Women in The West:
Syllabus for Readings in Western Women's History

WestWeb is the property of Catherine Lavender. Text and Content Copyright © Catherine Lavender 1995-2001.
WestWeb graphics Copyright © Warrick J. Bell 1996-2001.
Graphic design and layout by Catherine Lavender and Warrick Bell.

WWReturn to Main WestWeb Menu

Readings in Western Women's History (undergraduate)
Catherine Lavender
Department of History, University of Colorado-Boulder
Spring 1993

This is a syllabus for a course I proposed at the University of Colorado-Boulder in Spring of 1993. It will soon be superceded by the course proposal I am preparing for CUNY, but in the meantime, this is a bit outdated but still a useful introduction. Those interested in reading Western Women's History should definitely include Susan Johnson's essay on Western gender studies which appeared in the Western Historical Quarterly in 1994.

I would also recommend reading some of the many women fiction and nonfiction writers of the American West writing today, such as Anglo writers like Mary Clearman Blew (All But the Waltz), Teresa Jordan (Riding the White Horse Home, Graining the Mare, and Cowgirls), Judith Freeman (The Chinchilla Farm), Molly Gloss (Jump-off Creek), Pamela Houston (Cowboys Are My Weakness), Barbara Kingsolver (Homeland, Animal Dreams, and Pigs in Heaven), Susan Lowell (Ganado Red), Dierdre McNamer (Rima in the Weeds), Marilynne Robinson (Housekeeping), and Terry Tempest Williams (Pieces of White Shell, Refuge, and Desert Quartet); Chicana writers like Denise Chavez, (Last of the Menu Girls) and Sandra Cisneros (Woman Hollering Creek and The House on Mango Street); Native American writers like Louise Erdrich (Tracks, Beet Queen, Love Medicine, and The Bingo Palace), Janet Campbell Hale (The Jailing of Cecilia Capture), Linda Hogan (Mean Spirit and Dwellings), and Leslie Marmon Silko (Ceremony and Almanac of the Dead); Asian-American writers like Maxine Hong Kingston (China Men, The Woman Warrior), Amy Tan (Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife), and Hisaye Yamamoto (Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories).

The basic readings in Western Women's History should include Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson, eds., The Women's West (which is about to have a follow-up, The Women's West II, published); and Vicki Ruiz and Lillian Schlissel, eds., Western Women, Their Lands, Their Lives.

Purpose of the Course: The field of Western History is undergoing massive changes, with the emergence of a movement called "The New Western History" challenging the more established "Turner School" of the past. One of the areas of Western History that best reflects these shifting paradigms is Western women's history. This course will give the student a broad overview of the significant literature in the fields of both Western history and Western women's history, as well as highlighting research and writing techniques used in the study of Western history.

Reading List: (Note that during some weeks the class will be divided in half, with the groups reading a book on alternate weeks. Books which will be read by only one half of the class are starred (*). Everyone will read the articles together).



Course Requirements:

  1. Historiographical Essay on a western women's subject of your choice, with the approval of professor.
  2. In-class Presentation based on the historiographical essay.
  3. Attendance and Participation in discussions.

Week One: Introduction to the Course

Week Two: Historiography

Reading (everyone reads the articles): Sandra Myres, "Women in the West," Joan Jensen and Darlis Miller, "'Gentle Tamers' Revisited," Susan Armitage, "Through Women's Eyes: A New View of the West."

Week Three: Categories of Analysis--Race, Class, Ethnicity, and Gender

Reading (everyone reads the articles): Elizabeth Jameson, "Toward a Multi-Cultural Approach to Western Women's History," Peggy Pascoe, "Western Women at the Cultural Crossroads," Antonia I. Castaneda, "Women of Color and the Rewriting of Western History: The Discourse, Politics, and Decolonization of History."

Week Four: Native American Women

Reading (everyone reads the book): Paula Gunn Allen, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions.

Week Five: Native American Women's Autobiography I

Reading (group one reads book, everyone reads article): Ruth Underhill, Papago Woman; Gretchen Bataille and Kathleen Mullen Sands, "Maria Chona: An Independent Woman in Traditional Culture."

Week Six: Native American Women's Autobiography II

Reading (group two reads book, everyone reads article): Helen Sekaquaptewa and Louise Udall, Me and Mine; Gretchen Bataille and Kathleen Mullen Sands, "Two Women in Transition: Separate Perspectives."

Week Seven: Chicana Women

Reading (everyone reads the book): Sarah Deutsch, No Separate Refuge: Culture, Class, and Gender on an Anglo-Hispanic Frontier in the American Southwest, 1880-1940.

Week Eight: Chicana Autobiography

Reading (group one reads the book, everyone reads the article): Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, We Fed Them Cactus; Tey Diana Rebolledo, "Tradition and Mythology: Signatures of Landscape in Chicana Literature."

Week Nine: Chicana Lives

Reading (group two reads the book, everyone reads the article): Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima; Vicki L. Ruiz, "`And Miles to Go . . .': Mexican Women and Work, 1930-1950."

Week Ten: Anglo Women I

Reading (group one reads book, everyone reads article): Mollie Dorsey Sanford, Mollie; John Mack Faragher, "Men's and Women's Work on the Overland Trail."

Week Eleven: Anglo Women II

Reading (group two reads book, everyone reads article): Mary Clearman Blew, All But the Waltz; Lillian Schlissel, "Family on the Western Frontier."

Video: Lise Yasui, A Family Gathering

Reading (everyone reads book and articles): Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club; Evelyn Nakano Glenn, "The Dialectics of Wage Work: Japanese-American Women and Domestic Service, 1905-1940;" Lucie Cheng Hirata, "Chinese Immigrant Women in Nineteenth-Century California."

Week Twelve: Spring Break

Week Thirteen: African-American Women

Reading (everyone reads articles): Lawrence de Graaf, "Race, Sex, and Religion: Black Women in the American West;" Susan Armitage, Theresa Banfield, and Sarah Jacobus, "Black Women and Their Communities in Colorado;" Ann Butler, "Still in Chains: Black Women in Western Prisons, 1865-1910."

Week Fourteen: Presentations and Discussions

Week Fifteen: Presentations and Discussions, cont.

Week Sixteen: Bringing It All Together

Reading (everyone reads article): Suzan Shown Harjo, "Western Women's History: A Challenge for the Future;" FINAL PAPER DUE

WWReturn to Main WestWeb Menu
Last updated: