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The Family Silver

Essays on Relationships among Women

Susan Krieger

Publication Year: 1996

In an inventive and controversial collection of essays, sociologist Susan Krieger considers the many forms of wealth, both material and emotional, that women pass on to each other. This domestic heritage—the "family silver"—is the keystone for a discussion of mother-daughter relationships, intimate relationships between lesbians, ties between students and feminist teachers, the dilemmas of women in academia as well as in the broader work world, and the importance of female separatism. Drawing on her experiences as a lesbian, a feminist, and a teacher, Krieger presents a stunning critique of higher education. She argues for acknowledging gender in all areas of women's lives and for valuing women's inner realities and outer forms of expression.

Krieger has developed a distinctly feminist approach to understanding and scholarship. Her style is self-revelatory, emotional, and at the same time deeply analytical. Her essays pioneer a new method of locating, defining, and honoring female values.

The Family Silver includes a thought-provoking discussion of gender roles among women, including the author's experience of being mistaken for a man; an exploration of teaching in a feminist classroom; and a description of the controversy that resulted when the author refused to allow a hostile male student to take one of her courses. Beautifully written,The Family Silver addresses issues of central concern to feminists, postmodernists, and queer theorists and encourages new insights into how gender profoundly affects us all.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I had not initially planned to write a book called The Family Silver, nor expected, at the start, to be discussing my life in such an intimate way. I had thought that I would be writing about women and organizations, and that I would present insights about female gender that I had learned from teaching feminist classes. ...

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pp. 1-10

The Family Silver is an unusual collection of essays. It is at once an intensely individual and emotional set of reflections and a more general sociological study. These essays were written as a collection and are intended as a contribution to feminist scholarship and feminist teaching, to the ethnographic tradition in sociology, ...

Part One: Personal Settings

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One. Gender Roles Among Women

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pp. 13-33

I am interested in how ideas about gender organize identity and social relationships among women. Perhaps because I am a lesbian and have noticed how women who are lesbian adopt one gender role or the other (female or male), then discard it, combine roles, and act in ways that confuse me, ...

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Two. Becoming a Lesbian

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pp. 34-64

Twenty years ago, I first lived with another woman. This is a story about that experience, excerpted from a novel I later wrote. Although written in the third person, it is strictly autobiographical. To me, this story is not only about lesbians, but also about female-female relating and the challenge of intimacy between women. ...

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Three. The Family Silver

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pp. 65-81

I have just come back from a trip to Florida to settle the affairs of my lover’s aunt, who died suddenly at the age of seventy. She was carrying her groceries up the stairs to her apartment when she dropped dead of a heart attack. A neighbor found her. When we arrived several weeks later, we found her grocery list and the cash register receipt ...

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Four. The Passing Down of Sorrow

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pp. 82-106

My mother has always seemed big to me. I used to think she looked like Marilyn Monroe. As I got older, I thought she looked more like Ingrid Bergman, which means that I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. When I was growing up, we would ask my mother why we had to do something. ...

Part Two: Academic Settings

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Five. Hurts of the System

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pp. 109-129

In this essay, I speak of how I have been hurt by institutional rejections. My purpose is to make my own reality visible and to see how my individual experience is a female experience. I also wish to identify how faults of an institution are felt as the faults of an individual. ...

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Six. Saying no to a Man

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pp. 130-154

A few days ago, I cleared the remaining syllabi, books, and student papers from my study so that I would not be reminded of classes and teaching and, especially, of certain troubles I had this past quarter. My course on women and organizations went extremely well, but my course on feminist methodology in the social sciences had difficulties. ...

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Seven. Lesbian in Academe

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pp. 155-168

Not long ago, a graduate student called to interview me for a master’s thesis on experiences of lesbian and gay sociologists. She was interested in the effects of being gay on their academic lives. Was prejudice an issue? What happened in their universities and over the course of a career? ...

Part Three: Feminist Teaching

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Eight. A Feminist Class

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pp. 171-195

I have taught a course called Women and Organizations for the past eight years, seven times at one institution and once each at two others. Students, most of them women, take this course because they wish to be successful in a man’s world and not to be disadvantaged because they are women. I teach the course for a different reason, ...

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Nine. Separatism

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pp. 196-217

My central goal in Women and Organizations is to enable the students to recognize the importance of female separatism. I also want them to understand the problems of women’s groups. For, if separate women’s organizations are important, then it is desirable to grasp the difficulties these groups face, ...

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Ten. Desires for an Ideal Community of Women

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pp. 218-236

The eighth week of Women and Organizations is titled on the syllabus “Circles within Circles: Dilemmas of Belonging in a Women’s Group.” Here I begin to pale, for I know what is coming. We are going to read my book about a lesbian community. From experiences of past years, I know that the students approach this book with high expectations ...


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pp. 237-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780520917057
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520203112

Page Count: 282
Publication Year: 1996