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Focus Area on Women, Gender, and Family History

Our focus area on Women, Gender, and Family history employs a wide range of departmental historians whose specializations vary across geographical and chronological divisions. As a group, we are particularly interested in understanding women’s lives in the past, as well as the many ways that gender shapes both individual experience and larger social institutions and ideals. Towards those ends, we conceptualize family relationships, reproduction, sexuality, and gender relations as intertwined. We also view these factors as crucial to understanding broad questions about race, labor, politics, religion, and health across time and place. This focus area includes a number of faculty members who work on the United States, as well as those who concentrate on the Ancient World, Latin America, Medieval Europe, and the Modern Middle East. We also build on the University’s strength in women and gender studies, including the Center for Research on Women, the Women's and Gender Studies Program, and a number of other departments and colleges across campus.

Our faculty members’ scholarship and teaching interests expose students to a variety of approaches to the study of women, gender, and family in an array of historical contexts. We have a particular strength in this focus area among our American historians. For instance, Dr. Beverly Bond’s research and teaching interests center on the lives of African American women, with an emphasis on the social, political, and economic activities of African American women in the nineteenth century urban upper (trans-Appalachian) South. Dr. Susan O’Donovan’s research analyzes the gendered dimensions of work in slavery and freedom, an inquiry that has led her to reconsider black politics in the age of emancipation and, more recently, the multi-valanced politics of slaves. Dr. Margaret Caffrey is a women’s and gender historian whose research has dealt with questions of gender in everyday life. She has also considered the lives of American women, particularly those who were predominantly lesbian or bisexual. Dr. Sarah Potter’s work on family and sexuality history in the twentieth-century United States highlights the political dimensions of the family across race and class.

The Women, Gender, and Family focus area also has a strong and important global dimension. For example, Dr. Guiomar Dueñas-Vargas’s research on Latin American women’s history focuses primarily on nineteenth-century Colombia. In her research and teaching, she examines themes such as women and the family, children in colonial times, and gender and the nation. Likewise, Egyptologist Dr. Suzanne Onstine is especially interested in investigating the lives of women, and in particular the ways in which women's lives intersected with religion, class, and ethnicity. Beverly Tsacoyianis works on the Modern Middle East, with research and teaching interests in gender, health, and colonialism in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. Dr. James Blythe writes about the complex ideas of gender and family in medieval scholastic texts and teaches a course about medieval and Renaissance women and gender.

This focus area is rounded out with a number of full-time instructors whose research and teaching revolves around questions of women, gender, and family. Dr. Chrystal Goudsouzian’s main areas of interest are family and private life in the ancient world. Within her field of Egyptology, she studies the ways in which myth and religious beliefs and practices both reflected and shaped ancient Egyptian conceptions of sexuality, gender, and the body. Dr. Christine Eisel’s teaching and research interests center on women in colonial British North America, with a particular focus on the ways women both resisted and supported masculine authority associated with formal institutions. Dr. Colin Chapell’s research examines the relationships between Protestant theology and gender construction in the American south, while his classes emphasize the importance of gender ideologies in American history. Dr. Michele Coffey considers racialized constructions of gender and gendered rhetoric as political tools utilized by diverse populations of southerners in efforts to mobilize in the 20th century.