Comments for Second Take-Home Midterm

I will return your take-home midterms via your OWL-Space dropboxes. You should get an automated email when the exam is available for you to pick-up.

While grading your take-home midterms, I used a rubric organized around the following questions, which you will find at the end of the PDF file I send back to you.

I will be happy to talk with you about your essay, but be sure to read this page before coming to see me, as it contains extensive explanations of the comment shorthand that you are likely to find on your individual exam.

Does the essay directly and completely answer the question at hand?

Choice A required you to discuss the effects of industrialization on three groups in particular—black freedpeople, women in the cities, and new immigrant groups. A direct and complete answer had to deal with all three of these groups and ideally discussed each group as completely as possible (e.g., negative consequences of industrialization as well as potentially good ones; working women like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory girls as well as radical women like Woodhull and middle-class reforming women like Sanger; Chinese immigrants in California as well as Eastern European immigrants in New York). Because the prompt concerns the effects of industrialization, an effective answer should also be able to summarize and explain industrialization itself.

Choice B asks a direct, specific question about whether to view the period from 1872 to 1919 as a time of radical change and steady progress; the essay should answer that question directly. It should also, however, explain why or why not. A complete answer should also deal not just with post-1900 or pre-1900 events but should incorporate evidence from across the span of time mentioned in the prompt.

Are the essay’s claims well-supported with specific reasons and evidence drawn from relevant course readings or lectures? Is the strength of each claim calibrated to match the extent of the evidence?

As I asked myself these questions about your essay’s claims, I may have marked down the following comments:

  1. Ev?: This means your claim is an unsupported assertion; it needs to be backed up with evidence or further reasoning.
  2. BMS: This means “Be More Specific.” For example, instead of alluding in general to a reading, bolster your claim with specific examples or evidence from it.
  3. CM?: As the important notes for the take-home prompt explained, outside research cannot serve as a substitute for evidence drawn from course materials. This comment indicates that you supported many claims with evidence drawn from outside course materials, even when relevant course materials were available that could bolster the same point.
  4. Too strong: This means that your claim, while supported by evidence, may go beyond the evidence you have. For example, the claim might generalize about women as a whole, or an entire group or era, on the basis of only one piece of evidence. The fix for this problem would either be to provide more evidence to support the generalization, or temper the generalization with limiting words (“Some women,” or “at least in part”).

Does the essay ignore highly relevant evidence from class that would either bolster or challenge its major claims?

Both of these prompts were crafted with our course materials in mind; answers to either one had a wealth of evidence to draw in, even though the evidence we’ve found sometimes pointed in various directions.

In cases where an essay drew on only a handful of materials, indicating a lack of familiarity with a large number of relevant pieces of evidence that either challenge or support your argument, I may simply have commented Source base too limited.

When relevant, however, I also tried to name specific materials relevant to the question whose absence from the essay is conspicuous, either because it would directly support a claim or because it directly undermines a claim and needs to be dealt with for the claim to be more persuasive.

Below are some examples of such highly relevant sources. The point of this list is not that to get an A, you had to list every one of these readings; rather, depending on your essay’s particular claims, some of these pieces of evidence might really have been essential to consider and/or refute.

