Katharine Rollwagen, PhD
Vancouver Island University
In August 2018 the North American editorial office for the journal Gender & History moved from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, British Columbia (the journal also has an editorial office at the University of Glasgow). For the last six months, the new editors have been taking up the mantle and having fun in the process. Six months in, it seems like a good time to reflect on my experience as a co-editor so far.
It was just over a year ago that my colleague Dr. Cheryl Warsh met me in the hallway and mentioned that Gender & History was looking for a new home. She asked me and Drs. Cathryn Spence and Laurie Meijer-Drees to apply with her to bring the journal to Vancouver Island University. And I said, “Sure!” But I have to admit I wasn’t very confident. Call it imposter syndrome, but I wasn’t convinced that a smaller university on the western edge of Canada could fill the shoes of a large American institution. It turned out that our size may have been an advantage; word travels fast on a small campus and everyone – from department colleagues to the President – expressed enthusiasm for the idea, backing that enthusiasm with letters of support and offers to help. I hadn’t counted on this substantial support; when others believed we could do it, I began to think we could too. This confidence was shared by the editors in Minnesota and Glasgow who selected us and were keen to put our collective experience and expertise to work for Gender & History.
Despite having experienced the peer-review process as an author, initially I had little sense of what was involved on the other side of the desk. In my early-morning half-sleep nightmares (which every academic has, right?) I imagined an email tsunami and an avalanche of article submissions burying me while an angry mob demanded my expert opinion on a specialized topic I’d never heard of (like I said, imposter syndrome). Throughout the summer months the editors at the University of Minnesota coached us and we and began to set up our own processes and tasks. We were very grateful for their patience, assistance, and encouragement.
There was no tsunami and certainly no angry mob (so far!); however, keeping in sight the various deadlines and aspects of the job is definitely a challenge. Thankfully it’s a rewarding challenge in a couple of ways. Becoming an editor has forced me to set aside time on a daily or weekly basis to engage with emerging historical scholarship on gender. This is particularly challenging at a university where faculty regularly teach seven or eight courses a year. Discussing the merits of manuscripts with my co-editors and with members of the editorial collective in North America and around the world is an honour and pleasure. Being an editor is also welcome reminder that being exposed to a wide range of historical research is valuable and productive. Since I assumed my position at VIU nearly five years ago, my focus has rightly been on students, course development, and my own very specific research interests. But if being an early career scholar feels like climbing a very steep and narrow hill (and we have a lot of those in Nanaimo!), becoming an editor feels like that moment when you look up from your hiking boots and realize there’s a great view. Exposure to this panorama is broadening the scope of my courses and shifting the way I teach. As an added bonus, as editors we get to hire and work alongside undergraduate editorial assistants who are bright, focused, and exceptionally organized.
Gender & History is an international journal, but we’re hoping to add a healthy dose of CanCon to its pages over the coming years. Please submit your research on the histories of femininities, masculinities, and gender relations – from any time period or area, or concerning historiographical or methodological issues – to us. Gender & History aims to engage a broad community of diverse scholars around the world in dialogue about historical conceptions of gender in specific times and places. The UK office is currently asking for proposals for contributions to a special issue on Gender and Reproduction. We also encourage you to contact us if you’d like to be involved in special issues, book review essays, or the Editorial Collective, or would like tocontribute to a forum (combining two to four essays, with critical commentaries about how this particular alignment suggests new lines of inquiry or experiment). You can find more information about submitting to the journal here. We look forward to hearing from you!