Historical Insights on Contemporary Concerns 
Inside this month's newsletter: Women's History Month, New Zealand and the White Supremacy Problem, and more

Women's History Month

March is Women’s History Month, offering the opportunity to highlight important and often unacknowledged female figures in history, from activists to lawmakers to the historians that study them.
As we approach the centennial of women’s suffrage in the U.S., it is important to understand the long battle that women fought to secure their right to vote. The fight for women’s suffrage was more brutal than one might think, as women were beaten, imprisoned, and force-fed in a “cat-and-mouse game” with authorities.
The movement was not without its divisions, both ideological and racial. The roles of black women, many of whom were the daughters and granddaughters of former slaves such as Julia Foote, Frances Harper, and Eliza Gardner, show the intertwined history of race and gender in the American suffragette movement.
Over the past century, women have been able to rise to power in the legislative institutions that once deprived them of their right to vote. The groundbreaking careers of Jeannette Rankin and Shirley Chisholm paved the way for today’s 116th Congress—the most diverse in American history.
The approaching 50th anniversary of the Coordinating Council for Women in History relatedly points out the history of women’s historians efforts in the fight for equality in the historically male-dominated field of academic history itself. Additionally, today organizations like Women Also Know History are continuing in addressing public history’s lack of gender diversity through a searchable database highlighting the work of female historians.

Heading to the library?

Historian Paula J. Giddings’ (Smith College) 2009 biography “Ida: A Sword Among Lions” tells the story of activist and journalist Ida B. Wells’ campaign against lynching in the late 19th-century.
Heading to the museum?

“Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence,” curated by Washington History Seminar Presenter Kate Clarke Lemay, examines the complex narrative of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and highlights the struggles that minorities endured long after the passage of the 19th Amendment. The exhibition opens March 29, 2019 at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and is part of the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative.
From Our Video Library

In May 2018, the National History Center and the Wilson Center hosted legal historian Jill Norgren, who discussed her book Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers: Lives in the Law, drawing upon a groundbreaking oral history archive created by the American Bar Association.

Watch the full video, recorded and broadcast by C-SPAN, here or by clicking on the image above.

New Zealand and the White Supremacy Problem

The deadly terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, by an Australian white supremacist revealed the transnational reach of this radical, violent ideology.
The shooter posted an online “manifesto” shortly before the attack that was able to transcend international borders not only because of the power of social media, but also because its message had a receptive audience in many countries by voicing a doctrine of racial conflict and white supremacy that has deep historical roots.
Some historians have pointed to the connections between the ideas that motivated the Christchurch terrorist and fascist political ideology. Others have noted that anti-immigrant racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy have deep roots in the settler colonial experience in Australia and New Zealand. In the early twentieth century, political leaders in both countries also drew inspiration from American policies of racial supremacy

Heading to the Library?
In The Burden of White Supremacy: Containing Asian Migration in the British Empire and the United States, David Atkinson examines a globalized system of white supremacy that placed restrictions on Asian migrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He points out the similarities and differences between British and American nativist and white protectionist policies.

Scott Hamilton’s Ghost South Road highlights the modern implications of settler colonialism in New Zealand and shows how the racial legacies of colonization continue to affect the island nation.

Other reflections on history's contemporary relevance

Historian Jill Lepore made the case in The New Yorker that futurists are typically making predictions based on faulty assumptions about the past, drawing upon her expertise in American labor history to show how the nature of work has changed over time.
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