Who are the girls that helped build America?
Conventional history books shed little light on the influence and impact of girls’ contributions to society and culture. This oversight is challenged by Girl Museum and their team, who give voices to the most neglected, yet profoundly impactful, historical narratives of American history: young girls.
Exploring American Girls’ History through 50 Historic Treasures showcases girls and their experiences through the lens of place and material culture. Discover how the objects and sites that girls left behind tell stories about America that you have never heard before. Readers will journey from the first peoples who called the continent home, to 21st century struggles for civil rights, becoming immersed in stories that show how the local impacts the global and vice versa, as told by the girls who built America. Their stories, dreams, struggles, and triumphs are the centerpiece of the nation’s story as never before, helping to define both the struggle and meaning of being “American.”
This full-color book is a must-read for those who yearn for more balanced representation in historic narratives, as well as an inspiration to young people, showing them that everyone makes history. It includes color photographs of all the treasured objects explored.
Ashley E. Remer is the founder and Head Girl of Girl Museum—the first and only museum in the world dedicated to celebrating girlhood. She holds an MA in the History and Criticism of Art from the University of Auckland. For over two decades, Ashley has worked as an art historian, curator, writer, and editor internationally. She has collaborated with artists, NGOs, scholars, educators, and girls across the globe showcasing girl culture to raise awareness and promote social change. Her research focuses on girlhood in various local and global contexts. She is currently working on her PhD at the Australian National University and is the co-chair of the Girls’ History and Culture Network with the Society for the History of Children and Youth (SHCY).
Tiffany R. Isselhardt serves as Girl Museum’s Program Developer, where she oversees exhibitions, podcasts, community outreach, and social media. She holds a Master’s in Public History from Appalachian State University, and has worked with the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, Blowing Rock Art and History Museum, Theodore Roosevelt Center, Museum Hack, and the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University. Her research focuses on uncovering the hidden history of girls in order to advocate for gender equality, and how museums can better interpret and provide programming inclusive of girls’ unique history and culture. She has presented on girlhood at several conferences, including the International Girl Studies Association and the National Council on Public History, and enjoys working at the intersections of history, material culture, and girl studies.
List of Figures
Preface: Why Girls?
Introduction: Finding Girls in American History
9500 BCE to 1590s CE – In Search of ‘Home’
1600 to 1760s – Her and Me: Otherness in the New World
1770s to 1840s – Becoming “American”
1850s to 1860s – Reckoning
1870s to 1910s – Hope
1870s to 1910s – Strife
1910s to 1940s – Becoming “Modern” American Girls
1940s to 1950s – Voices
1960s to 1970s – Revolutions
1980s to Present – Girl Power
Afterword: The Future of American Girlhood
About the Authors
The latest in the Exploring American Historic Treasures series spotlights girls and young women. While “treasures” may conjure up images of crown jewels, the focus here is on day-to-day objects, homes, and occasionally the bones of the girls themselves. Photos set the stage for stories about lives of girls ranging from care of the dead in 9500 BCE to activist letters in 2016. Some items, such as an embroidered sampler, a pledge card, or an early sanitary puff, remind us that girls and women created art, worked, and lived varied lives throughout history. Others are tied to specific hardships and suffering, such as a bill of sale for a Black girl or a letter from a Japanese-American girl in a California internment camp. Others still celebrate achievements, sharing stories of Sacajawea and Dominique Dawes. Fictional girls, like Barbie or Judy Blume’s Margaret, are highlighted for their effect on girls and culture. The authors faced an incredible challenge in choosing only 50 entries and have succeeded in showcasing a vast range of the American experience of girlhood.
Meticulously researched and captivating, Exploring American Girlhood through 50 Historic Treasures illustrates and elevates the cultural impact and historical legacies of girls through art, stories, and artifacts. This book showcases girls’ contributions, resilience, courage, and agency in a way that will give readers a new respect for girls – and empower girls to assert their vital position in society.
Exploring American Girlhood in 50 Historic Treasures is an exceptional book that will spark curiosity, inspire further learning, and set readers on a path to ensuring that girls - past, present, and future - are recognized for their momentous contributions to change.
Remer and Isselhardt bring together a fascinating collection of historic sites, archaeological evidence, artifacts, literature, and music to tell the rich and complex story of girlhood in America. Readers will enjoy the stories of familiar treasures they may recognize from their own childhood while being challenged to consider their lives against the sweeping backdrop of millenia of girl culture in North America. This groundbreaking book gives voice to American girls from diverse backgrounds and epochs, restoring historical agency to these traditionally marginalized groups.