The Muller Decision: Class, Gender, and Progressivism Assignment:
This essay is a primary source analysis. It requires you to analyze a series of primary documents and to show how these documents might be used to shed light on some aspect of the historical period in which they were written. For this assignment, you will use the primary documents from Nancy Woloch, Muller versus Oregon (included at the end of Woloch’s book) in combination with the historical essays written in the book. Your essay should be approximately 4-5 pages.
Use those primary and secondary sources to answer the following questions:
What evidence did the state’s attorneys use in the Brandeis Brief to support the limitation of work hours for women? What did that evidence suggest about women and the role that the government should have in protecting women? What argument were the lawyers making and what obstacles were they trying to overcome? What argument did Muller’s attorney’s use to reject limitations on the work hours of women? What biases and assumptions were embedded in the arguments and evidence of these positions?
The learning objectives of this assignment include:
the ability to analyze a piece of historical evidence critically; the ability to use secondary source materials, including textbook, to situate such historical evidence within its larger historical context; and the ability to articulate your insights in a grammatically correct, formal exposition.
Let me briefly clarify what we mean by analysis as it is often a source of confusion.
Analysis means more than a summary of the content. It means critically engaging the primary documents as a psychoanalyst might a patient or as a detective might the scene of a crime. Doing so means thinking about the context, the content, and the rhetoric of the document. Depending on the nature of the analysis, your paper might include the following:
• an analysis of the immediate context (who wrote the document, who was the anticipated audience, what motivations played into this statement);
• an analysis of the larger historical context (how does this document fit within larger social, political, culture, or economic patterns characteristic of its period);
• an analysis of values and assumptions made (what does this author seem to assume in regards to, say, race, gender, class, etc.);
• an analysis of the rhetoric (what genre does the document fall within, what types of metaphors, etc. are deployed by the author, what connotations do words have, etc.)
Often, these aspects of analysis work together and thus don’t fall into distinct sections of a paper. The quality of your paper will depend on your ability to squeeze information out of the primary sources and your ability to use historical context – to draw your reader’s attention to the obvious and non-obvious features of the documents.
A good essay does, of course, also require some summary. Your reader needs to know basic information about the piece before you set out to analyze it.
General words of advice:
• read the primary documents you intend to use several times carefully;
• identify the document’s author in terms of time period, region, and historical context;
• consider the author’s purposes, anticipated audience, and his or her explicit or tacit ideological positions on such questions as race, class, and gender;
• consider what can (and can’t) be learned about history from this document; and
• study the language of the document, including the nature of its genre (i.e. letter, a speech, an autobiography, etc.).
Papers must be presented formally according to collegiate conventions. For example, the upper left-hand corner of the first page should include:
• Your Full Name
• Title of Course
• Name of Instructor
Provide a title to your essay that captures its content. There is no need for an individual title page. Include page numbers in the right upper corner, excepting the first page. Double-space your essay, with the exception of long quotations, which should be indented and single spaced. Provide citations for the documents and sources you use. Cite these documents with footnotes. Do not also include a bibliography for this short paper. Check both spelling and grammar.
Use the Chicago Manual of Style for citations. See examples of how to cite a book, article, website, or other at: http://www.libs.uga.edu/ref/chicago.html.
For this paper, you do not need to cite the primary document if it is selected from our course readings.
Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs, and Edward J. Blum. Major Problems in American History Volume II: Since 1865 Fourth Adition. Cengage Learning, 2017.
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