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The Girls' History and Culture Network Newsletter: Fall 2017

From the Editors

This inaugural issue of the Girls’ History & Culture Newsletter includes news provided by members of the newly-organized Girls’ History & Culture Network (GHCN). Established under the auspices of the Society for the History of Children & Youth, the GHCN seeks to foster conversation, communication, and collaboration among scholars, museum professionals, teachers, activists, students, and others interested in girl-focused research, teaching, publishing, pedagogy, policy, politics, etc. It is with these goals in mind that the Newsletterdraws upon familiar categories — publications, conferences, exhibits, podcasts, activism, teaching, blogs, etc. — to organize information about relevant professional activities we expect will be useful to current members and of interest to potential Network participants.

We fully anticipate adding, splicing, and consolidating sections in response to the changing needs and desires of the GHCN membership. We very much welcome your suggestions, submissions, as well as participation in the production of the Newsletter and other GHCN initiatives. By sending this newsletter on to others you will be contributing to the goals of The Girls’ History & Culture Network.   

Your co-chairs,   

Miriam Forman-Brunell
Professor of History

Ashley Remer
Founder/Head Girl
Girl Museum

Network News

Launching the Girls' History and Culture Network

From the founding of the Society for the History of Children & Youth (SHCY) in 2001 to our most recent conference in 2017, scholars and graduate students have energetically presented historically-grounded, girl-focused scholarly research. We have participated in panel discussions on the history of girlhoods, girls’ cultures, and the lived experiences of girls from international, intersectional, and interdisciplinary perspectives.

In so doing, we have contributed to the development of Girls’ Studies, history and other fields, while also furthering the mission of SHCY. This past summer, SHCY's launch of the “Network and Working Groups Initiative” provided those of us interested in girls’ history and culture with an unprecedented opportunity to establish organizational space and an intellectual presence. 

The newly-established Girls' History & Culture Network aims to:

  • foster conversation, communication, and collaboration among scholars, museum professionals, teachers, activists, students, and others interested in girl-focused research, teaching, publishing, pedagogy, policy, politics, etc.
  • increase professional recognition of the historical significance of girls and girlhoods within Children’s Studies, Youth Studies, the field of history, and across disciplinary and geographical boundaries
  • promote the use of historical analysis and methods within Girls’ Studies scholarship
  • increase public awareness of the significance of girls in history, cultures, and  societies
  • create and circulate girl-centered papers and web materials, newsletters, pamphlets, statements, digital and audio recordings, and guest edit special issues of the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth
  • sponsor girls’ history and culture panels, business meetings, receptions, field trips, presentations, workshops, roundtables, lectures, mentoring sessions, activism, “mini conferences,” etc.
  • generate networking opportunities with other girl-focused interest groups
  • increase the diversity of SHCY membership to include more scholars, museum professionals, teachers, activists, students, and others interested in girls’ history and culture

To those ends, The Girls’ History & Culture Network seeks to provide members with opportunities to:

  • communicate with others via a designated content-sharing portal on the SHCY website (already in the works)
  • receive priority when establishing roundtables, panels, or other sessions at SHCY biennial conferences
  • propose special issues for the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth
  • produce edited collections, and advance academic programming for the study of girls and female adolescents
  • work collaboratively to win grants, hold regional or topic-specific colloquia
  • co-curate digital exhibits and engage in other collaborations with Girl Museum (the first and only museum in the world dedicated to celebrating girls and girlhood)

Want to Join the GHCN? Here's How:

We invite all scholars, students, library and museum professionals, teachers, activists, and writers to join The Girls’ History & Culture Network (GHCN). Participation is open to SHCY members. If you are not yet a member—or if your membership has lapsed—please join the Society for the History of Children and Youth by clicking here. SHCY membership covers a two-year period—includes a 24-month subscription (including the online version) to the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, access to the SHCY members’ directory, and eligibility to present at the biennial conferences.

After joining SHCY, send an email to be added to GHCN membership list.


Wendy Rouse, Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women's Self-Defense Movement. New York University Press, 2017.

