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Mary Ritter Beard

Mary Ritter Beard

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Mary Ritter, the daughter of Eli Ritter, a lawyer, and Narcissa Lockward, a schoolteacher, was born in Indianapolis in 1876. While at DePauw University she met Charles Beard. After their marriage in 1900 the couple moved to England where Beard continued his studies at Oxford University.

The Beards lived in Oxford and Manchester, where they became close friends of Emmeline Pankhurst and her two daughters, Christabel Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst. At the time the women were members of the socialist reform group, the Independent Labour Party. They were also active in the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), but later formed the more militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).

The couple returned to the United States in 1904 to continue graduate studies at Columbia University. Inspired by the work of the Pankhursts and the Independent Labour Party, Mary became involved in the struggle for women's suffrage and social reform.

In 1907 Beard began working for the Women's Trade Union League, an organization that was attempting to educate women about the advantages of trade union membership. The organization also supported women's demands for better working conditions and tried to raise awareness about the exploitation of women workers. Other leading figures in the organization included Jane Addams, Margaret Robins, Mary McDowell, Margaret Haley, Helen Marot, Agnes Nestor, Florence Kelley and Sophonisba Breckinridge.

Beard also joined the American Woman Suffrage Association and in 1910 became editor of its New York journal, the Women Voter. Beard was able to persuade a large number of talented writers and artists to contribute to the journal including Ida Proper, John Sloan, Mary Wilson Preston, James Montgomery Flagg, Robert Minor, Clarence Batchelor, Cornelia Barnes and Boardman Robinson.

Disillusioned with the failure of the American Woman Suffrage Association to achieve the vote for women, Beard joined in 1913 with Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Mabel Vernon, Olympia Brown, Belle LaFollette, Helen Keller, Maria Montessori, Dorothy Day and Crystal Eastman to form the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS). It was decided that the CUWS should employ the militant methods used by Emmeline Pankhurst and the Women's Social and Political Union in Britain. This included organizing huge demonstrations and the daily picketing of the White House. Over the next couple of years the police arrested nearly 500 women for loitering and 168 were jailed for "obstructing traffic".

Beard spent much of her time writing and in 1915 published Woman's Work in the Municipalities. This was followed by A Short History of the Labor Movement (1920). Working with Charles Beard, she wrote a two volume history of the United States, The Rise of American Civilization (1927). This was followed by America in Midpassage (1939) and The American Spirit (1942). The couple also collaborated on A Basic History of the United States (1944).

Mary and Charles Beard were proponents of what became known as the New History. They challenged the primacy of military and political explanations of the past by examining economic and social factors in more detail. In Beard's books she demonstrated the central role that women had played in history. This was reflected in her book On Understanding Women (1931) and America Through Women's Eyes (1933), a collection of accounts by women who had played an integral part in the development of America's history.

In On Understanding Women she highlighted a problem that faced feminist historians. "Women have been engaged in a continuous contest to defend their arts and crafts, to win the right to use their minds and to train them, to obtain openings for their talents and to earn a livelihood, to break through legal restraints on their unfolding powers. In their quest for rights women have naturally placed emphasis on their wrongs, rather than their achievements and possessions, and have retold history as a story of their long Martyrdom. Feminists have been prone to prize and assume the traditions of those with whom they had waged such a long, and in places bitter conflict. In doing so, they have participated in a distortion of history and a disturbance of the balanced conceptual thought which gives harmony and power to life."

Beard was a strong supporter of women's education and in 1934 published A Changing Political Economy as it Affects Women, which was a detailed syllabus for a women's studies course. However, despite a great deal of campaigning, she was unable to persuade any college or university to adopt what would have been America's first women's studies course.

In 1935 Beard joined with the veteran peace campaigner, Rosika Schwimmer, to create the World Centre for Women's Archives. The main objective for the centre was to preserve the records of women's contributions to history. They chose the motto for the archive: "No documents, no history." The venture was brought to an end in 1940 as a result of her failure to raise enough funds to pay for the centre.

Beard's next project was to analyze how the Encyclopaedia Britannica had systematically excluded the role of women. For example, she claimed that the entry for the 'American Frontier' was "extremely narrow and bigoted" and ignored "women's civilizing role" and the "co-operative enterprises which elevated the individualistic will to social prowess". Beard also criticised the omissions of subjects such as Hull House from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. She worked for 18 months on a multi-disciplinary critique of the information in the encyclopaedia, but her report, A Study of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in Relation to its Treatment of Women, was ignored by the company.

Beard was an active member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Although a strong anti-fascist, Mary, like her husband, Charles Beard, was opposed to the United States involvement in the Second World War.

