Women, Gender and Sexuality in United States History

The details
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2019
Friday 26 June 2020
20 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This full-year module surveys the history of women, gender, and sexuality in America from the colonial period to the modern era. The module moves chronologically through the centuries, focusing on select themes and issues important to understanding the changing nature of womanhood, gender, and sexuality over time. With specific attention to the intersecting analytical categories of gender, race, class, and sexuality, we will spend time analysing women's political, economic, and social role in a developing nation. This module will give students the opportunity to work with primary sources in seminar sessions. Essay assignments will also require the use of primary source evidence, in addition to secondary literature.

Module aims

1. To explore sexuality as a historical social construction that has changed over time and taken different forms in different cultural contexts.
2. To understand gender as a historical category of analysis that shaped U.S. concepts of women’s private and public roles and identities.
3. To analyze women’s experiences from a socio-cultural historical framework, working with primary source evidence and secondary sources.

Module learning outcomes

1. Students will comprehend the diversity of U.S. women’s history by exploring how legal status, social class in addition to race, nationality and culture have informed ideas of gender and sexuality over time.
2. Students will be able to situate and analyze the concept of power in women’s history, and how movements to reorder power such as the birth control movement and feminism have reshaped gender and sexuality.
3. Enhance their critical reading, writing and research skills by preparing for seminar discussions and completing the required written coursework.

Module information

General reading list:

Ware, Susan, American Women's History: A Very Short Introduction (2015).

Aronson, Amy and Kimmel, Michael, The Gendered Society Reader (2016).

Humm, Maggie, Feminisms: A Reader (1992).

DuBois, Ellen Carol, and Ruiz, Vicki, Unequal sisters: a multicultural reader in U.S. women's history (1990).

Friedman, Estelle and D'Emilio, John, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (2012).

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures and seminars.


  • Hewitt, Nancy A. (2002) A companion to American women's history, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • (1954) Salt of the Earth: YouTube.
  • Westkaemper, Emily. (2017) Selling Women's History: Packaging Feminism in Twentieth-Century American Popular Culture.
  • Catherine Esther Beecher. (1841) A Treatise on Domestic Economy.
  • Norton, Mary Beth; Alexander, Ruth M. (c1996) Major problems in American women's history: documents and essays, Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath.
  • (2017) The gendered society reader, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Cott, Nancy F. (c2000) No small courage: a history of women in the United States, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Ware, Susan. (2015) American women's history: a very short introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press. vol. 422
  • Bordo, Susan. (©2003) Unbearable weight: feminism, Western culture, and the body, Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press.
  • (no date) One Woman, One Vote: YouTube.
  • Sojourner's Truth Defense of the Rights of Women,
  • Holt, Thomas C.; Brown, Elsa Barkley. (c2000) Major problems in African-American history: documents and essays, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Letters on the equality of the sexes, and the condition of woman: addressed to Mary S. Parker,
  • Yezierska, Anzia. (c2003) Bread givers: a novel, New York: Persea Books.
  • (1995) U.S. history as women's history: new feminist essays, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Roe v. Wade,
  • Ruíz, Vicki; DuBois, Ellen Carol. (2000) Unequal sisters: a multicultural reader in U.S. women's history, New York: Routledge.
  • Equal Rights Amendment,
  • Declaration of Sentiments,
  • Kessler-Harris, Alice. (2014) A woman's wage: historical meanings and social consequences, Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky.
  • Kerber, Linda K.; De Hart, Jane Sherron. (2004) Women's America: refocusing the past, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Angela Grimke. (1836) Appeal to the Christian women of the South, New York: American Anti-Slavery Society.
  • Friedan, Betty. (c2013) The feminine mystique, New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Jacobs, Harriet A.; Child, Lydia Maria; Yellin, Jean Fagan; Jacobs, John S. (2000) Incidents in the life of a slave girl: written by herself, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  • (2002) Feminisms: a reader, Harlow: Harvester Wheatsheaf / Pearson Education.
  • Horowitz, Daniel. (c1998) Betty Friedan and the making of The feminine mystique: the American left, the cold war, and modern feminism, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
  • Wallach Scott, Joan. (2010-02) 'Gender: Still a Useful Category of Analysis?', in Diogenes. vol. 57 (1) , pp.7-14
  • Peiss, Kathy Lee. (c2002) Major problems in the history of American sexuality: documents and essays, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
  • Casey v Planned Parenthood,
  • Muller v. Oregon :: 208 U.S. 412 (1908) :: Justia US Supreme Court Center,
  • Women's Suffrage, Cartoons,'s+suffrage|subject:cartoons+(commentary)
  • (no date) New York State Married Women's Property Law.
  • (no date) Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter: YouTube.
  • Loretta Lynn. (no date) The Pill: YouTube.
  • Kathryn Kish Sklar. (2001) 'Florence Kelley and Women’s Activism in the Progressive Era', in Women Building Chicago 1790-1990, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Document analysis (1500 words)  15/11/2019  40% 
Coursework   Essay (2500 words)  14/04/2020  50% 
Practical   Seminar participation    10% 
Exam  1440 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Vicki Howard, email:
Dr Vicki Howard
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

Dr Simon Rofe
University of London
Reader in Diplomatic and International Studies
Available via Moodle
Of 97 hours, 38 (39.2%) hours available to students:
59 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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