Make Your Own Course: Women’s History


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In honor of Women’s history month, we’ve compiled our favorite lectures on famous and influential women through history. Add these to your watchlist and binge-learn!

  1. Women Making History, Lecture no. 17 from the course: Experiencing America: A Smithsonian Tour through American History. Explore the struggle for an inclusive role for women in American society. Chart the history of the women’s suffrage movement; witness Helen Keller’s miraculous story; follow Amelia Earhart’s heartbreaking career in the air; and get a glimpse into Julia Child’s life as a television pioneer and cultural icon.
  2. Identity Politics—Feminism, Lecture no. 29 from the course: The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas. The personal is political. This phrase, coined by Carol Hanisch in her 1969 essay of the same name, succinctly describes how feminism forever altered the boundary between the private and the public, which liberalism has always tended to reinforce. Here, consider the feminist challenge to liberal republican political theory and look at the many versions of feminist philosophy.
  3. No More Corsets: The New Woman, Lecture no. 16 from the course: America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. The lives of American women changed in far-reaching ways during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Trace late-19th-century social trends that led to more public roles for women and emerging ideas of women’s rights. Learn about the women’s suffrage movement and its embattled crusade to gain voting rights for women.
  4. Hildegard of Bingen, Lecture no. 13 from the course: Great Minds of the Medieval World. Hildegard, the medieval mystic and polymath, was recently recognized as both a saint and a Doctor of the Church. Follow her unique accomplishments as the only woman of her time to write officially sanctioned theological books and to preach openly. Investigate her remarkable visions and her achievements in music, medicine, and literature.
  5. Lizzie Borden and the Menendez Brothers, Lecture no. 5 from the course: Forensic History: Crimes, Frauds, and Scandals. Turn to a couple of intriguing aspects of forensic science: how a relatively unknown person becomes infamous, and how someone can plead not guilty at trial despite an overwhelming mountain of evidence. Here, you’ll contrast two “family feuds”: the 1880s murder of Lizzie Borden’s parents and the case of the Menendez brothers a little over 100 years later.
  6. Women’s Rights in the Early Revolution, Lecture no. 14 from the course: Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon. Women had no official political role in the Old Regime, but the Revolution raised the question of women’s rights and their place in the public sphere. Find out how two of the era’s key feminists—Condorcet, a male mathematician, and Olympe de Gouges, a female writer—framed the demand for women’s rights, and observe the many ways women engaged in politics.
  7. Promoting Persistence and Self-Esteem, Lecture no. 16 from the course: Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive. Children are born with tremendous optimism and an impressive ability to bounce back from failures. But this optimism typically drops throughout childhood and into the teen years. Grasp the developmental processes associated with these changes and learn ways parents can help kids stay positive, most notably by promoting a good attributional style.
  8. Lady Gregory: The Woman behind the Revival, Lecture no. 10 from the course: The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature. Lady Gregory was one of the most important figures of the Irish Revival, and she had an astonishing impact on the movement. Born into the Protestant landowner class and widowed at age 39, she took an anthropological interest in Irish folk life and stories. Here, review her major works and her influence on Yeats.
  9. Celie—A Woman Who Wins Through, Lecture no. 19 from the course: Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature. We’ve seen that heroes don’t always have to be gods or queens or the social elite. Dirt poor in Georgia in the 1930s, Celie—the heroine from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple—is at the bottom of the social totem pole, yet she exhibits remarkable heroism in the way she overcomes the forces pressing against her.
  10. Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Gendered Utopia, Lecture no. 8 from the course: Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature. Many utopian stories were concerned with “the woman question,” or the quest to determine where women belong in an ideal society. Charlotte Perkins Gilman went a step further by creating a utopian society populated solely by women: Herland. See how questions of gender equality are reframed without the reference of an opposite gender and the impact of Gilman’s vision on the feminist movements of the later 20th century.
  11. Gender Questions and Feminist Science Fiction, Lecture no. 18 from the course: How Great Science Fiction Works. One stereotype science fiction still hasn’t fully shaken off is that it is a predominantly male genre. Originally, the audience was assumed to be male because science fiction often featured similar themes of exploration, war, and domination that characterized the Western genre. This idea was so prevalent that female science fiction writers were often only successful when writing under a male pseudonym or gender-ambiguous nom de plume. Look at how far the genre has progressed, with famous authors such as Doris Lessing and Margaret Atwood, and consider how much work remains to be done.
  12. Female-Centered Mystery and Suspense, Lecture no. 31 from the course: The Secrets of Great Mystery and Suspense Fiction. In this lecture, women step out of the three traditional roles they are typically reduced to in the mystery and suspense genre: victim, femme fatale, or detective. By examining a variety of mystery and suspense books over the last century, Professor Schmid looks at both the good and the bad roles of women in the genre and how these stories have elevated female characters to more complex and nuanced roles in order to reflect and comment on changes taking place in the societies around them.

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