Beard's most important book Woman as Force in History: A Study of Traditions and Realties was published in 1946. In the book she attacked historians and social scientists for the misuse of the generic man and for their omissions and distortions of the record of women. She pointed out that women of the ruling class often wielded great power, and women suffered as much or more from from their class position as from their gender. It was with the development of capitalism, she argued, that "discrimination on account of sex, regardless of class, became pervasive."

This was followed by The Force of Women in Japanese History (1953). After the death of Charles Beard she published the book, The Making of Charles Beard (1955).

Mary Ritter Beard died in August, 1958.

If this new evaluation of woman's work in civilization seems to err on the side of women, we shall be satisfied if it helps to bring about a re-evaluation which shall include women not in an incidental way but as people of flesh and blood and brain - feeling, seeing, judging and directing, equally with men, all the great social forces which mold character and determine general comfort, well-being and happiness.

Women have been engaged in a continuous contest to defend their arts and crafts, to win the right to use their minds and to train them, to obtain openings for their talents and to earn a livelihood, to break through legal restraints on their unfolding powers. In their quest for rights women have naturally placed emphasis on their wrongs, rather than their achievements and possessions, and have retold history as a story of their long Martyrdom.

Feminists have been prone to prize and assume the traditions of those with whom they had waged such a long, and in places bitter conflict. In doing so, they have participated in a distortion of history and a disturbance of the balanced conceptual thought which gives harmony and power to life.

Those who sit at the feast will continue to enjoy themselves even though the veil that separates them from the world of toiling reality below has been lifted by mass revolts and critics.

Your project it has my fullest sympathy. I think it imperative to put this material together. No doubt we have many of the same reasons for seeing it that way but it does me great good to learn that one so competent as you stands ready to assume the task. I shall be only too happy to tell you how I visualize the thing, parts of which I have longed to tackle myself but have not done and see no way to do myself. I look forward with the keenest enjoyment to meeting you - a privilege far too long denied me.

Your familiarity with Susan B. Anthony's passion for preserving her own and Mrs. Stanton's archives - meaning more than the personal interest of course - will make you receptive of course to this broad plan for a great international feminist archive which Rosika Schwimmer has drawn up. I don't know where you stand on the issue of war and peace but I entertain, as one of my feminist props, the belief that time and again in history women have had to take over men's bankrupt societies and that the Schwimmer-Addams' and other feminists' attempts to take charge of the western world in 1915 was a great outburst of the same sort of responsibility.

All the correspondence and the interviewing connected with the drive for peace are in Mme. Schwimmer's keeping. But she is getting on in years and is by no means well. Nor can she afford to house this archive any longer. It is good feminist material and should not be lost by burning or by boxing for no one to read.

What is even more on my mind in championing the enclosed plan is some way to recapture the imaginative zest of women for public life. It is perilous for society if they retreat to private interests to the exclusion of interests in the common life represented by the State.

Women have been active, assertive, competent contributors to their societies, but when women believe they are passive, and without influence, their collective strength is undermined. The very idea of women's oppression takes hold of women's minds and oppresses them. But women could be freed from the ideological bondage by discovering their own powerful creative history and using the knowledge to create new social relations.

As for my being free now, I have had as much freedom all along as I really cared for. I loved sitting at home with my darling every night and being at his side all the days. Outsiders and even you and Miriam (William's sister) because of your comparative youth could not fully comprehend our mutual happiness in working, jabbering, and getting such exercise as we took in our simple ways. This is an absolute truth.

Early in my undergraduate studies I had first read Mary Beard's Woman as Force in History. Somehow, I was able to connect with her central idea, that women have always been active and at the centre of history. I was struck as by a sudden illumination, by the simplicity and truth of her insight. Mary Beard had arrived at that conviction the same way I had, by herself having been an engaged participant in women's work in society.

Mary Beard's basic thesis and what became the focus of her life's work is the assertion that women have always been a very real, although neglected, force in society. Without denying that women had legitimate grievances, Beard maintained that feminist protest from the eighteenth century to the twentieth had devalued women's history by expounding women's subordination. The myth that women were or are only a subject and oppressed sex is not only wrong, she argued, but it is counterproductive because as women accept that designation of themselves and their pasts, their collective strength is undermined. The very notion of oppression imprisons women's minds and oppresses them. She believed women could only be freed from that ideological bondage by discovering their own powerful, creative history and using that knowledge to create new social relations. Beard saw her job, her intellectual work, as political, designed to reach all women and persuade them of the power of their pasts and, moreover, of their futures.

Women are made to seem invisible, she said, not simply because history has been written by evil men or because women have, in fact, been invisible but because these men, as well as most of the professional women and radical feminists of her day, focused their concern on those areas of the community in which men predominate. Beard placed herself in opposition to the militant feminists of her time who called for absolute equality. Such simple-minded slogans, she insisted, deny the power and force of the total community of women, deny the existence and value of a distinct female culture.

