The Coordinating Committee on Women Historians: Accomplishments and New Goals

Nupur Chaudhuri and Barbara Ramusack, September 2010

In December 1969 some historians organized the Coordinating Committee on Women in the Historical Profession (CCWHP). Their goals were to recruit women into the historical profession, to alleviate discrimination against women students and faculty, to secure greater inclusion of women in annual meetings and the committees of the AHA, and to encourage the research in and teaching of women’s history. The CCWHP soon became an affiliated organization of the AHA. Reflecting the emerging scholarship on women in history, the Conference Group on Women’s History (CGWH) was created in 1974.

Since the CGWH remained closely associated with the CCWHP, in 1995 the membership voted to amalgamate the two groups under the name of the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH).

During the past 40 years women historians have achieved significant gains. They range from the percentage of women receiving PhD in history rising from 11 percent in 1969 to 42 percent in 20081 to the growing prominence of women historians as presidents of the AHA and the Organization of American Historians. Voices of Women Historians, published in 1999 to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the CCWH, charts the professional, political and personal lives of prominent members such as Gerda Lerner, Bernice Carroll, Hilda Smith, Linda Kerber, Renate Bridenthal and Mary Elizabeth Perry who have served as presidents of CCWH and some of the AHA. 2 Besides its work within the United States, the CCWH has made substantial efforts to include historians who research and teach the histories of the so-called Other meaning Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. For example, the CCWH cooperates with the Society for the Advancement of the History of South Asia and more broadly is the US representative to the International Federation on Women’s History (IFRWH).

To recognize and support the research of historians of women the CCWH established several awards. The Joan Kelly Memorial Prize in Women’s History is for the best work in women’s history or feminist theory. The Catherine Prelinger Award endows the research of a scholar who has followed a non-traditional, academic path. The CCWH-Berkshire Fellowship and the Ida B. Wells Fellowship help doctoral students to complete their dissertations. The Nupur Chaudhuri First Article Prize is for an article that a CCWH member publishes in a refereed journal. More information on these awards is at www.theccwh.org.

The most important function and benefit for members of the CCWH is providing opportunities for networking and mentoring women’s historians and historians of women. This work proceeds within and beyond existing institutions. The CCWH helps to organize and co-sponsors panels for the annual meetings of the AHA and its affiliated societies, and other groups such as the World History Association. It cosponsors a reception for graduate students, members, and friends at the AHA annual meeting, as well at other meetings such as the triennial Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. Its luncheon at the AHA meeting showcases the work of a prominent woman historian and helps members network across age, regional, and subdisciplinary categories.

Although we appreciate our achievements, the officers of the CCWH realize that much remains to be done to secure and enhance the opportunities for women historians and historians of women. Experience and data reveal that the difficulties of balancing life responsibilities, especially childbearing and childrearing, with professional commitments continue to contribute to the departure of women from full time employment in academia (as in other professions). They also possibly account for the slower progress of women to the rank of professor. Our future program is to assess the life-work factors that impede women historians from achieving their full potential and to develop a “toolbox” for the mentoring of women historians from graduate education through the award of tenure to promotion to full professor. We welcome former and new members to join us in our efforts. More information on the CCWH is available at www.theccwh.org.

Nupur Chaudhuri (Texas Southern Univ.) is chair of the Prelinger Prize Committee of the CCWH and Barbara Ramusack (Univ. of Cincinnati) is copresident of CCWH for 2010–13.

Notes

1. Robert B. Townsend, “What the Data Reveals about Women Historians,” Perspectives on History (May 2010), 14.

2. Eileen Boris and Nupur Chaudhuri, eds. Voices of Women Historians: The Personal, The Professional, The Political (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), xiii

*Please note that the names of the Coordinating Council for Women in History and its antecedent organizations were listed incorrectly in the print version.