Our studies of women on trial will be guided by these overarching questions:

  1. How have women’s public and private experiences changed in American history?
  2. How do trials illustrate social norms and anxieties in the United States?
  3. How do historians use trials to understand history?


What you will learn:

Women’s History: You will become familiar with the general history of women in the United States. You will learn to look beyond the immediate facts of a criminal case to ask good questions about and articulate how trials expose the broader experiences of women in American society.

Historical Judgment: You will sharpen the fundamental skills of critical and historical thinking, meaning you will learn how to read for the main point of an argument-based work. You will learn how to ask good questions and make connections between events in history. You will learn how to understand the context of a historical event and assess the reliability of sources. In so doing you will learn to construct sound arguments while determining the limits of what can be known. Equipped with such skills, you will learn to exercise judgment when confronting the historical claims people make about the past. Moreover, you will learn how to do historical research and make arguments yourself using a range of tools and resources that are available to the modern scholar, both online and off.

Persuasive Writing & Speaking: Finally, this course will help you improve your ability to speak and write persuasively about your thoughts. Writing is a critical skill to learn whether you plan to be a historian or not. Generally, professionals of all types communicate with one another and with the broader public through the written word. We will be reading a variety of secondary source materials, which will provide examples of how historians use  historical sources to make an argument–a reasoned and persuasive interpretation (often embedded in a good story) of a historical event. One of the goals of our writing will be to practice using evidence to make an argument.

A second, but related, goal of the writing assignments is to help you understand what you are reading and what you think about what you are reading.  Much of the reading we will be doing this term will be challenging. Trials make for difficult reading and at times the arguments made in court are hard to comprehend. Moreover, many of the issues we will be addressing are emotional and can be difficult to process. Writing is, then, a tool for processing your own thoughts about these issues. We learn what we think, in part, by trying to write about it.


Required Text

Frankie Bailey and Donna Hale, Blood on Her Hands: The Social Construction of Women, Sexuality, and Murder, 2004.

All other readings will be provided online and are noted in the schedule of this website.

Assignments and Grades

(25%) Your online portfolio of informal writing assignments (6 total)
(25%) Class participation and discussion
(10%) Reflective Essay
(40%) Final Project


Course & Department Policies

Those would go here.


Last updated: May 2, 2013 at 11:17 am