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Vanburkleo, Sandra F.


PERSONAL: Female. Education: Hamline University (St. Paul, MN), B.A. (history); University of Minnesota, M.A., Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of History, Wayne State University, 3133 Faculty/Administration Bldg., Detroit, MI 48202.

CAREER: Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, professor of history.


"Belonging to the World": Women's Rights and American Constitutional Culture, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor, with Kermit Hall and Robert Kaczorowski) Constitutionalism and American Culture: Writing the New Constitutional History, University Press of Kansas (Lawrence, KS), 2002.

Also contributor to books, including The Research Process in Political Science, edited by W. P. Shively, Peacock, 1984; By and for the People: Constitutional Rights in American History, edited by Kermit Hall, Harlan Davidson, 1991; Political Trials, second edition, edited by Michal Belknap, Greenwood/Praeger, 1994; and Seriatim: The Supreme Court before John Marshall, New York University Press, 1998. Contributor to journals, including Michigan Historical Review, Magazine of History, Constitution, and Journal of the Early Republic. Also contributor of entries to encyclopedias and dictionaries, including Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court, edited by Kermit Hall, Oxford University Press, 1992; Biographical Dictionary of U.S. Supreme Court Justices, edited by Melvin Urofsky, Garland Press, 1994; American National Biography, edited by John Garraty, Oxford University Press, 1997–98; and Oxford Companion to American Law, Oxford University Press, 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Sandra F. VanBurkleo has produced a study of the evolution of women's rights in America and was coeditor of another book of essays on American constitutional history in its cultural context. According to Judith A. Baer in the Journal of Women's History, VanBurkleo's full-length work, "Belonging to the World": Women's Rights and American Constitutional Culture, "confirms the tension between gender equality and male dominance throughout U.S. history." "Belonging to the World" chronicles the development of what VanBurkleo likes to call "speech communities": that is, groups that gradually allowed women in different historical periods to find a public voice. Regarding the pre-colonial period she discusses the ways in which Ann Hutchinson and Ann Hibbens, for example, were punished for their refusal to keep silent. During the American Revolution and the New Republic, VanBurkleo contends, many women achieved increased economic power but did not achieve political emancipation. The "speech communities" that developed among early women's rights activists in the mid- and late-nineteenth century, she maintains, presaged the later emergence of political and economic rights in their insistence that women should be able to speak freely in public.

The gradual emergence of the suffrage movement, according to VanBurkleo, was accompanied by an entrenched ideology that women were morally superior to men and thus should have a greater voice in government. The alliance of other activist groups such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union with the suffragists added other "speech communities" to the mix and thus strengthened women's power in eventually getting the vote. VanBurkleo also reports on a number of court cases that were pivotal in achieving women's rights, and she also brings the debate up to the present day in her discussion of women's economic status, sexual harassment issues, and the problem of violence against women.

In her review, Baer said that VanBurkleo's book, along with Nancy Cott's Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation, "could have been significantly better if [the authors] had brought more insights of contemporary feminist theory to bear on the analysis," but the critic concluded that "Belonging to the World" is a valuable contribution to women's history. Dorothy McBride Stetson commented in Political Science Quarterly that VanBurkleo exhibits "an almost breathless urgency to temper generalizations about American law with attention to variations among states, regions, classes, and races." VanBurkleo, McBride concluded, has provided "a tool for arranging the movement in periods and an explanation for the diversity of feminist activism." Reviews in American History contributor Allison M. Parker called the book a "comprehensive view of women's public and political attempts to gain their rights," with a "synthesis of American women's history that also provides readers with a useful new perspective regarding the importance of public speech for equality and citizenship."

VanBurkleo also coedited and contributed to Constitutionalism and American Culture: Writing the New Constitutional History, a festschrift in memory of historian Paul Murphy, who pioneered the study of constitutional history in its political and social context. According to Stuart Banner, writing in the Journal of American History, the twelve essays in the collection are "an eclectic bunch" that cover subjects such as the framers of the Constitution and their own concepts of history, efforts to achieve equal constitutional protection for women, the Warren court's idea of equality, and the history of constitutional thought on race and civil society. VanBurkleo's essay covers the nineteenth-century women's movement as it relates to the idea of freedom of speech. Banner concluded that "one could not ask for a better sampler of this particular genre of constitutional history."



Journal of American History, September, 2003, Stuart Banner, review of Constitutionalism and American Culture: Writing the New Constitutional History, p. 628.

Journal of Women's History, summer, 2002, Judith A. Baer, "Public and Private Rule: The Wife and the Citizen," p. 182.

Law and Social Inquiry, fall, 2002, review of Constitutionalism and American Culture, p. 1007.

Political Science Quarterly, fall, 2002, Dorothy McBride Stetson, review of "Belonging to the World": Women's Rights and American Constitutional Culture, p. 538.

Reviews in American History, March, 2003, Alison M. Parker, "Women's Rights and 'Speech Communities' in American Legal History," p. 66.


Wayne State University Web site, (July 26, 2005), "Sandra F. VanBurkleo."

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