Prof. Michael Goldberg
Winter 2007
BIS 463 U.S. Women's History

Essay Assignment

Length: 1500-2000 words (approximately 6-8 pages—use “word count” feature on your word processing program)

Audience: College-educated reader without specific background in women's history.

Due Date: March 13, 5:45 via Blackboard's Digital Dropbox. *For instructions, CLICK HERE). Papers up to one day late will be assessed -.3 on the 4.0 scale. Papers between one and two days late will be assessed -1.0 on the 4.0 scale. No papers will be accepted after that time. Please let me know about legitimate emergencies as soon as they occur, but also realize this is a long-term assignment that should not be completed over the course of the last few days. It may make sense to take a penalty for a day or two in order to improve the quality of the paper. Please let me know if you are choosing to do this.

Description: For this argumentative analytical essay, you will be addressing the issue of women's social, economic, political, and/or cultural progress. You will focus on one of the following topics: work, historical agency, politics, family dynamics, cultural identity (the ability to define one's identity within the mainstream discourse), or community (the development of specific cultural communities and the negotiations and antagonisms within them), or you may create your own topic, which I must approve first. You must draw on at least three different readings, with at least one coming from the first half of the course, and you should draw on lecture material wherever appropriate. You do not need to do any additional research for this paper, although you are allowed to.

During the pre-writing process, you will first select a topic, then move to a more focused question, and then a tentative thesis, and finally arrive at a more sharply focused thesis and argument. (It is not unusual to finalize your thesis after writing the first draft of your paper.) The point of this assignment is to spend a substantial amount of time in the pre-writing process, which is why I am not providing you with focused questions to be “answered.” You therefore need to begin the process as you do your reading, selecting possible themes that interest you most. Depending on your question, you may need to read ahead on some of the articles assigned in the last few weeks. I would encourage you to communicate with me (via email or in person), with a Writing Tutor in the Writing Center, or with classmates.

After deciding on your topic, the next step in this process will be to choose the readings on which you will be focusing. For example, if you decide to concentrate on “politics,” your possible readings would include:

From here, you might go in a number of directions: comparing African American and middle-class white women's political development; tracing the history of women's involvement in electoral politics; connecting the role of women in the family to their actions in the public sphere (and thus intersecting with the “work” topic, which is fine), etc. At this point, you would be ready to move to a more focused question, such as “What are the different strategies middle class white women and African American women have chosen to use to gain power in political movements, and how have these strategies ultimately helped or hindered their efforts to gain equality?” Your thesis will directly answer this question directly, in a way that allows you to discover a new analytical perspective. Thus your thesis would not simply be, “middle class white women and African American women used a number of important strategies that helped them to gain power,” but would consider certain aspects of those choices and their effects. For example, you might argue “Middle class white women have always excluded other groups of women in order to advance their cause, while African American women have always worked for the good of their race first and their gender second. The result has been that middle class white women now have more political power, while African American women have helped Blacks gain political power at their own expense.” I don't think this is true, but you get the idea.

You should consult the Criteria for Evaluating Analytical Essays to understand my expectations for this type of assignment. Specific criteria for this paper include your ability to demonstrate an understanding of historical concepts like historical agency, compare and contrast, historicity, cultural diversity and similarity, cause and effect, motivation, continuity and change, evaluation and historical judgment. We will have covered all of these concepts by the last week's readings. You will also be expected to have mastered the ability to combine logic with specific evidence from the texts or lecture to prove a point within a paragraph, a skill you are developing in your postings.

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