Because morning social life happens around coffee, and because I have had about five times as much coffee as is normal for me, I am far too buzzed on caffeine to report accurately on the Breakfast Meeting of the AHA Committee on Women Historians that I attended this morning. Suffice to say that the talk, by Lisa Yun Lee, the director of the Jane Addams-Hull House Museum in Chicago, was great. Lisa drew our attention to the unforeseen consequences of memorializing our political foremothers — which is that someone who was a fundamentally radical person can be perceived as mainstream or ordinary for her time when her name gets put on bridges and whatnot. Lisa also got a big laugh when, as evidence of the practice of bestowing names on various public works to honor a city’s past, she noted that there was a Jane Addams Highway outside of Chicago. Jane Addams fans have noted, Lisa says, that she probably would have preferred a freeway. Lisa ended a funny, intelligent commentary on scholarly public engagement by reminding us that women’s history is, and should be, a radical intervention.
Subsequently I had a lot of business and social life to do, which is why, at twenty to twelve, I am seated in the lobby of the Omni taking advantage of their excellent, free wireless connection. I can report that the Zenith History Mafia is here in force: Renee Romano was at the CWH breakfast (Renee changes hats and becomes a member of the Stanford Mafia tonight, a group in which I now have visitor status by virtue of a drinks-and-dinner date with them at 5:00.) We also stopped off to have a serious chat with Derek Krissof, an editor at University of Georgia Press who is one of my former students. Teach your children well, colleagues: they may end up offering you a book contract someday. This afternoon, Jennifer Mittlestadt, of Penn State (formerly a student at Zenith!) is giving a paper from her new research on women in the military. Jennifer’s first book on welfare is out and if you are reading this blog from the conference, you should go to this panel. I guarantee you it will be great since Jennifer definitely does not need the Radical’s advice on How to Give Good Paper. I could learn a few things from her, in fact. Finally, yesterday I had lunch with the fabulous Danny Green, also a Zenith honors student and a Chicago Ph.D., who initially landed at the Holocaust Museum and now has a great job at the Newberry.
Lastly, but not leastly: yesterday evening I finally met Ralph Luker, in vivo. Ralph included me in a dinner with a cadre of the Cliopatra bloggers (one of my Berkshire Conference friends said this morning at the CWH breakfast, “I saw you last night, and thought to myself, ‘What is she doing with all those men?’”) Having a wonderful time, that’s what. It was a stimulating, fun evening with some of the wittiest, smartest, nicest group of men I have ever spent an evening with. It is an unbloggable event for many reasons, chiefly because it would be impolite, but I did want to say — thanks guys. Let’s do it again soon.