When I think of the present state of women’s history and how the field should continue to develop here at Oxford with the initiatives that the Hillary Rodham Clinton Chair will provide, the term ‘greater expectations’ comes to mind. Incumbent in the creation of this Chair is the strong conviction that the historical study of females, girls and women will flourish in the years to come as, indeed, it is flourishing in many ways now. Intellectually, women’s history is a rich garden that continues to delight. Practically, the work to be done is desperately needed.
2020 began with women globally holding only between one fifth and one fourth of political offices and appointments. In the labour market, females still have less than 60% wage parity. Moreover, when we consider women’s pay across racial groups, stark differences still emerge, underscoring the reality that there is inequity between genders and among them. Elderly women, everywhere, are much more likely to live in poverty than older men. It is still much more probable for females to be killed in domestic disputes than males. These are stark realities of being female across all social categories.
The evolutionary path to full acceptance of women’s history as a true intellectual production with substance, methodologies, archives, discourse, audiences and even practicality has been long and circuitous. Plodding forward, dedicated scholars performed the essential labour to have students, colleagues, administrators, policy analysts and the public respect, support and make progressive use of our work – with some great successes.
Still, those who helped to create the Clinton Chair at Oxford and I, as its proud inaugural holder, insist on having greater expectations for our indispensable work and the promise of its transformative power.
The Clinton Chair must be a centre of synergistic ideas, activities, mentorship, scholarship, public inclusion and systemic intellectual growth that creates and sustains broad cultural-historical narratives. We must teach, contextualize and advance diverse stories and experiences of girls and women, especially of those typically marginalized in societal, intellectual and methodological hierarchies.
We must train the brilliant Oxford students who will do this work in the future. There are so many more greater expectations that the Chair must inspire and contribute.
Entitled ‘Creating history at the intersection of gender, Jim Crow and remembrance’, the inaugural lecture will be available to watch live on YouTube here.