At the turn of the twentieth century, women famously organized to demand greater social and political freedoms like gaining the right to vote. However, few realize that the Progressive Era also witnessed the birth of the women’s self-defense movement. It is nearly impossible in today’s day and age to imagine a world without the concept of women’s self defense. Some women were inspired to take up boxing and jiu-jitsu for very personal reasons that ranged from protecting themselves from attacks by strangers on the street to rejecting gendered notions about feminine weakness and empowering themselves as their own protectors. Women’s training in self defense was both a reflection of and a response to the broader cultural issues of the time, including the women’s rights movement and the campaign for the vote. Perhaps more importantly, the discussion surrounding women’s self-defense revealed powerful myths about the source of violence against women and opened up conversations about the less visible violence that many women faced in their own homes.

Through self-defense training, women debunked patriarchal myths about inherent feminine weakness, creating a new image of women as powerful and self-reliant. Whether or not women consciously pursued self-defense for these reasons, their actions embodied feminist politics. Although their individual motivations may have varied, their collective action echoed through the twentieth century, demanding emancipation from the constrictions that prevented women from exercising their full rights as citizens and human beings. This book is a fascinating and comprehensive introduction to one of the most important women’s issues of all time. 

To order and to read the Intro, click here.

Emilie D. Zaslow. Playing with America's Doll: A Critical Analysis of the American Girl Doll Collection. Palgrave MacMillan, 2017.

This critical account of the American Girl brand explores what its books and dolls communicate to girls about femininity, racial identity, ethnicity, and what it means to be an American. Emilie Zaslow begins by tracing the development of American Girl and situates the company’s growth and popularity in a social history of girl power media culture. She then weaves analyses of the collection’s narrative and material representations with qualitative research on mothers and girls. Examining the dolls with both a critical eye and a fan’s curiosity, Zaslow raises questions about the values espoused by this iconic American brand.

To order the book or just a chapter and read the Intro click this link:

Guiding Modern Girls

Kristine Alexander, Guiding Modern Girls: Girlhood, Empire, and Internationalism in the 1920s and 1930s. University of British Columbia Press, November 2017.

Across the British empire and the world, the 1920s and 1930s were a time of unprecedented social and cultural change. Girls and young women were at the heart of many of these shifts. Out of this milieu, the Girl Guide movement emerged as a response to modern concerns about gender, race, class, and social instability. In this book, Kristine Alexander analyzes the ways in which Guiding sought to mold young people in England, Canada, and India. It is a fascinating account that connects the histories of girlhood, internationalism, and empire, while asking how girls and young women understood and responded to Guiding’s attempts to lead them toward a “useful” feminine future.

For more information and a sample chapter, click here.

Shenila Khoja-Moolji, Forging the Ideal Educated Girl: The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia. University of California Press, June, 2018.

For more information and ordering, click here.

Dr. Shenila Khoja-Moolji
The Alice Paul Center for Research on
Gender, Sexuality and Women
The University of Pennsylvania

Mary Jo Maynes [with Ann Waltner], “Young Women, Textile Labour, and Marriage in Europe and China around 1800” in A History of the Girl: Formation, Education and Identity. Edited by Mary O’Dowd and June Purvis (Palgrave, 2018)

Silk spinnery workforce at Jurjurieux in southern France, ca. 1900. 
Original source: Photograph by Claudius Corne issued as a postcard entitled “Personnel interne de la Maison C.J. Bonnet, á Jujurieux (Ain). 


A Report on the 2017 Global History of Black Girlhood Conference

by CORINNE FIELDS, Ph.D University of Virginia

The Global History of Black Girlhood Conference held at the University of Virginia in March, 2017, brought together more than 150 people from 70 institutions to consider the experiences of black girls from the seventeenth century to the present in Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The conference was organized by LaKisha Simmons (University of Michigan), Abosede George (Barnard College), and Corinne Field (University of Virginia).  More than 20 presenters offered scholarly papers, artwork, and films exploring broad themes such as pleasure, play, kinship, trauma, healing and activism.

Through conversations that bridged disciplines, regions, and time periods, participants considered how to place black girls’ history in a diasporic framework, what “blackness” has meant in different times and places, and how various people define what it means to be a girl. For the keynote panel, activists from the US and South Africa reflected on youth, justice, and girlhood.  