Teaching Women About Themselves

A WOMAN MAKING HISTORY Mary Ritter Beard Through Her Letters. Edited by Nancy F. Cott. Illustrated. 378 pp. New Haven: Yale University Press. $35.

Nancy F. Cott, the editor of this striking collection of letters, is well known for selecting book titles that can be read in more than one way. In her first monograph, "The Bonds of Womanhood" (1977), "bonds" meant both "ties" and "shackles" in her second, "The Grounding of Modern Feminism" (1988), "grounding" simultaneously implied "basis" and "collapse." So, too, with "A Woman Making History: Mary Ritter Beard Through Her Letters": was Mary Ritter Beard making history, or was she making history? a reader might ask before opening its pages. As in Ms. Cott's other works, the answer is both.

Mary Ritter Beard (1876-1958) has been recognized for years as an important foremother of contemporary women's history, but little has been known about her apart from her published works. She wrote many books, such as "The Rise of American Civilization" and "America in Midpassage," with her more famous husband, the historian Charles A. Beard, and she also wrote and edited a number of volumes -- most of them on women -- by herself. At her husband's request, after his death in 1948 she destroyed their personal papers, for both of them preferred to have their reputations rest on their public writings. The stunning irony of that act is revealed by this correspondence, which details at considerable length Beard's path-breaking leadership in the late 1930's in an effort to found the World Center for Women's Archives. Although that project ended in failure, the manuscript-collecting process it began served as a stimulus for the creation of both the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College and the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, both now among the pre-eminent repositories in the country for women's papers.

Beard's letters survived in the collections of her acquaintances, and Ms. Cott, who teaches American studies and history at Yale University, has combed a number of archives to produce this fascinating volume of selected correspondence spanning much of Beard's adult life, from 1912 to 1955. As a younger woman Beard was an activist, joining the Congressional Union (the more militant wing of the suffrage movement) and working avidly on behalf of woman suffrage at both the state and national levels through the 1910's. Yet when her former allies, then known as the National Woman's Party, proposed an equal rights amendment in the 1920's, Beard refused to support it. "I am not against equality of course," she explained in 1934. "I simply regard it as inadequate today. Men are so incompetent and ridiculous when not base that I can't stomach the idea of equality as the ultimate goal any longer."

As the years passed, Beard focused more intensively on writing history that included women. She and her husband produced textbooks for high school students, as well as books intended for an adult audience. Her aim, she told a friend, was "to draw women into the common stream of American history." She did that not only in the jointly written works but also through her own scholarship: "On Understanding Women" (1931) "America Through Women's Eyes," a collection of documents (1933) and, most important, "Woman as Force in History" (1946).

In all these books Beard's contention was that "if women knew their own history down through time, they would realize their own historic leadership as they do not know it today. . . . I believe their leadership to have been exerted always in every aspect of life." Beard's primary target was what she termed the "feminist" interpretation of women's history, which to her mind overemphasized women's subjection to men's tyranny. "The effect has been to make woman a sex lost to history and to weaken a segment of society into infantile imitation, to the injury of all," she wrote in 1944.

Beard's views at times have a curiously misogynistic flavor she was impatient with her female contemporaries who "cringe [ d ] before nasty husbands" or were "too indolent" or too deferential to men to assert themselves. In her desire to demonstrate the importance of women in history (in both their public and private capacities), she lost sight of the many barriers that had prevented women from acting as she thought best, and she attributed women's lack of progress to their own failures of will.

Yet though she thereby blamed the victim in ways scholars today try to avoid, she nevertheless was one of the first historians to place women at the center of her inquiry and to emphasize their formative role in the shaping of civilization. And, like feminist scholars today, she did not distinguish between her historical interests and her political commitments. "Reverencing our pioneers is important," she observed in 1935. "But work in our own time for our own time is equally vital, is it not?"

Women's History Month with Mary Ritter Beard

Portrait of Mary Ritter Beard courtesy of the Library of Congress

We love a library/archives connection and we found one in Mary Ritter Beard. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1876, Beard (1876-1958) was a historian, author, suffragist, and women’s history archivist.

In 1893, sixteen year-old Mary Ritter enrolled at DePauw University where she earned a bachelor of philosophy degree and met Charles Austin Beard, who she would later marry (and with whom she would co-author a number of books).

By 1902, the Beards (and their first child) had settled in New Yok City, where they both enrolled as graduate students in the School of Political Science at Columbia University. After two years, Mary ceased her studies to focus on the women’s suffrage movement. She was active in the New York Women’s Trade Union League, the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, the New York City Suffrage Party, and the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (later the National Woman’s Party), where she edited the weekly magazine, The Suffragist.

In the course of this work, Beard worked closely with suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Barns, organized women’s suffrage parades and rallies, pushed for intersectionality in the suffrage movement, testified before Congress in 1914, and led a delegation to Washington, D.C. in 1917 in support of suffrage activists picketing the White House.

