Gerda Lerner (1920–2013)

UW-Madison — UW-Madison Archives

If you don’t know about historian Gerda Lerner and the impact she had on women’s history, pull up a chair. March is Women’s History Month, and we need to be talking about this woman. Seriously.

First of all, Lerner played no small part in expanding the study of women in history from a marginalized few historians on the raggedy edge to full-fledged MA and doctoral programs. She developed the MA program at Sarah Lawrence with her colleague Joan Kelly and then went on to develop the first PhD program in women’s history at the University of Wisconsin.

I know the…

The humanities have fallen on hard times.

Image from Pixabay

In the words of historian Robert Tracy McKenzie,

“Despite the growing mountain of evidence to the contrary, the majority of Americans are convinced that the serious study of the liberal arts is a waste of time and money, or at least a luxury that we can’t afford.”

Since the economic crisis of 2007–2008, fewer students have been majoring in the humanities, with history and English majors dropping by nearly 50%.

History — it’s not what you think!

The fact is, the decline of humanities and history in particular and the perception that history is not a viable major are based on inaccurate information. People often misunderstand what…

Two medieval mystics

By Evelyn Simak, CC BY-SA 2.0

In many ways they were opposites. One was a nun and a “religious recluse” who confined herself to a cell and the Church while the other was an “eccentric preacher”* who boldly left her husband and set out on pilgrimages that took her to Italy, Jerusalem, and up and down her home country of England in defiance of the Church. They were both English, in fact, and they had another thing in common: They were medieval mystics who wrote of their visions in books still available to us today.

Meet Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe.

The happy saint


And how can I tell?

Image by PDPics from Pixabay

Someone asked me a grammar question recently that I thought would be worth discussing. But first, I have to say I get ridiculously excited when someone asks me a grammar or punctuation question. Seriously, I’m like Commander Data scanning for lifeforms on Star Trek TNG, I’m that tickled.

But on to the question: How do you know when to say something like I feel bad rather than I feel badly?

The main issues here are (a) those pesky linking verbs and (b) knowing when to use adjectives or adverbs.

Quick reminder: adjectives modify or describe…

Scholar, historian, women’s historian, activist, archivist, reformer, wife, mother — all at once

Public Domain image; Library of Congress

I recently wrote about historian Gerda Lerner’s contributions to women’s history and the debt all historians owe her, followed by an article about Anna Julia Cooper and other pioneering Black women historians.

This time, I want to turn my attention to Mary Ritter Beard — historian, activist for women’s suffrage and labor, author, archivist, and so much more. Unfortunately, many people know her — if they know her at all — as just the wife of historian Charles A. Beard. I remember studying Charles A. Beard’s ideas in graduate school, but I recall no mention of Mary Ritter Beard. …

State of Missouri v Celia, a Slave (1855)

Jury verdict; Image from Famous Trials

When asked by a reporter why she had killed her owner, Celia, a 19-year-old Missouri slave replied, “the Devil got into me.”

Celia had been purchased by Robert Newsom when she was 14. For the next five years, he would rape her over and over, keeping her in a tiny cabin near his house for easy access. She gave birth to two children during that time, the second one certainly the son of Newsom.

In the meantime, Celia found love with another slave on the Newsom farm, George. George became tired of…

The pioneers: Anna Julia Cooper, Marion Thompson Wright, and Black women historians

Public Domain Image; Library of Congress

From slavery to the Sorbonne

How does a young woman go from enslavement on a Raleigh, North Carolina, plantation to the Sorbonne? Well, apparently, at the age of nine (three years after the end of the Civil War), she gets a scholarship to attend a normal school for teacher training. Makes her way through Oberlin College (mathematics M.A. in 1887), teaches, publishes a book. Goes on a lecture tour in support of black women’s education and civil rights, becomes a high school principal. Helps found the Colored Women’s League in 1892, joins the Pan-African Conference executive committee in 1900, goes to Columbia to continue the…

What’s the difference?

Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Direct discourse or speech versus indirect discourse or speech.

Do a lot of people not know the difference, or do they not care?

One thing I have had to do often over the years teaching college English is instruct students in quoting accurately. I’ve discovered this is always more complicated when they don’t know the difference between direct and indirect speech. I have learned that the best way to set up a lesson on quoting is to clarify the use of quotation marks with direct and indirect speech first.

If you are self-publishing, you really need to…

When did this become normal?

Image by Frauke Riether from Pixabay.

This weekend, I suddenly realized something very odd about myself:

I have a favorite mask.

It’s black and silver and comfortable and goes with almost all my clothes. I realized it was my favorite when I thought I lost in during a recent trip. Fortunately, I found it in my bag.

But it’s a mask. When did masks become so normalized that I now have a favorite one?

Favorite shoes. Check. Favorite jeans. Check. Favorite sweater. Check. Favorite earrings. Check. Favorite mask. WHAT?

While pondering this, I realized something else. I have a second favorite mask. It’s a lot like…

How walking can make us better writers

Photo by S. H. Salois

Walking through the Pandemic

When the pandemic hit, we had nowhere to go but out — as in outside. We couldn’t go among the public, and the usual avenues of getting away from it all were closed to us. Around the time the pandemic hit, I was a three-day-a-week walker on average.

But, as isolating became a thing, and going out among others — even masked — seemed unnecessarily callous, I started walking more and more until I was walking six and sometimes seven days a week.

Seriously, those shoes up there in the picture? I bought those shoes in the spring, once I…

S. H. Salois

Teacher, writer, copyeditor, course designer, mom, cat servant, managing partner at, and…something else I can’t remember. Maybe.

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