Top 5 Classes at Notre Dame for Women’s History Month

As an American studies major, I’ve gotten to take many classes that employ gender as one lens for understanding the American experience. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, here are my 5 favorite classes that explore gender!

  1. 1. The History of American Feminist Thought

    girls just wanna have fundamental rights sign

    This course is a broad survey of feminist history, covering everything from Abigail Adams’s plea to “remember the Ladies,” Seneca Falls, conscious-raising and more. The course is housed under the Department of History, so it really focuses on analyzing primary and secondary sources to learn more about these important events and figures. 

    Since women are often left out of historical narratives, it was really exciting to spend an entire semester studying the ever-changing role of feminist thought in the United States. Professor Emily Remus teaches this course, and she did an amazing job of highlighting the contradictions of the women’s movement (especially with regards to race and class) alongside its aspirations.

  2. 2. Data Feminism

    computer with code

    This class, taught by Professor Katherine Walden, was cross listed in American studies and data science. We centered much of our class discussion around Data Feminism, a book by Professors Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein. They bring the principles and practices of intersectional feminism to conversations about data and power. I HIGHLY recommend the class and the book, especially if you are interested in the digital humanities or data science!

    This is one of my favorite courses that I’ve taken at Notre Dame. It really made me consider how the perception of data science as “neutral” can dismiss its role in racial and gender hierarchies, how minoritized groups have utilized data to illuminate their experiences and even how we classify certain types of information as data in the first place.

    Despite having no prior coding experience, by the end of the course, I was creating data visualizations in RStudio and really enjoying it! 

  3. 3. Civil Rights in America

    racism is a pandemic protest sign

    Professor Peter Cajka in the Department of American Studies teaches this class that explores the history of racial justice movements in the United States. Though this course isn’t specifically focused on gender, I really enjoyed learning about important women who fought for racial equality, like Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash.

    One book we read that delved into gender was At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistanceー A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. The book, although graphic and difficult to read at times, powerfully highlighted the experiences of oppression that Black women face along the axes of race, gender and class.

  4. 4. Witnessing the Sixties

    March on Washington

    This is another amazing course from Professor Cajka! The class touches on different aspects of identity (race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and more) and how they influenced the movements of the 1960s. We read important documents from the era, such as Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and the demands of the 1968 Miss America protest, which allowed us to understand shifting ideas of gender in an explosive decade.

  5. 5. Native American Literature

    books on bookstore shelf

    Professor Robert Walls incorporated many pieces of literature written by Indigenous women in this course. One such work is Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine, which highlights the experiences of Native women across multiple generations. We also read poetry from the likes of Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Leslie Marmon Silko. Although the course was focused on literature, we also learned about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis.

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