Beard authored a number of works on history with her husband. Her main interests as a solo author were women’s rights, women’s history, and social reforms for women.

Middlebury has a first edition copy of On Understanding Women (1931), Beard’s most well-known work on women’s history.

Cover of On Understanding Women, 1931

On Understanding Women by Mary Ritter Beard, 1931

What about the archives, you ask? Well, Mary Ritter Beard established the World Center for Women’s Archives ( WCWA ) in 1935. Beard served as the Center’s director for five years and worked to all manners of materials produced by women or related to women’s history.

After amassing a number of high-profile supporters - Georgia O’K eefe, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frances Perkins, to name a few - the WCWA was officially launched in New York City two years later in 1937. After a series of funding and leadership difficulties, Beard resigned from her position in 1940 and the WCWA closed shortly after. Beard’s work as a women’s history archivist encouraged the development and growth of women’s history collections at institutions like Radcliffe and Smith colleges.

Woman as Force in History: A Study in Traditions and Realities

Mary Ritter Beard (August 5, 1876, Indianapolis, Indiana – August 14, 1958) was an American historian and archivist, who played an important role in the women&aposs suffrage movement and was a lifelong advocate of social justice through educational and activist roles in both the labor and woman&aposs rights movements. She wrote several books on women&aposs role in history i Full name of historian Mary R. Beard

Mary Ritter Beard (August 5, 1876, Indianapolis, Indiana – August 14, 1958) was an American historian and archivist, who played an important role in the women's suffrage movement and was a lifelong advocate of social justice through educational and activist roles in both the labor and woman's rights movements. She wrote several books on women's role in history including On Understanding Women (1931), (Ed.) America Through Women's Eyes (1933) and Woman As Force In History: A Study in Traditions and Realities (1946). In addition, she collaborated with her husband, eminent historian Charles Austin Beard on several distinguished works, most notably The Rise of American Civilization (1927). . more

History of the United States, Vol. VI

LibriVox recording of History of the United States, vol.VI, by Charles A. Beard and Mary Ritter Beard.

Charles Beard was the most influential American historian of the early 20th century. He published hundreds of monographs, textbooks and interpretive studies in both history and political science. He graduated from DePauw University in 1898, where he met and eventually married Mary Ritter Beard, one of the founders of the first greek-letter society for women, Kappa Alpha Theta. Many of his books were written in collaboration with his wife, whose own interests lay in feminism and the labor union movement.

In 1921, Charles and Mary Beard published their textbook: History of the United States. A contemporaneous review stated: The authors… assume enough maturity in…students to justify a topical rather than a chronological treatment. They have dealt with movements, have sketched large backgrounds, have traced causes, and have discussed the interrelation of social and economic forces and politics. All this has been directed to the large purpose of helping the student to understand American today in all its national characteristics and as part of world civilization as well. The literary style is exceptionally clear and crisp, and the whole approach…is thought producing. As a textbook or handbook for the average citizen it ranks with very best.


For further information, including links to online text, reader information, RSS feeds, CD cover or other formats (if available), please go to the LibriVox catalog page for this recording.

Making Women's History : The Essential Mary Ritter Beard

Today, Mary Ritter Beard is best remembered for her collaborative work with her husband, the historian Charles Beard, on such volumes as The Making of American Civilization. Her own pioneering work is, like the women's history she championed, under appreciated, despite the fact that it influences the work of such well-known contemporary historians as Gerda Lerner, laid fundamental groundwork for the entire field of women's studies, and has much to add to contemporary feminist debates regarding equality and difference, agency and victimization, and the conflicts between middle-class and working-class women.

Ann J. Lane's essential--and accessible--selection includes full headnotes, a 70-page critical and biographical essay, and a new preface that assesses Beard's legacy and the continuing relevance of her work. Making Women's History restores Beard to her well-deserved place at the core of early-twentieth-century feminist history and thought.

Making Women's History: The Essential Mary Ritter Beard

Mary Ritter Beard can be considered the “founding mother” of the field of American women’s history. A visionary thinker, Beard devoted her life to reconstructing a history that had remained largely undocumented and unacknowledged before she began her groundbreaking work. She held a firm conviction that women had a far greater impact on history than male historians had ever Mary Ritter Beard can be considered the “founding mother” of the field of American women’s history. A visionary thinker, Beard devoted her life to reconstructing a history that had remained largely undocumented and unacknowledged before she began her groundbreaking work. She held a firm conviction that women had a far greater impact on history than male historians had ever recognized, and that a knowledge of their own history would enable women to realize their full potential as active members of society and agents of social change.

