„Top Tier“ Women’s History Journals?

I have a question that I’d like to pose to the users of Salon 21: which journals are considered „top tier“ in the field of women’s and gender history?
There’s a larger context for this inquiry.
For junior faculty members who do women’s and gender history and are tenure track in a history or interdisciplinary department at an R-1 institution, a record of publishing in prestigious peer reviewed journals is often a pre-condition of successful tenure. Yet in promotion and tenure committees at various institutional levels, there may be differences of agreement about what constitutes a prestigious journal and what constitutes a mediocre one.
I know of at least one case in which a college-level promotion and tenure committee refuted arguments that the journal Feminist Studies was a top-tier publication by comparing it unfavorably with Gender and Society, which I always had the impression was an important journal for social science scholarship on gender but published fewer articles written by historians.
The same committee identified Gender and History as a third-tier journal which was not of sufficient quality and reputation to be considered „acceptable publishing“ for a faculty member at that institution.
I don’t want to get bogged down in individual cases, but to ask is there a consensus about what constitutes „top tier“ publishing in women’s history?
What standards apply to determine the quality of a journal for this particular field?
I also want to raise the wider question of what strategies junior faculty members can use justify the quality of their work and publishing record in a field like women’s and gender history which may itself suffer from subtle (and not so subtle) intellectual de-legitimization, both among individual faculty and administrators and structurally, at the level of institutions, disciplines, and the academy generally.
Looking forward to a productive and stimulating discussion on a thorny, contentious issue.
Laura Bier
Georgia Tech

4 thoughts on “„Top Tier“ Women’s History Journals?

  1. Redaktion

    Dear List Members,
    As co-editor of Gender & History, I wonder if I could respond to this. Obviously, I have a vested interest in defending this journal as one of excellent intellectual and scholarly quality. Perhaps some statistics will help:
    At the last count, 80 per cent of submissions were rejected. All published articles go through stringent anonymous peer review with at least two and generally far more specialists in the field reviewing them, often more than once. Our subscription rates and, perhaps more importantly, resubscription rates, remain high and rising, and we have subscribers on every continent. The European Science Foundation, which has reviewed a very large number of journals and rated them A, B, or C, has rated Gender & History at A level. This rating pertains to a journal’s pertinence across the field, but no journal whose content is considered poor was rated A, even if it had field-wide pertinence.
    I would add that the work we publish is at the cutting edge. As editor, of course I would say that! But do see our 20th anniversary special issue recently out (vol 20 no 3 ), which assesses twenty years of feminist and gender history, with provocative papers by historians such as the late Jeanne Boydston, plus Merry Wiesner Hanks and Judith Bennett, and many others, and our latest ordinary issue (vol 21 no 1) which includes excellent work by lesser-known, but no less exemplary, scholars on topics ranging from masturbation in early modern Japan to laundry work in the middle ages.
    I or my co-editors at the University of Minnesota would be delighted to converse with the committee chair about their dim view of Gender & History, and perhaps set their minds at rest about the quality of their applicants‘ publications!
    With kind regards,
    Karen Adler
    Dr K. H. Adler, FRHistS
    Editor, Gender & History
    School of History
    University of Nottingham
    Nottingham NG7 2RD

  2. Redaktion

    I would rank all three English-language journals — Journal of Women’s History, Women’s History Review, and Gender & History in the so-called „top tier.“ Each one publishes excellent and innovative scholarship. I’ve been through the review process with all three and can assure anyone of its rigor.
    Although Feminist Studies and Signs publish fewer history articles than they used to, those articles that do appear in these journals are excellent.
    And, lest one forget, there are first-rate women’s history journals published in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and other languages, in addition to these three excellent English-language ones. These titles include Clio: Histoire, Femmes et Societes; Arenal; L’Homme, and Genesis.
    The committee members who identified Gender & History as a third-tier journal obviously haven’t read it; they simply don’t know what they are talking about!
    Karen Offen
    Clayman Institute for Gender Research
    Stanford University

  3. Redaktion

    Dear Colleagues in Women’s History,
    As the new editors of the Journal of Women’s History (starting in 2010 at Binghamton University, SUNY), we would like to begin to address the issue of evaluating women’s history journals.
    First, we want to thank Laura Bier for alerting the list to this problem. Many of us undoubtedly thought the issue had been settled long ago. That it isn’t indicates that we have more work to do. So we also thank Karen Adler and Karen Offen for their thoughtful and helpful responses.
    We are distressed, of course, to learn that the quality and even legitimacy of scholarly journals devoted to women’s history continue to be questioned. As we all know, women’s historians have developed a productive relationship with the discipline that is mutually transformative. Cutting-edge women’s history scholarship appears in the major mainstream journals where it introduces new questions even as it speaks to issues of concern to historians in other fields. At the same time, more specialized journals that focus on women (among them the Journal of Women’s History, Gender and History, SIGNS, Feminist Studies,
    Frontiers, and the Women’s History Review) address fundamental questions of epistemology, methodology, and sources that engage the entire discipline of history.
    To put questions about the scholarly standards of women’s history journals to bed once and for all, we want to gather and disseminate comparative data.
    Because acceptance rates are considered (by deans reviewing tenure files, for example) a reliable measure of a journal’s prestige and quality, we will gather acceptance rate information for a range of journals: women’s history and women’s studies journals, specialty journals in other subfields of history, and the “big” journals like the American Historical Review. We all can then use this data to support our case for the comparable quality and selectivity of women’s history journals.
    If you edit a journal, are privy to the annual report of a journal, or otherwise have access to the acceptance rates of a journal, please send the information you have to us at lwheeler#binghamton.edu. We will collect and gather acceptance rate information, assemble it, and send it out to the list.
    We look forward to doing some collective work with you on this issue!
    Jean H. Quataert and Leigh Ann Wheeler, (upcoming JWH co-editors), Elisa Camiscioli, (upcoming JWH book review editor), and Benita Roth, (upcoming JWH associate editor)
    Leigh Ann Wheeler
    Associate Professor
    Binghamton University, SUNY

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