Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Women's Creative Histories

This teaching collection explores women's contributions and experiences in fields including literature, politics, printmaking, photography, and theatre. Women historians, writers, activists, and publishers labored politically and philosophically as they struggled to live their lives as they wished, often fighting for suffrage or other legal rights while also bolstering their rights to equal personhood through displays of artistic and literary excellence. These sample teaching collections approach these histories through the understanding that women often completed creative work in ways different from those available to men. Women worked in doubled fashion: accounting for their own oppression while determining and drawing from its strengths and lessons. These four teaching collections cover two public spheres and two genres, and describe manuscripts and objects among the Ransom Center's collections that are appropriate for classes in politics, literature, performance, art and art history et cetera, in addition to Women's and Gender Studies.


Women and Autobiography

Women and Autobiography

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Women-identifying artists, writers, photographers, among others, often used their own lives as inspiration. Some works, like Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, were written for explicit political purposes like suffrage and emancipation. Other writers like Christine Brooke-Rose and Anne Sexton dove towards the poetic. Many autobiographical works were private exercises—like Sarah Bernhardt's scrapbook—but many served their author's careers. Elizabeth Olds's biographical sketch, for example, offered the American artist a chance to explain aesthetic, political, or theoretical principles or developments through describing those experiences that fed into the work.


Women and Other Worlds

Women and Other Worlds

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Genres such as fantasy, science fiction, myth, or utopian fiction offered writers like Charlotte Perkins Gilman a place for thought-experiments of more equitable societies (or at least different ones). For several other women writers, particularly those who lived later in history such as Doris Lessing and James Tiptree Jr. (the pen name of Alice B. Sheldon), imagining other worlds offered conceptual freedom to explore alternative forms in fiction, but also human life and relationships.


Women in Politics

Women in Politics

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Women found ways to participate in governance and civil rights struggles, sometimes directly as leaders and activists, as in Frene Ginwala's case. Others like Louise Dupin, Jessica Mitford, and Sanora Babb commented on varied public affairs. Still other women simply found themselves caught up within a political struggle, as Mary W. Dennett and Pat Nixon did.


Women in Publishing

Women in Publishing

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Many women shaped literary culture as editors, publishers, or shopowners, sometimes due to the unequal availability of opportunities for female writers. Some leveraged their positions to publish both their own work and that of other women. Editing little magazines, for example, gave Daisy Aldan and Kathleen Tankersley Young an opportunity to forge the literary conversations of their time in more inclusive forms. Or, for example, in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, editor Harriet Monroe stressed the magazine's openness to all sorts of submissions in order to remain open to change and experimentation, instead of aligning the magazine with any single literary tendency.