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Revolutionary Daughters, Militant Mothers & Radical Sisters: Women & Radicalism in the U.S. since 1865 - HIS00119M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Gina Denton
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

This module explores the pivotal role women played in radical politics in the United States from Reconstruction to the present day. It investigates how women from a variety of backgrounds envisioned – and worked towards – fundamental changes in U.S. society, paying particular attention to how race, gender and other identities intersected to shape women’s political struggles. The course also compares women’s radicalism across the political spectrum, examining key differences and surprising similarities in ideologies and strategies on the left and the right. Through eight seminars – topics decided in consultation with students – we will explore topics such as the role of women in constructing and maintaining white supremacy; suffrage movements; reproductive justice struggles; women in international leftist, black liberation and anti-poverty movements; multiracial feminisms; women of the New Right; and contemporary radicalisms.

Throughout the module, we will also consider how histories of radicalism have been gendered and why radical women have regularly been ‘hidden in plain sight.’ Indeed, scholarship on radical politics has overwhelmingly focused on men, often making ‘radicalism’ synonymous with a militant, masculinist brand of leftist politics. Meanwhile, early feminist histories assigned the label ‘radical’ narrowly, predominantly to young white women who sought to challenge gender roles and patriarchal hierarchies. Engaging with revisionist literature, and a wide range of primary materials, this course raises questions about how we might need to expand the boundaries of radicalism – and to rethink binaries between respectable and radical, reform and revolution – in order to fully understand the diversity and complexity of women’s radical actions.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

After completing this module students should have:

• A thorough understanding of the breadth and complexity of women’s radical politics since 1865.

• An understanding of how race, gender, class, sexuality, political orientation and other identities have intersected to shape women’s political struggles.

• An ability to think critically about how representations and histories of radicalism and radical women have been shaped by gender.

• An understanding of different historiographical and theoretical approaches to the study of women’s radicalism, as well as an ability to use these methods and to apply an interdisciplinary approach in their own research.

Module content

Students will attend eight weekly two-hour seminars in weeks 2-9.

1. Hidden in plain sight: women, gender and histories of radicalism

2. White women and the making of the Jim Crow North and South

3. Suffrage and reproductive justice struggles

4. Women, the left and internationalist politics

5. Racial and economic justice movements

6. Multiracial feminisms

7. Mothers of conservatism: women and the New Right

8. Contemporary radicalisms and representing radical women today


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Assessment (long essay)
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students will complete a 2,000-word essay for formative assessment, due in week 6 or 7 of the spring term, for which they will receive an individual tutorial. They will then submit a 4,000-word assessed essay for summative assessment in week 1 of the summer term.

For further details about assessed work, students should refer to the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Assessment (long essay)
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will receive written feedback consisting of comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission. They will also receive verbal feedback at an individual tutorial. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. Supervisors are available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment for Taught Postgraduate Programmes.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:#

Blee, Kathleen M., ed. No Middle Ground: Women and Radical Protest. New York: New York University Press, 1998.

Gore, Dayo F., Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard, eds. Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

Orleck, Annelise. Rethinking American Women’s Activism. New York: Routledge, 2014.

Nickerson, Michelle. Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.