Today, Mary Ritter Beard is best remembered for her collaborative work with her husband, the historian Charles Beard, on such volumes as The Making of American Civilization. Her own pioneering work is, like the women’s history she championed, under appreciated, despite the fact that it influences the work of such well-known contemporary historians as Gerda Lerner, laid fundamental groundwork for the entire field of women’s studies, and has much to add to contemporary feminist debates regarding equality and difference, agency and victimization, and the conflicts between middle-class and working-class women.

Ann J. Lane’s essential—and accessible—selection includes full headnotes, a 70-page critical and biographical essay, and a new preface that assesses Beard’s legacy and the continuing relevance of her work. Making Women's History restores Beard to her well-deserved place at the core of early-twentieth-century feminist history and thought. . more


Youth Edit

Charles Beard was born in the Indiana Corn Belt in 1874. His father was a farmer, contractor, part-time banker, and real-estate speculator. [8] In his youth, Charles worked on the family farm and attended a local Quaker school, Spiceland Academy. He was expelled from the school for unclear reasons but graduated from the public Knightstown High School in 1891. For the next few years, the brothers managed a local newspaper. Their editorial position, like their father's, was conservative. They supported the Republican Party and favored prohibition, a cause for which Charles lectured in later years. Beard attended DePauw University, a nearby Methodist college, and graduated in 1898. He edited the college newspaper and was active in debate. [9] [10] [11]

Beard married his classmate Mary Ritter in 1900. As a historian, her research interests lay in feminism and the labor union movement (Woman as a Force in History, 1946). They collaborated on many textbooks. [12]

Oxford University Edit

Beard went to England in 1899 for graduate studies at Oxford University under Frederick York Powell. He collaborated with Walter Vrooman in founding Ruskin Hall, a school meant to be accessible to the workingman. In exchange for reduced tuition, students worked in the school's various businesses. Beard taught for the first time at Ruskin Hall and lectured to workers in industrial towns to promote Ruskin Hall and to encourage enrollment in correspondence courses. [13]

Columbia University Edit

The Beards returned to the United States in 1902, where Charles pursued graduate work in history at Columbia University. He received his doctorate in 1904 and immediately joined the faculty as a lecturer. To provide his students with reading materials that were hard to acquire, he compiled a large collection of essays and excerpts in a single volume: An Introduction to the English Historians (1906). [14] That sort of compendium would be very common in later decades but was an innovation at the time.

An extraordinarily active author of scholarly books, textbooks, and articles for the political magazines, Beard saw his career flourish. He moved from the history department to the department of public law and then to a new chair in politics and government. He also regularly taught a course in American history at Barnard College. In addition to teaching, he coached the debate team and wrote about public affairs, especially municipal reform. [9]

Economic Interpretation Edit

Among the many works that he published during his years at Columbia, the most controversial was An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913), an interpretation of how the economic interests of the members of the Constitutional Convention affected their votes. He emphasized the polarity between agrarians and business interests. [15] Academics and politicians denounced the book, but it was well respected by scholars until challenged in the 1950s. [16]

Resignation during First World War Edit

Beard strongly supported American participation in the First World War. [17]

He resigned from Columbia University on October 8, 1917, charging that "the University is really under the control of a small and active group of trustees who have no standing in the world of education, who are reactionary and visionless in politics, narrow and medieval in religion. I am convinced that while I remain in the pay of the Trustees of Columbia University I cannot do effectively my part in sustaining public opinion in support of the just war on the German Empire." [18] [19] After a series of faculty departures from Columbia in disputes about academic freedom, his friend James Harvey Robinson also resigned from Columbia in May 1919 to become one of the founders of the New School for Social Research and serve as its first director.

Independent scholar Edit

Following his departure from Columbia, Beard never again sought a permanent academic appointment. Living on lucrative royalties from textbooks and other bestsellers, the couple operated a dairy farm in rural Connecticut that attracted many academic visitors.

The Beards were active in helping to found the New School for Social Research, or The New School, in Greenwich Village, New York City, where the faculty would control its own membership. Enlarging upon his interest in urban affairs, he toured Japan and produced a volume of recommendations for the reconstruction of Tokyo after the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. [20] His financial independence was secured by The Rise of American Civilization (1927), and its two sequels, America in Midpassage (1939), and The American Spirit (1943), all of which written with his wife, Mary.

Beard had parallel careers as an historian and political scientist. He was active in the American Political Science Association and was elected as its president in 1926. [21] He was also a member of the American Historical Association and served as its president in 1933. [22] In political science, he was best known for his textbooks, his studies of the Constitution, his creation of bureaus of municipal research, and his studies of public administration in cities.

