or is the question do women write intellectual history?  In either case, the fine people over on USIH are doing their best to figure it all out.  I have to say, I’m quite excited now to head up to NYC for the upcoming conference.  If you are in the area, a cheaper time full of thought provoking academic debate probably can’t be found in NYC.

My own grad school education included women who I now recognize as “intellectual historians” of “women’s history.”   Linda Kerber obviously thinks so, as given in the title of her collected essays.  I would also put the writing of Nancy Cott, Mari Jo Buhle, and Ellen Dubois in this vein, as well as generation of scholarship.  When I took my first grad school IH seminar, it had either 2 or 3 women students in it (out of probably 10) and the authors we read were mostly male.  I think I wrote a paper about Gloria Anzaldua, although I cannot recall.

The debate over at USIH highlights one of the themes I point out to my students in intellectual history.  When people other than white men produce “ideas” they almost always come out looking not like the ideas produced by white men.  

Is a theory a theory if the no one sees it as such?  If the author herself doesn’t recognize it as such?

From the first piece by a woman in the American Intellectual Tradition, pretty much the standard text at least for those of us who studied with one of the editors,  ECS The Solitude of the Self (a recent addition) to the last, the “ideas” expressed are usually by women who are striving to illustrate something other than more “ideas.”  They are motivated, quite often, by engagement with specific social movement.  Other than Arendt, and with the book on the shelf at my office right now, I can’t think of a “woman” thinker included in the book who doesn’t deal with gender (maybe one of the pieces by Addams? just googled it, the Sontag doesn’t really either)

There are plenty of works about “big” thinkers by women who are historians, and such people clearly qualify as intellectual historians, but some of the debate over at USIH has been on the role of race and gender as concepts in intellectual history, which is a very different sort of question.  So an intellectual history of X (fill in your favorite concept) may or may not include considerations of these issues.  The question is in intellectual history is the “may or may not” more likely to be “not” than in other fields. Other than diplomatic/military history, it’s hard for me to think of  a field in history that has been less influenced by race and gender.

see also Where have all the women gone?

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