Fathers of Feminism? Transatlantic Perspectives on Men's Engagement with Women's Rights

AHA Session 207
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room 303 (Hynes Convention Center)
Karen Offen, Stanford University
Karen Offen, Stanford University

Session Abstract

In recent years, historians have begun to trace men's contributions to the creation of modern feminism. “Fathers of Feminism? Transatlantic Perspectives on Men's Engagement with Women's Rights” takes up this new approach to feminist history by featuring the work of three scholars  – Arianne Chernock (Boston University), Ben Griffin (Cambridge University), and Helene Quanquin (Universite Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle) – whose research examines men’s role as women’s rights advocates in the United States and Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when modern feminism was in its critical stages of elaboration. Taken together, their papers will explore why certain men adopted feminist positions, what was at stake for men – and for women – when men aligned themselves with the “women’s cause,” and how men’s understandings of and justifications for feminist activity changed over time and in different national contexts. The papers will also address the thornier issues that emerged as men became proponents of women’s rights, focusing especially on debates surrounding men’s ability to represent accurately women’s experiences and some of the mixed motives of those men who became leading “champions of the fair sex.” In taking on these subjects, the panel will thus also be engaging with a much broader set of concerns relating to the study of gender, masculinity, and the political process, and to the implications more generally of this new feminist historiography with its emphasis on mutuality and collaboration between the sexes.

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