Beard also taught history at the Brookwood Labor College. [23]

Progressivism Edit

Beard was a leading liberal supporter of the New Deal and an intellectual leader in the Progressive movement. [17] However, Beard was very critical of the majoritarian vision of democracy that most Progressive leaders endorsed. In fact, "Beard refrained from endorsing direct democracy measures as a blueprint for reform, focusing instead on streamlining the American system of government to incorporate in a transparent fashion, both political parties and interest groups." [24]

Non-interventionism Edit

Beard opposed President Franklin Roosevelt's foreign policy. Consistent with Beard's Quaker roots, he became one of the leading proponents of non-interventionism and sought to avoid American involvement in Europe's wars. He promoted "American Continentalism" as an alternative and argued that the United States had no vital interests at stake in Europe and that a foreign war could lead to domestic dictatorship. He opposed American participation in World War II. [17]

He continued to press that position after World War II. Beard's last two books were American Foreign Policy in the Making: 1932–1940 (1946) and President Roosevelt and the Coming of War (1948). Beard blamed Roosevelt for lying to the American people to trick them into war, which some historians and political scientists have disputed. [25]

Beard had been criticized as an isolationist because of his views, [26] but Beard in his writings referred to interventionists as isolationist. [27] The views that he espoused in the final decade of his life were disputed by many contemporary historians and political scientists. However, some of the arguments in his President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War influenced "Wisconsin school" and New Left historians in the 1960s, such as William Appleman Williams, Gabriel Kolko, and James Weinstein. On the right, Beard's foreign policy views have become popular with "paleoconservatives" such as Pat Buchanan. Certain elements of his views, especially his advocacy of a non-interventionist foreign policy, have enjoyed a minor revival among a few scholars of liberty since 2001. For example, Andrew Bacevich, a diplomatic historian at Boston University, has cited Beardian skepticism towards armed overseas intervention as a starting point for a critique of US foreign policy after the Cold War in his American Empire (2004).

Death Edit

Beard died in New Haven, Connecticut, on September 1, 1948. He was interred in Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York, [28] joined by his wife, Mary, a decade later.

Progressive historiography Edit

By the 1950s, Beard's economic interpretation of history had fallen out of favor only a few prominent historians held to his view of class conflict as a primary driver in American history, such as Howard K. Beale and C. Vann Woodward. Still, as a leader of the "progressive historians," or "progressive historiography," Beard introduced themes of economic self-interest and economic conflict regarding the adoption of the Constitution and the transformations caused by the Civil War. Thus, he emphasized the long-term conflict among industrialists in the Northeast, farmers in the Midwest, and planters in the South, whom he saw as the cause of the Civil War. His study of the financial interests of the drafters of the United States Constitution (An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution) seemed radical in 1913 since he proposed that it was a product of economically-determinist landholding Founding Fathers. He saw ideology as a product of economic interests. [29]

Constitution Edit

The historian Carl L. Becker's History of Political Parties in the Province of New York, 1760–1776 (1909) formulated the Progressive interpretation of the American Revolution. He said that there were two revolutions: one against Britain to obtain home rule and the other to determine who should rule at home. Beard expanded upon Becker's thesis, in terms of class conflict, in An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (1913) and An Economic Interpretation of Jeffersonian Democracy (1915). To Beard, the Constitution was a counter-revolution set up by rich bondholders ("personalty" since bonds were "personal property"), against the farmers and planters ("realty" since land was "real property"). Beard argued the Constitution was designed to reverse the radical democratic tendencies unleashed by the Revolution among the common people, especially farmers and debtors. In 1800, according to Beard, the farmers and debtors, led by plantation slaveowners, overthrew the capitalists and established Jeffersonian democracy. Other historians supported the class conflict interpretation by noting the states confiscated great semifeudal landholdings of loyalists and gave them out in small parcels to ordinary farmers. Conservatives, such as William Howard Taft, were shocked at the Progressive interpretation because it seemed to belittle the Constitution. [30] Many scholars, however, eventually adopted Beard's thesis and by 1950, it had become the standard interpretation of the era.

In about 1950, however, historians started to argue that the progressive interpretation was factually incorrect because the voters had not really been polarized along two economic lines. The historians were led by Charles A. Barker, Philip Crowl, Richard P. McCormick, William Pool, Robert Thomas, John Munroe, Robert E. Brown and B. Kathryn Brown, and especially Forrest McDonald. [31]

McDonald's We The People: The Economic Origins of the Constitution (1958) argued that Beard had misinterpreted the economic interests involved in writing the Constitution. Instead of two conflicting interests, landed and mercantile, McDonald identified some three-dozen identifiable economic interests operating at cross purposes, which forced the delegates to bargain. [32]

Evaluating the historiographical debate, Peter Novick concluded: "By the early 1960s it was generally accepted within the historical profession that. Beard's Progressive version of the. framing of the Constitution had been decisively refuted. American historians came to see. the framers of the Constitution, rather than having self-interested motives, were led by concern for political unity, national economic development, and diplomatic security." [33] Ellen Nore, Beard's biographer, concludes that his interpretation of the Constitution collapsed because of more recent and sophisticated analysis. [34]

