The essays in this forum address the accomplishments and shortcomings of a quarter-century of western women's and gender history, suggesting future directions for the field. The authors differ in their assessments of efforts to achieve multicultural histories and to address relationships of power within western women's history, as well as about the impact of western women's history on western historical scholarship. This essay suggests that the differences in analysis, emphasis, and conclusions in the three essays that follow are only partly due to three authors' addressing different scholarly and popular discourses. Entrenched academic power relationships, conservative public politics, and the difficulty of imagining new narratives have all inhibited historians' efforts to interrogate power and disrupt relationships of domination. It is time to address these difficult and urgent tasks.
This article describes the competing meanings that U.S. and Canadian historians have assigned to their common borders and respective Wests. It compares how frontier,region, and a common border have shaped U.S. and Canadian histories and identities,as well as the complicity of historiography in telling the differences. Assuming that neither the nation state nor national identity is fixed or absolute, it argues that similarities and differences in how each country incorporated its West led to specific understandings of national origins, colonial relationships, and distinct notions of frontier and region. These distinctions shaped the ways each nation legitimized its claim to the continent and are reflected in historical narratives that have functioned as respective national creation stories. The ways that Canadians and Americans have understood their pasts and common border also illuminate the meanings of national identity in our present age.
This article uses border crossings by the author's family to illustrate the problems of historical narratives that do not consider who and what exists beyond national borders,as well as across conceptual boundaries of race, class, ethnicity, religion, gender,and sexuality. The national U.S. narrative rarely crosses the borders of what became three North American nations, or those between a pre-colonial North American past and a post-colonial national history, or profound social divisions. Histories that cross national and social boundaries clarify what Sarah Carter terms their "categories and terrains of exclusion." Fears triggered by the attacks of September 11, 2001, revealed changing constructions of the U.S.-Canadian border. Without stories that cross national and social divides, it is hard to recognize humanity across those borders or to imagine a connected future. Such histories must recognize analytic categories and narratives divided and erased by social and national borders, and the unequal power inscribed in androcentric, ethnocentric, and nationalist narratives.