AHA Activities

1991 Committee on Women Historians Report

Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, March 1992

The CWH completed its twenty-first year with continued vigor in its attempts to advance the status of the diversity of women in the historical profession. I returned to the Committee after a decade to become the first woman of color to chair the CWH. The members of the CWH for the 1991 year included Barbara Melosh and Robert Moeller, both of whom completed their terms on the Committee this year. We thank them both for their work and support. In addition, other committee members included Anna R. Clark, Margaret L. Grimshaw (graduate student), and June E. Hahner. The CWH nominated Gerald Gill and Cynthia Little, both of whom were appointed by the Council to CWH terms beginning in 1992.

With the able assistance of the AHA staff, primarily Noralee Frankel, the CWH worked with several other AHA committees on projects of joint concern. First, the problem of developing professional standards for interviews during AHA Annual Meetings remains an issue for many of our members. The CWH worked with the Professional Division to write the statement, "Creating a Professional Environment at Annual Meeting Job Interviews," published in the December issue of Perspectives. The CWH hopes that all interviewers will heed these guidelines. Second, the committee conferred with the AHA Council about suggested changes in the Program Committee Guidelines for the wording on gender integration of sessions. The CWH voted to recommend that the current wording remain unchanged: "The Program Committee will actively seek to avoid gender-segregated sessions. It shall encourage proposers of individual sessions to ensure that whenever possible sessions include members of both sexes." Finally, the CWH worked with the newly established Committee on Minority Historians (CMH) to make suggested nominations of minority women to AHA committees. In addition, the chair of the CMH, Joseph Harris, assisted me in my nomination of Merze Tate for the 1991 AHA Scholarly Distinction Award.

As a follow-up to an idea generated at the 1989 AHA-sponsored conference on Women's History and Public Policy at Sarah Lawrence College, to develop a similar conference on women of color, the CWH proposed a conference for African-American women. We wrote to the Ford Foundation, one of the major funding sources for the 1989 conference; the Foundation, however, was not interested in a conference on African-American women and public policy.

The CWH continued to actively develop meetings and sessions of interest to women in the profession for the AHA Annual Meeting. During 1990, the CWH held a successful celebration of twenty years after the Rose Report at our annual Women's Breakfast. All the former chairs of the CWH were honored, with particular laurels for Willie Lee Rose, who graced us with her presence. Each former chair was presented a crystal rose necklace in honor of Willie Lee Rose. The CWH jointly sponsored two sessions at the 1990 Annual Meeting:

1. "Twenty Years After the Rose Report and Beyond: Women Historians in the Twenty-First Century." The panel included Joan Jensen, Jane DeHart, Deena Gonzalez, and David Katzman.

2. "Intersections and Collision Courses: Women, Blacks, and Workers Confront Gender, Race, and Class." The panel included Judith Walkowitz, Elsa Barkley Brown, Iris Berger, Nancy A. Hewitt, and Henry Abelove.

In a long tradition of cooperation with women's committees from other historical associations, the CWH agreed to coordinate a series of conference presentations called "Working Lives." The goal is to assist women graduate students to overcome the difficulties of integrating a professional career with personal responsibilities. Women new to the profession have expressed the need for guidance in their efforts to successfully meet the many challenges. To this end, "Working Lives" sessions will be proposed for the 1992 AHA meeting, the 1993 OAH meeting, and the 1993 Berkshire conference. The sessions will include representatives who differ in status, field of interest, race, sexual preference, and institutional category. Noralee Frankel will coordinate this effort for the CWH.

Finally, the CWH encouraged the AHA to adopt a policy of allowing its employees to use annual and sick leave to care for family members. Family care is a problem that affects individuals of both genders, but one that has been especially trying for women through the years.

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