In a strong sense, that view simply involved a reaffirmation of the position that Beard had always criticized by saying that parties were prone to switch rhetorical ideals when their interest dictated. [35]

Beard's economic determinism was largely replaced by the intellectual history approach, which stressed the power of ideas, especially republicanism, in stimulating the Revolution. [36] However, the legacy of examining the economic interests of American historical actors can still be found in the 21st century. Recently, in To Form a More Perfect Union: A New Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution (2003), Robert A. McGuire, relying on a sophisticated statistical analysis, argues that Beard's basic thesis regarding the impact of economic interests in the making of the Constitution is not far from the mark. [37]

Civil War and Reconstruction Edit

Beard's interpretation of the Civil War was highly influential among historians and the general public from its publication in 1927 to well into the Civil Rights Era of the late 1950s. The Beards downplayed slavery, abolitionism, and issues of morality. They ignored constitutional issues of states' rights and even ignored American nationalism as the force that finally led to victory in the war. Indeed, the ferocious combat itself was passed over as merely an ephemeral event. Charles Ramsdell says the Beards emphasized that the Civil War was caused by economic issues and was not basically about the rights or wrongs of slavery. [38] Thomas J. Pressly says that the Beards fought against the prevailing nationalist interpretation that depicted "a conflict between rival section-nations rooted in social, economic, cultural, and ideological differences." Pressly said that the Beards instead portrayed a "struggle between two economic economies having its origins in divergent material interests." [39] Much more important was the calculus of class conflict. The Beards announced that the Civil War was really a "social cataclysm in which the capitalists, laborers, and farmers of the North and West drove from power in the national government the planting aristocracy of the South." [40] They argued that the events were a second American Revolution. [41]

The Beards were especially interested in the postwar era, as the industrialists of the Northeast and the farmers of the West cashed in on their great victory over the southern aristocracy. Hofstadter paraphrased the Beards as arguing that in victory,

the Northern capitalists were able to impose their economic program, quickly passing a series of measures on tariffs, banking, homesteads, and immigration that guaranteed the success of their plans for economic development. Solicitude for the Freedman had little to do with northern policies. The Fourteenth Amendment, which gave the Negro his citizenship, Beard found significant primarily as a result of a conspiracy of a few legislative draftsman friendly to corporations to use the supposed elevation of the blacks as a cover for a fundamental law giving strong protection to business corporations against regulation by state government. [42]

Dealing with the Reconstruction Era and the Gilded Age, disciples of Beard, such as Howard Beale and C. Vann Woodward, focused on greed and economic causation and emphasized the centrality of corruption. They argued that the rhetoric of equal rights was a smokescreen to hide the true motivation, which was to promote the interests of industrialists in the Northeast. The basic flaw was the assumption that there was a unified business policy. Beard's economic approach was rejected after the 1950s, as conservative scholars who researched specific subgroups discovered deep flaws in Beard's assumption that business men were united on policy. In fact, businessmen were widely divergent on monetary or tariff policy. Pennsylvania businessmen wanted high tariffs, but those in other states did not. The railroads were hurt by the tariffs on steel, which they purchased in large quantities. [43] [44] [45]

“No documents, no history”

Another key contribution to women’s history was her role in establishing and developing the World Center for Women’s Archives (WCWA) — the motto of which became “No documents, No history” — with Rosika Schwimmer in 1935. In her efforts to realize her dream of preserving documentary evidence of women’s history, she called upon an impressive group of women for support: Eleanor Roosevelt, Frances Perkins, Carrie Chapman Catt, Jane Addams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter Harriet Stanton Blatch, Georgia O’Keefe, and more.

The center only existed for five years, but its legacy lived on through the surfacing of many private collections of documents donated by women, found by state volunteers, and identified by the Federal Works Project’s Historical Records Survey increased interest in and promoted exhibitions at the Library of Congress and National Archives and inspired or pushed for collections at Radcliffe College and Smith College, which in turn provoked interest in preserving sources of women’s history in other colleges.

--> Beard, Mary Ritter, 1876-1958

Mary Ritter Beard was born in Indianapolis on 5 August 1876, the third of six children and the elder of two daughters of Narcissa (Lockwood) and Eli Foster Ritter. At sixteen she left home to attend De Pauw University in Asbury, Indiana, where she studied political science, languages, and literature. She graduated in 1897 and taught high school German until 1900 when she married Charles Austin Beard, whom she had met at De Pauw. Mary Beard accompanied her husband to Oxford, and both were active politically as well as academically. Charles helped organize Ruskin Hall, the "free university" aimed at workingmen, and Mary became involved with the British women's suffrage movement. They returned to New York in 1902. Their daughter Miriam was born in 1903. The following year the Beards enrolled at Columbia University, but Mary quit soon after to take care of their child and volunteer for progressive causes.

