PhD, U.S. History, Claremont Graduate University, 2005
MA, U.S. History, Claremont Graduate University, 1999
BA, History, University of California at Los Angeles, 1994
My courses aim to make students curious about the past. I want students to wonder about the antecedents of all kinds of political and cultural debates, including reproductive rights, immigration reform, and the war on terror. So often we hear that some issue is unprecedented when, in fact, we just don't know its history. Not knowing history can leave us uprooted and disempowered.
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." History opens our ideas to possibilities and potentialities.
History--telling stories about the past--is also fun. 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.
My classes examine the production of history, the construction of the past through interpretation and its political implications. 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. Field trips explore first hand how museum exhibits work as interpretive texts.
Jennifer Helgren teaches courses related to U.S. history since the Civil War. She is especially interested in the history of American girls, a field that brings together U.S. women's history and the history of children and youth. She is the author of several articles on U.S. girlhood including "Native American and White Camp Fire Girls Enact Modern Girlhood, 1910-39" in the American Quarterly (2014). She is currently researching girlhood and internationalism following World War II for a book on girlhood, peace, and global