As we see American women coming into positions of economic and political influence, we start to wonder: why now? The Women Have Always Worked MOOC, offered in four parts, explores the history of women in America and introduces students to historians’ work to uncover the place of women and gender in America’s past. After a brief survey of the emergence of women’s history as an academic field and its impact on the study of history as a whole, we will begin course one with a look at the experiences of women in Colonial America. We will explore the lives of enslaved women, of indentured servants, and of the rural housewife. We will learn the ways that women struggled to loosen the constraints of family by proclaiming that they, like men, possessed individual rights.
As this course progresses through the emergence of an industrial era, we will follow women from the home into the workplace, and explore how this shift influenced family life, power relationships within the family, and the ability for women to organize politically. Together we will examine the customs, cultures, and ideologies that governed women’s lives in Colonial America and the early 19th Century.