Following the birth of her son William in 1907, Mary Beard became an organizer for the National Women's Trade Union League. From 1910 to 1912 she edited the suffragist periodical The Woman Voter, and after that worked with the Wage Earner's League. She was a member of the militant faction of the suffrage movement led by Alice Paul from 1913 to 1919, and she worked on several progressive causes. During this period, Charles taught at Columbia University, but he resigned in 1917 in protest of the firing of anti-war faculty. Charles helped establish the New School for Social Research and both Beards helped found the Workers Education Bureau, but by the early 1920, the Beards generally worked outside of academic institutions.

Following her resignation from the National Woman's Party in 1917, Mary Beard devoted her skills and efforts to writing and lecturing, rather than public political activity. Her first book, Woman's Work in Municipalities (1915) and her second, A Short History of the American Labor Movement (1920), focused on social reform and the working class. With Charles, she co-authored The Rise of American Civilization (1927), a groundbreaking text that integrated political, economic, social, and cultural histories with a progressive vision of America's past and distinctive national character. The two collaborated on several books that would become some of the most enduringly significant American history texts, but by herself, Mary pioneered the field of women's history. She was appalled by the omission of women from the historical record, and she wrote about and promoted the recognition of women's achievements in the present day and the past, in the U.S. and internationally. She authored and edited Understanding Women (1931), America Through Women's Eyes (1933), A Changing Political Economy as It Affects Women (1934), and Women as Force in History (1946), among others.

Rather than concentrating on grievances and questions of the subjugation of women, Beard's work promoted women's contributions to the formation of society and brought to light a long-neglected past. To this end in the early 1930s, she collaborated with Hungarian pacifist feminist Rosika Schwimmer to organize the World Center for Women's Archives (WCWA). Beard quoted French historian Fustel de Coulanges for the motto of the WCWA: "No documents, no history," and she envisioned an archive of women's papers and organizational records that would provide a foundation for women's history as an academic field as well as serve as a public good. Beard and Schwimmer raised funds, founded a board of directors, and collected documents from their network of women activists. The WCWA was headquartered in New York but collected on an international level. It was a well-publicized effort, and though the collection specialized in material from the pacifist movement, Beard worked to realize a broader conception for a collection representing the range of women's activities. Factionalism among WCWA supporters, shaky financial support, and an increasingly militaristic atmosphere in the U.S. and abroad forced the dissolution of the WCWA in the early 1940s.

This development was very discouraging to Beard, but fortunately, the WCWA generated momentum for developing institutions of women's history. Beard worked closely with Smith College archivist Margaret Grierson to create the Sophia Smith Collection, one of the world's largest women's history manuscript collections, founded in 1942, and she worked with Harvard historians to create the eventual Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe. These two institutions received many of the WCWA documents, as did several smaller collections. Together, they carried on the WCWA mission, at least partly due to Beard's influence.

Neither of the Beards avoided controversy in their writings or public stands. Though both were well-respected historians, they increasingly drew criticism for their pacifist and progressive politics in the years surrounding World War II. Charles Beard died in 1948, and Mary Ritter Beard died on 14 August 1958. Both Beards have had enduring reputations as incisive historians, and they are recognized for their pioneering work in social history. Mary Beard especially has been celebrated for her work to promote women's history.

Nancy Cott has written about Mary Beard as an activist, historian, and pioneer in the field of women's history in several articles and books, and she edited a volume of Beard's correspondence, A Woman Making History: Mary Beard through Her Letters (1991). Ann Lane's Mary Ritter Beard: A Sourcebook (1977) was edited and re-released in 2000 as Making Women's History: the Essential Mary Beard. Barbara Turoff's biography, Mary Beard as Force in History, was published in 1979.

From the guide to the Mary Ritter Beard Papers MS 13., 1915 - 1958, (Sophia Smith Collection)

Historian Archivist Women's rights activist.

Born Indianapolis, graduated from DePauw University in 1900, and studied at Columbia University, 1902-04. She married historian Charles Beard in 1900 and had a son, William, and daughter, Miriam. Mary Beard was active in labor and suffrage movements in the 1900s-1910 and wrote and co-authored with Charles Beard numerous books and articles on American and women's history. She organized the short-lived World Center For Women's Archives in New York City in the 1930s. Her books include Women As a Force in History and The Force of Women in Japanese History.

From the description of Papers, 1915-1958. (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 36804824

Mary Ritter Beard, feminist and historian, was born on August 5, 1876, the daughter of Narcissa (Lockwood) and Eli Foster Ritter. She met fellow historian Charles Austin Beard while attending DePauw University they were married in 1900.

MRB was concerned with recovering the role of women in history. In the 1930s and early 1940s, she sought to establish a World Center for Women's Archives, but the project failed due to a lack of financial support. For further biographical information, see Notable American Women: the Modern Period (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980).

From the guide to the Papers, 1935-1958, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)


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