Participants were Beverly Palesa Ditsie, co-founder of the Gay and Lesbian Organization of Witwatersrand (GLOW), South Africa; Phindile Kunene, former member of the Young Communist League and South African Student Congress; Janaé Bonsu, National Public Policy Chair of the Black Youth Project (BYP) 100; Denise Oliver-Velez, former member of the Young Lords and the Black Panther Party.

Round table participants including LaKisha Simmons (left), an assistant professor of history and women’s studies at the U. of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Photos credit: Michael Bailey

Round table participants including LaKisha Simmons (left), an assistant professor of history and women’s studies at the U. of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Photos credit: Michael Bailey

In a wide-ranging and frank conversation moderated by Claudrena Harold, University of Virginia, panelists talked about the factors that pull girls and young women into activism early in life, the challenges they face, and the strategies upon which they can draw to create change. As part of the conference program, students in grades six through twelve from Charlottesville city schools presented a documentary film that they produced under the direction of Abigail Akosua Kayser, a Ph.D. student in the Curry School of Education, with the collaboration of City of Promise, UVA Arts Mentors, and Light House Studios. The students interviewed local black women leaders about how black girls can overcome challenges and stereotypes. An Undergraduate Symposium enabled students from Harvard University, Amherst College, Columbia University, and the University of Virginia to present paintings, poetry, and scholarly research. 

A special reception following this event brought together undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. The conference concluded with a reading by novelist Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow. Sponsored by the NEA Big Read and the Jefferson Madison Regional Libraries, this event enabled a panel of local high school students to ask Jones questions about the novel, her writing strategies, and her future projects. Simmons and Field will be editing an anthology of essays developed by the presenters at the conference as well as a special issue of the Journal Women, Gender  and Families of Color. The History of Black Girlhood Network continues as an informal collaboration among scholars. Those interested in joining should email Corinne Field.

  • A video of the keynote panel is available here
  • View a trailer of the film Black Girlhood: Access and Assets
  • Read more about The History of Black Girlhood Network in The Chronicle for Higher Education

REBECCA R. NOEL, of Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, presented “Girls Deformed and Reformed by School: Spinal Curvature, Female Exercise, and Healthy Schooling in 19th-Century Britain and the United States” at the 2017 Society for the History of Childhood and Youth conference at Rutgers University — Camden. This presentation traced worries about spinal curvature among female students in Britain and the United States, both in physicians’ and educators’ discourse and in educational practice. It also explored how girls themselves responded to such programs.

Beginning in the late eighteenth century, European physicians developed increasing interest in child health. Orthopedics formed one area of focus, and spinal curvature received special attention. By the 1820s, British and American physicians concluded that school in particular was causing spinal curvature in girls. 
This explanation recast an ancient fear that the scholarly lifestyle, in teachers and students, inevitably led to ill health.  Concerns about scholarly frailty had taken many forms over the centuries: weakness, melancholy, dyspepsia, neurological derangement, and, starting in the early nineteenth century, pulmonary consumption. Spinal curvature was the first scholarly symptom to apply uniquely to girls and women. Boston physician John Collins Warren advised the American Institute of Instruction in 1830 that half of the educated women he knew, but none of the men, had curved spines. Warren and others blamed how schools and parents treated girls’ bodies. With increasing modern conveniences, middle-class girls pursued advanced education instead of taxing physical housework. After school, though, girls headed into their houses for sedentary needlework and similar duties. But boys (again not including the poor) ran and played after school, mitigating the health effects of their long hours at the desk. In response to this problem, educators instituted mechanical manipulations and exercise programs designed to straighten out their female students.

Noel’s work on girls is part of her research on schooling and health. Her article “‘No Wonder They Are Sick, and Die of Study’: European Fears for the Scholarly Body and Health in New England Schools Before Horace Mann” appears in the Paedagogica Historica Special Issue on Education and the Body(online August 2017, print March 2018).

MADELEINE DOBSON, of Curtin University, recently presented Appreciating the Emotional Ties Young Girls Share with Their Media at the Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Conference in Fremantle, Western Australia. She also presented, Hayley’s Story: Exploring a Junior Primary Student’s Relationship with Media, at the Digitising Early Childhood International Conference in Perth, Western Australia. 

Madeleine Dobson Ph.D., B.Ed. (ECE/Hons.)
Lecturer, School of Education
Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University
Western Australia.

