HISTORIAN | WRITER | RESEARCHER
Hello! I’m Bethany J. Hopkins, PhD. Here’s a little about me and my work.
Storytelling is at the heart of everything I do. Whether it’s a college lecture, a breaking news story, or a historical data set, I am always looking to find the narrative that resonates.
American women’s history is my field of expertise. I graduated from UC Davis with a PhD in U.S. History in 2015. I minored in cross-cultural women’s and gender history. I have taught women’s history, U.S. history, and California history at UC Davis, as well as U.S. women’s history at Solano Community College. If I can spark intellectual curiosity, encourage critical thinking, or foster an inclusive environment, I call that a success. Teaching is storytelling of the past, and I want my students to be as engaged in that story as possible.
Writing has always been a part of my professional life. I aim to make my written work clear, concise, and tailored to my audience. For two years I was a reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press, writing feature stories and breaking news. Before that, I was an editorial intern for ISLANDS magazine, a national publication. You can read some of my clips from those publications here. I love the challenge of finding just the right lede to grab readers’ attention.
When I write for fun, it’s usually narrative non-fiction. I have told several personal stories on stage for Shorts N Longs, a community storytelling event that I also helped organize with Lisa Cantrell. You can listen to me emcee the event here or listen to me tell a personal story here. I also have a personal craft blog that features some original knitting designs and lots of silly puns: knitbyahenshop.com
Most recently, I’ve been doing writing coaching for clients through The Key Worldwide, a private college and career and counseling company. I love using my knowledge of narrative to help students craft personal statements that reflect their best selves. It’s a joy to see students realize their strengths, and then work hard with me to describe their college and career goals with clarity.
Research has also been at the core of my work. Archival research on women requires both precision and creativity, because the data is incomplete and fragmented. Finding the narrative among the noise is where I excel. I organized and examined more than 500 archival documents to write my dissertation on woman farmers, The Fruit of Her Fields: California Women in Commercial Horticulture, 1870-1915. This required research in 14 California archives, cross referenced with 7 online databases. Most examples of my research are behind a paywall (e.g. my article in the Western Historical Quarterly). I wrote about my research project on the Rural Women’s Studies blog here.
I used a variety of tools to analyze the information I found— online spreadsheets (Google), relational databases (SQL Lite), bibliographic software (EndNote). But often, the best tool was a knowledgeable person—a sharp librarian, a seasoned colleague, or a helpful collaborator. Humans are narrative creatures, and they are usually the best resources for finding the story buried in the stacks.