Establishing Equality: The History of Feminisms and Gender, 1792–1992 (MSON) (History/Social Science OR Literature Elective; US)

Fall; Grades 11–12
Prerequisite: American history a plus, but not required
Taught by: Derryfield School
May be taken as a history and social science elective or as a literature elective

On January 20, 2021, just over 100 years since women won the right to vote, Ms. Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female Vice President of the United States of America. What socio-cultural developments occurred to create this historic moment for women? In this course, we will answer this question by focusing on the development of US feminism and feminist theory, the lives and work of American women, and the significance and meaning of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ at different periods in American history, using the publication date of the first feminist treastise—Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792—as our starting point and ending with the beginning of third wave feminism in 1992. It will explore the intersection of gender with race, ethnicity, sexuality, class, and able-bodiedness by reading essays from scholars of cultural studies, biology, history, philosophy, political theory, literature, and psychology, and viewing films and artwork. Central questions that this course will consider include: Is ‘feminism’ something to believe in or something to do? What is the difference between sex and gender? And, how does gender affect your understanding of who you are as a person? Through the study of historical accounts, theoretical articles, and artistic representations, this course foregrounds gender as a lens through which we can understand our society and ourselves in new and useful ways.

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