Environmental History Scholarship by Women

Dolly Jørgensen's picture

It started innocently enough on Twitter on April 11 when David Fouser (@journeymanhisto) asked: “Say you’re teaching a graduate seminar in #envhist, any spatial or temporal dimensions you wish. What would you (or do you) assign first? Where would you begin a historiographical exploration of environmental history?”

There were three immediate responses that included fairly long lists of readings for a grad seminar. But I (@DollyJorgensen) piped in: “While the books on your mandatory list @markrstoll & the other lists in this thread by @brianleechphd are great, did you guys notice that there are no women on them? This is a problem that we have to fix.”

This prompted a huge number of replies from #twitterstorians with suggestions of books and articles by women that should be taught in our #envhist graduate student courses as “core” texts. As declared by the hashtag #womenalsoknowstuff, women know stuff and yet are often overlooked because of structural biases in academia.

So I decided to compile the suggestions and offer the compilation on H-Environment as works by women to integrate on an environmental history syllabus. Note that this is not an inclusive list of all women publishing environmental history! But they are starting points for better representing the vast array of scholarship by women in the field in our graduate reading courses.

Rebecca Altman (@rebecca_altman), “The Benzene Tree” in The Atlantic

Lisa Brady (@BradyLisaM), War Upon the Land

Karen Brown, Healing the Herds

Kate Brown, Plutopia

Jane Carruthers,  The Krueger National Park

Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

Connie Chiang, Shaping the Shoreline

Conevery Bolton Valencius (@Conevery), The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes

Diana Davis, Resurrecting the Granary of Rome

Carmen Finley, All the Fish in the Sea

Carolyn Finney, Black Faces, White Spaces

Deborah Fitzgerald, Factories in the Field

Courtney Fullilove (@fullilovenotes), Profit of the Earth; “Price of Bread” in Radical History Review

Sabine Höhler, Spaceship Earth in the Environmental Age

Nancy Jacobs, Birders of Africa

Dolly Jørgensen, “Cooperative sanitation” in Technology & Culture

Melanie Kiechle (@MelanieKiechle), Smell Detectives

Whitney Laemmli "A Case in Pointe" in Technology & Culture

Nancy Langston (@nelangst), Toxic Bodies 

Melissa Leach and Robin Mearns, eds., The Lie of the Land

Max Liboiron (@MaxLiboiron), “Redefining Pollution and Action” in Journal of Material Culture

Tina Loo (@LooTina), States of Nature

Keiko Mattesson, Forests in Revolutionary France

Catherine McNeur (@CatherineMcNeur), Taming Manhattan

Carolyn Merchant, Autonomous Nature; Rediscovering Eden

Elinor Melville, A Plague of Sheep

Laurie Mercier, Anaconda

Michelle Murphy, Sick Building Syndrome

Robin Nagle (@rznagle), Picking Up

Linda Nash, Inescapable Ecologies

Joy Parr, Sensing Changes

Monica Perales, Smeltertown

Jenny Price, Flight Maps

Sara Pritchard (@SaraBPritchard), Confluence; “The Trouble with Darkness” in Environmental History 

Susanna Rankin Bohme, Toxic Injustice

Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate

Libby Robin (@LibbydeQ), “Environmental humanities and climate change” in WIREs Climate Change

Myrna Santiago, Ecology of Oil

Sigrid Schmalzer, Red Revolution, Green Revolution

Kate Showers, Imperial Gullies

Kendra Smith-Howard, Making Modern Milk

Susan Strasser, Waste & Want

Ellen Stroud (@StroudEllen) "Dead Bodies in Harlem" in Nature of Cities

Anna Tsing, Friction; Mushroom at the End of the World

Ann Vileisis, “Are tomatoes natural?” in Illusory Boundary

Sarah Vogel, Is It Safe?

Lissa Wadewitz, The Nature of Borders

Laura A. Watt (@lawatt), The Paradox of Preservation

Rebecca J. Woods (@professorbopeep), The Herds Shot Round the World

Ling Zhang, The River, the Plain, and the State


Thanks to everyone (both men and women) who added names to this list over the course of the discussion.

Dolly Jørgensen, Professor of History, University of Stavanger, Norway


Thanks for this, Dolly.

I'd also suggest the following scholars -- women of color working in environmental history/humanities who sit on the ASEH Diversity Committee and participated in the fruitful Integrating Race and Gender in Environmental History Courses instructional design charrette at ASEH this year.

Brinda Sarathy - Pineros: Latino Labor and the Changing Face of Forestry
Mary Mendoza - her book on US-Mexico borderlands history is in progress, but she's written many articles and chapters exploring intersections of race, environment, and health

One of the big takeaways from the charrette was the need to expand our definition of environmental history in order to incorporate voices and scholarship currently underrepresented in the field. Something to keep in mind when crafting syllabi.

L.R. Rand

Thanks, Dolly for sharing this great list.
Also of interest to those prepping courses and looking to move beyond male-centered historiographies. Michelle Berry and I have just written a book--a Primer--about teaching environmental history. The point is not to provide a list of texts but instead to start a conversation on how and why we teach certain things in environmental history. We endeavored in the text, as we have in our classes, to make the bibliography and the examples we use reflective of women's scholarship. The bibliography is not 50% female authors, but it's on the way there. In fact, I was surprised how little overlap our book has with the list twitterstorians offered. That is to say, there's lots of great scholarship out there by women on EH.

You can read our introduction here: https://www.dukeupress.edu/a-primer-for-teaching-environmental-history and buy it when it's available in two weeks:)

Emily Wakild, Ph.D.

Professor of History
Boise State University
1910 University Drive--MS1925
Boise, Idaho 83725
Phone: 208.426.3529

Thank you for sharing this work!