Thoughts on "Women's Studies" at Barnard, 1971, page 5
Medieval history may be a specialized, remote field; but the dearth of studies in English by comparison with French and German studies, in periods closer to our own time, suggests a cultural bias among historians. Given this situation, it is not surprising that in current discussions on the legal, social and professional status of women the historical background is neglected, or is at best slighted. Even in Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex, which by now has acquired the authority of a classic, pronouncements on the nature and role of women, for example by patristic authors such as Tertullian, are cited out of their historical context. Admittedly the question arises whether a college like ours should en- courage courses where inquiry would be directed at such neglected subjects. Would the inclusion of courses on women upset our balanced curriculum and weaken its professional approach? Apprehension concerning the introduction of new courses into the university curriculum is a phenomenon almost as old as the university. In the 13th century there were prohibitions at Paris against courses on Aristotle, and two centuries later, in order to teach Plato, Marsilio Ficino had to set up the Florentine Academy. American colleges and univer- sities, certainly in the past fifty years, seem to have been more receptive to curricular.innovation in response to current interest than were their medieval counterparts. The establishment of Israel as an independent nation resulted in the introduction of courses on Jewish History. The growth of courses in Russian History appears to be correlated to the rise of Communist Russia as an international power. Courses in Labor History following upon the Great Depression reflected an interest prevalent at that time which seems to have waned in recent years. The objective examination of labor problems in the classroom reduced polarization of public opinion and contributed to the acceptance of much-needed reforms. The Labor History courses may have since 5.