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UCLA Magazine Spring 2005
From Murphy Hall
Living La Vida 'Lorca'
Stress Fractures
What's at Stake
The Importance of Being Elma
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The Quest
Through Women's Eyes
Dynamic Duo
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Spring 2005
Through Women's Eyes

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Through Women's Eyes: Peace
Members of the Women's Peace Party arrive for the International Congress of Women, a four-day antiwar protest held at The Hague, Netherlands, in April 1915.

The scholarship of women's history does not stand apart. It must be integrated within the broader framework of U.S. history

by Ellen DuBois
Photography from
Through Women's Eyes: An American History with Documents, reprinted with permission from Corbis

March was National Women’s History Month, and so it is appropriate at this time to consider how scholarly appreciation of history as observed through women’s eyes has grown. It was not until the 1970s and the resurgence of feminism that scholars gave extensive attention to women’s history. In that decade, history — as well as other disciplines such as literature and sociology — underwent significant change as the passionate desire of feminist scholars to analyze as well as protest women’s unequal status fueled an extraordinary surge in research exploring women’s experiences. Feminist theorists began to use an obscure grammatical term, “gender,” to distinguish “sex,” meaning biological differences between men and women, from cultural differences situated in and changing through history.

The concept of gender and the tools of history go together. If we are to move past the notion that what it means to be a woman is an unchanging essence, we must look to the varying settings in which people become men and women, with all their attendant expectations. Definitions of masculinity and femininity, family structures, what work is considered female and male, understandings of motherhood and of marriage, and women’s involvement in public affairs, all vary tremendously across time, are subject to large forces like economic development and warfare, and can themselves shape the direction of history. Even the degree to which men and women participate in and experience social reality differently can itself vary over time, as the distinction between male and female gains greater or lesser weight and different meanings in various historical contexts.

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