percent of the women respondents experienced discrimination, as opposed to 37 percent of the men.

Second, the committee continued joint sponsorship of the series, "Working Lives," which was initiated with a session at the December 1992 AHA annual meeting in Washington, D.C. That session was followed by a session at the 1993 Organization of American Historians (OAH) meeting in April and by one at the 1993 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians meeting in June. Sylvia Jacobs's presentation during the AHA session was printed in the Coordinating Committee on Women in the Historical Profession's September 1993 newsletter.

Third, the 1992 guest speaker at our annual Women's Breakfast in Washington was Evelyn Hu-DeHart, director of the ethnic studies department, University of Colorado at Boulder. Her provocative talk was entitled, "P.C. and the Politics of Multiculturalism," a presentation that complemented the 1991 breakfast talk by continuing our focus upon diversity among women in the profession. The CWH hosted an even larger audience during the 1992 breakfast, with more graduate students in attendance than usual. We suspect that a cheaper modified continental breakfast was the cause.

In finalizing the mandatory CWH session for the 1994 annual meeting, the committee submitted the names of four women who are either in the final stages of writing their dissertations, or have recently finished writing about topics in African American women's history. The panel represented women from a variety of types of institutions and various regions in the nation.

Long-range activities of the committee, which will continue after I leave, include additional efforts toward reaching diverse groups in the profession and furthering an international perspective for the study of women's history. The CWH began to explore possibilities for new pamphlets on teaching women's history in a global context. A CWH subcommittee is working on a new edition of the "Guidelines on Hiring Women in Academia," to be renamed, "The Status of Hiring Women and Minority Historians in Academia."

In planning for the 1995 AHA annual meeting, the CWH is working on another graduate research panel. This time the topic will be women's history in the Third World. Session candidates must be working on themes about women in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, or the Middle East. In addition, we hope to cosponsor a panel on age and gender discrimination in the profession.

In ending my tenure as the first minority woman to chair the CWH, I am pleased that so many of our activities have focused on women who appear marginal to the mainstream in the profession. As one in this group, I know that most of us reject this position. As a result, promoting the many talents of minority women historians has been one of my greatest pleasures. Toward that goal, the CWH invited Darlene Clark Hine to be the breakfast speaker at the 1991 meeting, Evelyn Hu-DeHart at the 1992 meeting, and Vicki Ruiz at the 1993 meeting. I thank them all and the members of my committees during the past three years for supporting my efforts.

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn
Chair, Committee on Women Historians
Professor of History, Morgan State University