Ida B. Wells’ essays on the practice of lynching African-American men in post-Civil War America have remained somewhat unknown. Until now. Twelve women faculty from three universities are studying the works of female political writers in a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
It isn’t just the horrors Wells wrote about that intrigues them; it’s that Wells, a black journalist from Mississippi, had the courage to speak out at a time when blacks and women were denied full participation in American society. She risked her life to make her point. The other writers being studied also took risks: Russian novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, 14th century French essayist and novelist Christine de Pizan and Chicago social reformer Jane Addams among them.
“This gives us an opportunity to reinvigorate our thinking,” says Christine Anderson, co-director for the office of gender and diversity studies. Anderson and Gillian Ahlgren, professor of theology, Nancy Bertaux, professor of economics and human resources, and Carol Winkelmann, professor of English, discuss the readings monthly and are incorporating them them into their courses. The project, titled “Nation, Family and State: Women’s Political Writings,” includes women faculty from the University of Cincinnati and Purdue University, which each are holding a workshop this year.