Choice A

  • Def. Industrialization?: In the lecture for March 8 we discussed what industrialization and mechanization involved and how it reorganized labor over the course of the nineteenth century. Some definition of industrialization is either missing from your answer or remains incomplete.
  • Labor Movement: We discussed several responses to industrialization by labor groups on March 8, like those by the AFL and the IWW. Different labor groups had different policies regarding membership, so discussing the differences in these groups has relevance to a discussion of, say, the effects of industrialization on women. E.g., how did Gompers and the AFL view the organization of women workers, and how did their view differ from the IWW? How did different groups of laborers organize to protest or address the conditions of industrialization?
  • NY Garment Industry: Specific examples related to the organization of work in the garment industry in New York, discussed on March 8, would shed light on effects of industrialization both on new Eastern European immigrants and on women. With re: to women, we discussed both some of the positive benefits of changes in garment work (wages better than small family shops; more opportunity for interaction with peers; more occupational mobility) and some of the dangers (low wages; unsafe working conditions; opposition to striking both from government and male labor leaders).
  • Triangle FF: The Triangle Factory Fire, discussed in the Readings for March 6 and in class, illustrates the unsafe working conditions in many factories where unskilled workers labored in cramped quarters with minimal government regulation.
  • Sanger: Margaret Sanger’s advocacy of birth control in the Readings for March 6 specifically mentioned the effect of high birth rates on working “proletarian” women.
  • Protective Labor Laws: Our Readings for March 20 and some of our lecture on March 8 dealt at length with protective labor legislation for women; the history of how and why these laws were passed—as well as their limits—could help you better explain the impact of industrialization on women.
  • Kirkby/Kessler-Harris: Articles by these authors, discussed on March 20, explored how women’s work became increasingly specialized in an industrial economy, which necessitated, according to the National Women’s Trade Union League and some reformers, special protective legislation and state intervention.
  • Retreat from Recon.: Beginning on March 18, we talked about some of the reasons for the federal government’s retreat from Radical Reconstruction and military occupation of the South. Industrialization and the rise of perceived “labor problems” and “corruption” in the North played a major role in this retreat, which directly affected black freedpeople in the South by undermining the political gains they had made.
  • Chinese Exclusion: On March 22 we discussed how industrialization and the completion of the transcontinental railroad increased hostility in the West towards Chinese immigrants among white workers like those in the Workingman’s Party and the Wasp, even as it opened new labor opportunities for Chinese immigrants who came under the auspices of the Six Companies trading network.
  • Morse/Wilson: On March 22 we discussed an exchange between two Congressmen, one from the West Coast and one from the East, about Chinese exclusion. Their disagreement revolved around the effects of Chinese immigrant labor on white working men.
  • Washington/Du Bois: One effect of industrialization on African Americans was its role in dividing prominent leaders like Booker T. Washington, who believed that industrial education would lead to political rights, and W. E. B. Du Bois, who believed that a narrow focus on industrial education was misguided.

Choice B

  • Triangle/Garment Workers: The experience of garment workers like the women in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factor shows both new employment opportunities opening for women and, at the same time, significant disadvantages they faced in the industrializing economy.
  • Labor Movement: Responses by pro-labor groups to industrialization sometimes opened up new political spaces for women (e.g., the IWW, Margaret Sanger), but other groups continued to exclude women (e.g., the craft unions of the AFL).
  • Homestead: In the Readings for March 13, the participation by women in the Homestead Strike was specifically singled out by an eyewitness sympathetic to labor, offering evidence of how industrialization was changing the situation of women.
  • Horowitz: Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz’s article on Victoria Woodhull, assigned with the Readings for March 11, argues that ideas about sexuality were changing at the end of the century, but not necessarily for the better as far as Woodhull was concerned. Horowitz’s uses Woodhull’s journalism and radical career and the reaction from Comstock that followed to show both the surprising opportunities available to women for upward social mobility and the double standard that continued to treat women’s public speech and activity differently from that of men.
  • Protective Labor Laws: Viewed from one perspective, like that of Kirkby, these laws were an advance for women because they represented state intervention to improve working conditions in which women were disproportionately represented. At the same time, however, Kessler-Harris argues that the laws were often justified on the grounds that women were first and foremost mothers and should not remain permanently in the workforce. The laws therefore provide evidence both of change and continuity.
  • Margaret Sanger: Movement for birth control gained steam in the period considered by the prompt but was not entirely successful until after it, forcing Sanger to seek support from the eugenics movement and other sources to perform basic research (as discussed by Soloway.

Does the essay take into account points of view or salient facts about sources that bear on the quality or kind of evidence they can provide?

Usually I indicated problems in this areas with the abbreviation POV, which indicates that the answer does not sufficiently take into account the source of the evidence being provided. This issue of the perspective of a source’s creator is something that we’ve discussed frequently in class; for example, claims made by a publication like the Wasp about Chinese workers were reflective of only one point of view—that of white workingmen like Dennis Kearny who opposed Chinese immigration.

Is the essay clearly written, with a minimum of grammatical errors, so that major claims and the evidence to support them were easily grasped?

In order to answer the first four questions, I had to be able to find your major claims and understand the evidence you were using to support them. If your paper was not clearly organized or riddled with grammatical errors that made this more difficult, you likely received a lower mark on this section of the rubric.