Jennifer Helgren teaches courses in US History, Women’s History, and Digital History.
History classes open our ideas to new possibilities and alternate stories. As Linda Kerber and Jane Sheron DeHart write in the introduction to Women’s America, “[One] consequence of women’s educational deprivation was their ignorance of history and, therefore, their lack of an intimate acquaintance with other historical actors-male or female-who had faced challenges that in some way resembled their own. Lacking a history of their own, they had few models–heroes to emulate or strategies to adopt. … Marginality in the past thus confirmed and reinforced marginality in the present.”
My classes examine the production of history–the construction of the past through interpretation and its political implications. My students pour over primary sources, visit the archives, and even conduct oral history interviews to chart their family and community histories. In addition, film, novels, music, and debate engage students beyond the textbook. Especially in the public history classes, we learn how history is preserved (from archival techniques to the politics of acquiring historic status for sites) and analyze how local and national history is conveyed to the public through museums, national and state parks, film and television, and electronic media.