Professor Spotlight: Andrea Mansker combines feminism and history


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By Kelsey Siegler

Staff Writer

One may go to a liberal arts college like Sewanee planning to major in one thing, and then a class or a professor changes their entire perspective and academic interests; Professor Andrea Mansker has had this effect on many Sewanee students.

Mansker encourages Sewanee students to pursue European history primarily due to her passion of the study of early women and her interests in French feminism. Mansker took multiple classes on the topic at Sacramento State and went on to UCLA for her Master of Arts and Doctoral Degrees.

In her undergraduate years, Mansker began to realize her role as a woman in the world. She wanted to pursue a degree in music, since she played the classical guitar, and was in a band with some of her female friends called “Lunatic Fringe.” This speed-punk, thrash-type music was filled with screeching and yelling during a time when not many women were playing heavy metal music.

Mansker says her experience in an all-female band made her a feminist due to the harassment she faced on stage. These comments gave her a “tough skin” and also taught her organizational skills from working with the band members to making flyers and finding places to play. In the beginning, Mansker was very serious about the future of the band, but soon realized she had a passion for French history and that being in a band was more challenging than it was worth.

Moreover, she was dedicated to studying history and knew she wanted to attend graduate school and ultimately teach. Mansker said the theoretical literature in graduate school was challenging and the readings, writing, and discussions required extensive time and attention. The environment was extremely stressful, but Mansker excelled because she was dedicated and ambitious. After teaching her first year at Loyola Marymount University, she came to Sewanee.

Just a short time ago, Mansker began her Sewanee career working in the basement of Guerry in Room 007, an ironic number for her office, as she truly is the James Bond of female historians.

She says those years hold a special place in her Sewanee memories, since only a small number of professors collaborated for the WGS minor, and few students were minors at the time.

The WGS department initially faced harassment from students, faculty, and community members who declared that WGS threatened Sewanee traditions, but the program overcame this perspective and expanded.

Mansker also finds her role as an adviser to the Bairnwick Women’s Center rewarding, and she enjoys getting to know students on a more personal level.

She especially loves her role as a professor, and she believes Sewanee students willingly participate and want to learn. She enjoys seminars and those exchanges where she can teach themes that interest people and that they may have not otherwise encountered.

“It’s the most rewarding when a student takes one of my classes and develops their own research paper from something we read in class and intrigues them, so they base their paper on that,” said Mansker.

Her courses include subjects like “Crimes and Scandals and Historic Imagination.” Her dissertation about feminism and the masculine honor system in early 20th century France is further analyzed and explained in her book Sex, Honor and Citizenship in Early Third Republic France. She studies and writes about radical, inspiring figures in order to bring new perspectives to feminism and European history that all liberal arts students should understand.

Her next project seeks to understand the history of professional marriage brokers and personal advertisements to uncover the commercialization of marriage in 19th century France, focusing on love narratives, court cases, legislation, memoirs, and literature in relation to the pressures of finding a spouse.

CORRECTION (12/6/17): A previous version of this article stated that Mansker arrived in Sewanee at 1999. It also listed Mansker as the founder of the WGS Program at Sewanee.