Everyday Life and Women in America, 1800-1920 at UC Davis


Member of Faculty: Dr Bethany Hopkins


Course: History 72A Women and Gender in America, 1787 to 1865


Dr Hopkins asked students to imagine that Nancy Cott, editor of Root of Bitterness: Documents of the Social History of American Women, was planning a new edition of the book and looking for new sources. They were asked to pick a primary source from the Everyday Life & Women in America collection. She wanted them to access documents created between 1787 and 1865, the time period covered by the course, but beyond that specification the document was entirely their own choice. Their assignment was to write a formal position paper to Professor Cott explaining why their document should be included in the new collection.


Students were offered guidance on document selection, making use of the collection’s document categories: Rare Books, Periodicals, Pamphlets, and Broadsides. They were instructed to browse these document types for one that looked particularly promising to them; for example, if, in their reading of the current edition of Root of Bitterness, they thought there should be more documents from California, they could search the collection for a Californian document. The students would then download, print, and analyse their chosen document.


The next step was to introduce their source, explaining its content and the context in which it was created, and using specific quotations from the new document to illustrate the points they wanted to make. Students were required to draw on their knowledge of women’s history and books they had read to provide historical context, integrating quotes from course readings to support their points.