Feminism, Sexuality, and Politics: Essays

Feminism, Sexuality, and Politics: Essays

Feminism, Sexuality, and Politics: Essays

Feminism, Sexuality, and Politics: Essays


One of a small group of feminist pioneers in the historical profession, Estelle B. Freedman teaches and writes about women's history with a passion informed by her feminist values. Over the past thirty years, she has produced a body of work in which scholarship and politics have never been mutually exclusive. This collection brings together eleven essays--eight previously published and three new--that document the evolving relationship between academic feminism and political feminism as Freedman has studied and lived it.

Following an introduction that presents a map of the personal and intellectual trajectory of Freedman's work, the first section of essays, on the origins and strategies of women's activism in U. S. history, reiterates the importance of valuing women in a society that has long devalued their contributions. The second section, on the maintenance of sexual boundaries, explores the malleability of both sexual identities and sexual politics. Underlying the collection is an inquiry into the changing meanings of gender, sexuality, and politics during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries along with a concern for applying the insights of women's history broadly, from the classroom to the courthouse.


For the past thirty-five years, I have participated in a movement to create a usable history of women, one that challenges conventional versions of the past and also speaks to the world around us. The essays in this book document this larger historical enterprise and explore connections between the intellectual task and the political practice of feminism. Compiling this volume has given me new perspectives on the historical questions I have explored, the historical contexts for them, and the personal paths that brought me to both feminism and the study of women's history.

A decade ago, when someone first suggested that I publish my major articles, the project seemed premature to me, but the idea took root. When I later mentioned it to Kate Torrey at the University of North Carolina Press, she and Linda Kerber convinced me to pursue it. I am deeply grateful to both of them for helping me shape this volume. In addition to eight reprinted articles, I have included three new essays: a personal introduction; an overview of my book on feminism, No Turning Back (chapter 5); and a revised version of earlier articles about historical contributions to legal cases (chapter 10). Although the reprinted articles have not been substantially revised, I have made minor corrections and deleted some repetitive passages. For this collection, I have added headnotes to provide context for each essay.

In addition to the colleagues and friends I acknowledge in the reprinted articles, I want to thank those who responded to drafts of the original essays. Barbara Allen Babcock, Ricki Boden, Nancy Cott, John D'Emilio, Linda Gordon, Linda Kerber, Susan Krieger, Ilene Levitt, Sue Lynn, Elaine Tyler May, Joanne Meyerowitz, James Mohr, Peggy Pascoe, Renee Romano, Esther Rothblum, and Nancy Stoller each improved the quality of my thinking and writing, as did the extremely thorough and helpful anonymous reviewers for the University of North Carolina Press. Paula Wald provided expert copyediting. I am also thankful to Mary Rothschild for the oral history she conducted about my career and to Kathryn Kish Sklar, who made a digital transcript of that interview available to me. The graduate students I have advised have taught me much of what I know about women's history; one of them, Andrea Davies Henderson, furnished outstanding editorial assistance as I prepared this book. The fellows and staff at the Stanford Humanities . . .

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