MIRIAM FORMAN-BRUNELL, University of Missouri-Kansas City, is presenting “Girls’ Economies and Girlhood Cultures: Working, Performing, Playing,” at the Midwestern Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference, in St. Louis, MO, Oct 18-22, 2017. Forman-Brunell is also the Girls’ Culture/Girlhoods Area Chair for the MPC/ACA. This paper draws upon the Introduction to Girls’ Economies & Girlhood Cultures: On the Borders of Work and Play, a scholarly collection co-edited with Diana Anselmo, featuring the work of a number of GHCN members. 


KATHRYN GLEADLE is organizing the workshop, “Girlhood, Travel and Global issues: A Multi-Disciplinary Workshop’. University of Oxford, 14 March 2018.



EMILY HAMILTON-HONEY, SUNY Canton, will be presenting her paper, “The Hackett-Lowther Unit With the French Army at Compiégne; or, the Historical Counterparts to Edna Brooks’ Khaki Girls.” Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference, Indianapolis, IN, March 28-31, 2018.





MARY JO MAYNES, is co-organizer of the research circle “Subjects, Objects, Agents: Young People’s Lives and Livelihoods in the Global South” based at the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change at the University of Minnesota. They will be holding a conference in May 2018. Click here for more information.


SHCY 2019

It’s not too early to start networking with partners, plan papers, organize panels, and develop presentations for the next biennial SHCY conference to be held in Sydney, Australia, in June 2019. 


Children's Victorian Library Collection Unveiled in Orkney

Maria Cowan, 12, her 10-year-old sister Clara, and their young cousin Isabella Bremner began producing their own library in 1864, sometimes with the help of other children. They named it Minervian Library and it is held at Orkney Library and Archive. A selection of the short stories, fairytales, poems, plays and newspaper articles is now on display in the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall. The exhibition was a collaborative venture between Orkney Archives, Orkney Museum and Kathryn Gleadle. Kathryn Gleadle is also co-authoring with Beth Rogers, “’A Library of Our Own Compositions’: The Minervian Library and Girlhood Creativity in Victorian Orkney."                     

Click to read the article published by BBC News.

'Classical Girls' at Girl Museum 
What was life like for a girl in Classical Greece and Rome? Classical Greece and Rome are often called the birthplaces of Western history. During the period from 500 BCE to 250 CE, these civilizations flourished – bringing about achievements in fields like art, medicine, and philosophy that continue to influence us today. Evidence about young girls during this time can readily be found. Yet many museums do not include their stories. In this exhibit, we bring the girls of Classical Greece and Rome to life – showing how their daily lives were similar and different, both from each other and from our modern lives. Travel back with us and discover the surprisingly complex lives of girls.  

Visit the exhibition here
Contact Ashley E Remer for more information about Girl Museum as well as possible partnerships and collaborations.


Podcasts & Blogs

Listen to Melissa Klapper’s podcast, Pirouettes from the Past, tracing the history of ballet in America. The latest episode examines the history of dance recitals. Click here to listen to this episode along with previous installments.

GirlSpeak, produced by Girl Museum, is a monthly podcast about girls' history, art, and culture. We explore topics like how girls are represented in art and museums, mythological stories and folktales, our favorite stories about awesome girls, and special topics related to our exhibitions and programs.

Listen to our newest episode to celebrate the International Day of the Girl called 'Girls in the Museum'. GirlSpeak is available at iTunes and Podbean.





LA Review of Books BLARB

The 'New' Muslim Woman: Fashionista and Suspect  
by Shenila Khoja-Moolji

From the notorious Pepsi commercial and H&M’s video promoting their recycling project, to the cover of Vogue Arabia and CR Fashion Book, women donning the hijab are acquiring greater media visibility than ever before. On the face of it, this is a welcome development. For decades, feminist scholars and activists have been working towards disrupting the trope of the Muslim women as silent, submissive, and somehow uniquely oppressed. The growing prevalence of these new images hints at the potential to re-shape imaginations and open up possibilities for Muslim women, particularly in the West. Unfortunately, the reality is that these images are actually limiting and oppressive. Read more here.

GHCN is your network. Send us any news, publications, announcements, conference notices, podcasts, blogs, CFP, etc., and we will share them with our community. We will be publishing this newsletter on a quarterly basis, with informal announcements sent out as emails or via social media.

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