Carnegie Mellon University

Margaret Morrison Distinguished Lecture in Women’s History

The Margaret Morrison Distinguished Lecture in Women's History brings leading scholars to CMU in order to celebrate women's history month, every March. Our mission is to bring to campus cutting-edge scholars, who are at the forefront of their fields, for dialogue with faculty, graduate & undergraduate students, as well as the broader community, showcasing the work of these scholars and encouraging innovative new research. The series is named for Margaret Morrison Carnegie, Andrew Carnegie's mother and the namesake of Carnegie Tech's historic women's college.



When Feminism Went Viral: The Origins of Online Activism in the 1990

Dr. Lisa Levenstein, Professor of History
Chair, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
University of North Carolina—Greensboro

In the 1990s, Time Magazine declared that feminism was dead.  In her new book, They Didn’t See Us Coming:  The Hidden History of Feminism in the 1990s, Levenstein shows otherwise.  Global and local activists engaged a new tool, called the internet, and with it, new types of activism arose.  Activists’ innovative communication strategies—elevating people whose voices had been marginalized to create new communities and attract new audiences—prefigured and laid groundwork for the online movements of our day. 

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Mistresses of the Market: White Women and the Nineteenth-Century Domestic Slave Trade

Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley

Jones-Rogers examines white women’s relationships to and investments in American slavery. She reveals them to be central rather than peripheral actors in the institution’s creation. Using myriad sources, including the testimony of enslaved people, Jones-Rogers investigates the ways white women both actively participated in the South’s slave market economy and energetically carved out power for themselves, through the subjugation of enslaved bodies. At the same time, she shows how this dynamic proved fundamental to the nation’s economic growth.

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Medical Bondage and the Birth of American Gynecology

Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens, Associate Professor of History at Queens College, CUNY

In her prize-winning book, Medical Bondage, Cooper Owens explores how experimental surgeries on enslaved and working-poor women created the specialty of American gynecology.  She shows how these experiments also shaped nineteenth-century Americans' understanding of race.  Merging women’s medical and social history, Cooper Owens pivots away from a near exclusive focus on white men to look instead at Black and Irish women's lives—as well as their bodies—to offer a new origins story for American medicine.

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Countering Violent Extremism: What Do Women’s Rights Have to Do with It?

Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University

Professor Abu-Lughod focuses on issues of women’s rights and gender in the Middle East, along with issues of power, culture, and representation. She is the author of six books, and numerous articles, including her wildly popular article turned book, Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? (2013). She is currently at work on multiple projects, including the effort of women’s rights advocates—whom she calls Securofeminists—to gain entrance into the now massive global security efforts around Countering Violence Extremism. In this talk, she examines how these "gender experts” are inserting themselves into this debate, how they unwittingly risk doing harm to women abroad and at home, and how we might usefully frame equal rights as a central piece of global security.

Please note: this talk was canceled

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Rape Hysteria and the Sexual Economy of Race: French Accusations of Sexual Assault against African-American GIs, 1944-1946

Mary Louise Roberts, the Distinguished Lucie Aubrac and Plaenert-Bascom Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

In October 1944, the Army Chief of Police presented a list of crimes committed by G.I.s in France since the landings the previous June. At the top of the list was the offense of rape. Many more black soldiers were not only accused but also found guilty of rape than were white men. Among the men who met their death by hanging, almost all were African American soldiers. Why were so many rape charges aimed at African American soldiers? How did rape become a “Negro” crime in France? This talk will explore how the French and the Americans became deadly allies in racism, sending innocent men to their death.

Mary Louise Roberts is the Distinguished Lucie Aubrac and Plaenert-Bascom Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison She is the author of What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II (2013), won the American Historical Association’s George Louis Beer Prize and the French Historical Studies’s Gilbert Chinard Prize. The book has appeared in French, Chinese, Japanese and Czech, and forms the basis of a French documentary film “Les Femmes de la libération” produced by Maha Productions, Paris.


Black Women’s Health Care Professionals Before the Modern Black Freedom Movement

Darlene Clark Hine, Board of Trustees Professor of African American Studies and Professor of History, Northwestern University

Darlene Clark Hine is a leading historian of the African American experience who helped found the field of black women’s history and has been one of its most prolific scholars. Hine is a 2015 National Women’s History Month Honoree. On July 28, 2014, President Barack Obama honored Hine with a 2013 National Humanities Medal for her contributions in Black Women’s History and pioneering study of the intersection of race, class, and gender. Hine is past president of the Organization of American Historians and of the Southern Historical Association. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October 2006. In 1987, Hine became John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor of American History at Michigan State University where she established the Comparative Black History Ph.D. Program. She is currently a Board of Trustees Professor of African American Studies and History at Northwestern University. Her numerous publications include Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (1979, 2nd ed., 2003); Black Women in White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession, 1890–1950 (1989); The Black Chicago Renaissance (2012), and The African-American Odyssey (6th ed., 2013.)


