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The Rhetoric of Character in Gilded Age America
“James Salazar takes the term ‘character’—pervasive and elusive—and accounts for its centrality by showing how it embodies the contradictions of modern America. In a series of intricate literary readings, he analyzes the ways in which the late-nineteenth-century obsession with building ‘character’ vivified social distinctions but also, in its instabilities, became the pivot for critique.”
A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism
A product of the "spiritual hothouse" of the Second Great Awakening, Spiritualism became the fastest growing religion in the nation during the 1850s, and one of the principal responses to the widespread perception that American society was descending into atomistic particularity.
InBody and Soul, Robert Cox shows how Spiritualism sought to transform sympathy into social practice, arguing that each individual, living and dead, was poised within a nexus of affect, and through the active propagation of these sympathetic bonds, a new and coherent society would emerge. Phenomena such as spontaneous somnambulism and sympathetic communion with the dead—whether through séance or "spirit photography"—were ways of transcending the barriers dissecting the American body politic, including the ultimate barrier, death. Drawing equally upon social, occult, and physiological registers, Spiritualism created a unique "social physiology" in which mind was integrated into body and body into society, leading Spiritualists into earthly social reforms, such as women’s rights and anti-slavery.
From the beginning, however, Spiritualist political and social expression was far more diverse than has previously been recognized, encompassing distinctive proslavery and antiegalitarian strains, and in the wake of racial and political adjustments following the Civil War, the movement began to fracture. Cox traces the eventual dissolution of Spiritualism through the contradictions of its various regional and racial factions and through their increasingly circumscribed responses to a changing world. In the end, he concludes, the history of Spiritualism was written in the limits of sympathy, and not its limitless potential.
Robert S. Cox is Curator of Manuscripts at the American Philosophical Society.
French Exiles and Refugees on the Gulf Coast, 1815-1835
Sisterhood and Women's Fraternities, 1870-1920
Sororities are often thought of as exclusive clubs for socially inclined college students, but Bound by a Mighty Vow, a history of the women's Greek system, demonstrates that these organizations have always served more serious purposes. Diana Turk explores the founding and development of the earliest sororities (then called women's fraternities) and explains how these groups served as support networks to help the first female collegians succeed in the hostile world of nineteenth century higher education.
Turk goes on to look at how and in what ways sororities changed over time. While the first generation focused primarily on schoolwork, later Greek sisters used their fraternity connections to ensure social status, gain access to jobs and job training, and secure financial and emotional support as they negotiated life in turn-of-the-century America. The costs they paid were conformity to certain tightly prescribed beliefs of how "ideal" fraternity women should act and what "ideal" fraternity women should do.
Drawing on primary source documents written and preserved by the fraternity women themselves, as well as on oral history interviews conducted with fraternity officers and alumnae members, Bound by a Mighty Vow uncovers the intricate history of these early women's networks and makes a bold statement about the ties that have bound millions of American women to one another in the name of sisterhood.
Stevens T. Mason and the Birth of Michigan Politics
In 1831, Stevens T. Mason was named Secretary of the Michigan Territory at the tender age of 19, two years before he could even vote. The youngest presidential appointee in American history, Mason quickly stamped his persona on Michigan life in large letters. After championing the territory's successful push for statehood without congressional authorization, he would defend his new state's border in open defiance of the country's political elite and then orchestrate its expansion through the annexation of the Upper Peninsula---all before his official election as Michigan's first governor at age 24, the youngest chief executive in any state's history. The Boy Governor tells the complete story of this dominant political figure in Michigan's early development. Capturing Mason's youthful idealism and visionary accomplishments, including his advocacy for a strong state university and legislating for the creation of the Soo Locks, this biography renders a vivid portrait of Michigan's first governor---his conflicts, his desires, and his sense of patriotism. This book will appeal to anyone with a love of American history and interest in the many, larger-than-life personalities that battled on the political stage during the Jacksonian era.
The History of Coerced Sterilization in the United States
Most closely associated today with the Nazis and World War II atrocities, eugenics is sometimes described as a government-orchestrated breeding program, other times as a pseudo-science, and often as the first step leading to genocide. Less frequently is it depicted as a movement having links to the United States. But eugenics does have a history in this country, and Mark Largent tells that story by exploring one of the most disturbing aspects, the compulsory asterilization of more than 64,000 Americans.
Arrington Lecture No. Twelve
In this 12th volume of the Arrington Lecture Series, Thomas Alexander (Lemuel Redd Professor of Western American History, Emeritus, at Brigham Young University), asserts that Brigham Young and the LDS Church’s governing Quorum of Twelve made timely and diligent efforts to investigate the massacre and encouraged legal proceedings but were hindered by federal territorial officials and lied to by massacre participant John D. Lee, preventing Young from learning the full truth for many years.
This collection surveys the many houses, residences, farms, and properties of Brigham Young, leader of the Mormon pioneers, first territorial governor of Utah, and second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The authors discuss, in addition to the buildings themselves, what went on within their walls, looking especially at the lives of Young's plural wives and their children. Their emphasis is on Young's residences as homes, not just structures. The text is heavily illustrated with photos, drawings and maps.
Women and Coeducation in the American West