The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Jeanne Theoharis, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York

Jeanne Theoharis is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She is the author or co-author of seven books and numerous articles on the civil rights movement and contemporary politics of race in the US, including the much-acclaimed biography The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, which won a 2014 NAACP Image Award.


Christine Jorgensen: Transnational Transsexual Celebrity

Susan Stryker, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, and Director of the Institute for LGBT Studies, at the University of Arizona

This talk explores the history of Christine Jorgensen, who became the world's first truly global transsexual celebrity when news of her "sex change" surgery made headlines around the world in 1952. Why was Jorgensen's story considered so newsworthy, and how did she manage to become such a star? By paying close attention to Jorgensen's career, we can gain fresh insight into Cold War femininity, the social impact of new scientific technologies, and the unexpected implications of U.S. geopolitical dominance in the 1950s.


Impounded Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of the Japanese Internment in World War II

Linda Gordon, Department of History, New York University

Dorothea Lange, most famous for her depression-era photography, was hired by the US Army to photograph the internment of all Japanese Americans during World War II. This imprisonment of 120,000 people, 2/3 of them US citizens, without any evidence against them, was overwhelmingly supported by most white Americans, from Left to Right. Lange’s images turned out to be so unmistakably critical, however, that the Army censored them. This lecture will show some of the 800 censored images and will discuss how Lange came to be so atypical in her disapproval of the internment.


The Soviet Woman as Citizen Soldier: A Paradox of 20th Century Women’s History

Anna Krylova, Associate Professor of History Duke University

In her lecture, Professor Krylova explores the unprecedented historical phenomenon of Soviet young women’s en masse volunteering for World War II combat in 1941. She asks how a largely patriarchal society with traditional gender values such as Soviet Russia in the 1920s and 1930s managed to merge notions of violence and womanhood into a first conceivable and then realizable agenda for the cohort of young female volunteers and for its armed forces. To answer this question, she invites us to consider the Soviet woman soldier as a critical subject of historical analysis, intricately connected not only to the peculiarities of Russian history but also to radical trends within Western feminist thought, women’s grassroots movements, and military experimentation of the mid-twentieth century.

Anna Krylova is the author of Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front (Cambridge University Press, 2010). Her book was awarded the 2011 Herbert Baxter Adams Prize from the American Historical Association.


Marriage on Trial: History Matters in Perry v. Schwarzenegger

Nancy Cott, Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History, Director of the Schlesinger Library, Harvard University

What are the stakes involved in making a historical case for marriage rights for same-sex couples? The institution of marriage as regulated and practiced in the United States has been repeatedly altered and reinterpreted over the past two centuries. These changes have been brought about by courts and legislatures responding to economic and social change in family lives and work roles. Yet opponents of equal marriage rights for couples of the same sex assert that “marriage” has always meant one and the same thing. Cott will discuss this conflict between actual history and assumed tradition, as it has shaped up in state-level suits over the past decade and in the recent federal case against California’s Proposition 8, Perry v. Schwarzenegger.


Clothes, Class, and Travel Rewriting the Domestic Tradition

Elsa Barkley Brown, Professor of History, University of Maryland

Professor Barkley Brown holds a joint appointment with history and women’s studies and is an affiliate faculty in Afro-American Studies and American Studies. She has twice been awarded the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Publication Prize for best article in African-American Women’s History. She has also won the A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize for best article in southern women’s history, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Prize for best article in African-American History, and the Anna Julia Cooper Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Black Women’s Studies.


‘FBI Eyes’: The Challenge of Writing about Women on the Left

Jacquelyn Hall, Julia Cherry Spruill Professor of History, Director of the Southern Oral History Program, University of North Carolina

Professor Hall was awarded a National Humanities Medal in 1999 for her efforts to deepen the nation’s understanding of and engagement with the humanities. Most recently, she has been awarded a Mellon Foundation Grant to expand her work on the “Long Civil Rights Movement,” a project to extend and deepen usual narratives. Past president of the Organization of American Historians, she has authored various publications including Revolt Against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women’s Campaign Against Lynching, and co-authored Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World.


Ending ‘Jane Crow’: How Women’s Workplace Activism in the 1970s Changed the Country

Nancy MacLean, Northwestern University

MacLean, Professor of History at Northwestern University, is the author of Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan (1994) and Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Work Place (2006). Winner of numerous awards, including notable book by the Gustavus Myers Center for Human Rights, Freedom is Not Enough has been called “one of the most important new works in history.”


The First Convention for Women’s Rights, Seneca Falls, N.Y., 1848: Its Meaning Then and Now

Gerda Lerner, Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Professor Lerner is a founder and pioneer in the field of women’s history. Fleeing Austria as a teen to escape Nazi encampment, she has dedicated herself to a life of political activism, including founding and directing the first graduate program in women’s history. Now a Professor Emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she is the recipient of eighteen honorary degrees and the author of many books, including The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina, The Majority Finds Its Past, The Creation of Patriarchy, Black Women in White America: A Documentary History, Why History Matters, and, most recently, Fireweed: A Political Autobiography.