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Gender and American Culture

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Gender and American Culture

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Funding Feminism

Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement, 1870–1967

Joan Marie Johnson

Joan Marie Johnson examines an understudied dimension of women's history in the United States: how a group of affluent white women from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries advanced the status of all women through acts of philanthropy. This cadre of activists included Phoebe Hearst, the mother of William Randolph Hearst; Grace Dodge, granddaughter of Wall Street "Merchant Prince" William Earle Dodge; and Ava Belmont, who married into the Vanderbilt family fortune. Motivated by their own experiences with sexism, and focusing on women's need for economic independence, these benefactors sought to expand women's access to higher education, promote suffrage, and champion reproductive rights, as well as to provide assistance to working-class women. In a time when women still wielded limited political power, philanthropy was perhaps the most potent tool they had. But even as these wealthy women exercised considerable influence, their activism had significant limits. As Johnson argues, restrictions tied to their giving engendered resentment and jeopardized efforts to establish coalitions across racial and class lines.

As the struggle for full economic and political power and self-determination for women continues today, this history reveals how generous women helped shape the movement. And Johnson shows us that tensions over wealth and power that persist in the modern movement have deep historical roots.

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Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun

The Story of USO Hostesses during World War II

Meghan K. Winchell

Throughout World War II, when Saturday nights came around, servicemen and hostesses happily forgot the war for a little while as they danced together in USO clubs, which served as havens of stability in a time of social, moral, and geographic upheaval. Meghan Winchell demonstrates that in addition to boosting soldier morale, the USO acted as an architect of the gender roles and sexual codes that shaped the "greatest generation." Combining archival research with extensive firsthand accounts from among the hundreds of thousands of female USO volunteers, Winchell shows how the organization both reflected and shaped 1940s American society at large. The USO had hoped that respectable feminine companionship would limit venereal disease rates in the military. To that end, Winchell explains, USO recruitment practices characterized white middle-class women as sexually respectable, thus implying that the sexual behavior of working-class women and women of color was suspicious. In response, women of color sought to redefine the USO's definition of beauty and respectability, challenging the USO's vision of a home front that was free of racial, gender, and sexual conflict. Despite clashes over class and racial ideologies of sex and respectability, Winchell finds that most hostesses benefited from the USO's chaste image. In exploring the USO's treatment of female volunteers, Winchell not only brings the hostesses' stories to light but also supplies a crucial missing piece for understanding the complex ways in which the war both destabilized and restored certain versions of social order. One of the principal goals of the USO (United Service Organizations, Inc.), the quasi-governmental organization that offered wholesome recreation to off-duty soldiers and sailors during World War II, was to provide stability in a time of social, moral, and geographic upheaval. In this book, Meghan Winchell examines the experience of American women who volunteered with the USO as hostesses during the war to shed light on the ways the organization both reflected and challenged American society at large during that period. Winchell argues that the organization emerged, in part, as a way to reinforce dominant cultural norms governing sexual codes and gender ways. It built morale for the Army and Navy, who also hoped that respectable feminine companionship would limit venereal disease rates, which had been a major problem during World War I. While the organization tried to embody a self-conscious model of racial harmony and stability on the home front, the clubs in actuality promoted a stereotypical white middle class model of sexual respectability, implying that the sexual behaviour of white working class women and women of color was suspicious. Race is attended to as appropriate throughout the book. Throughout World War II, when Saturday nights came around, servicemen and hostesses happily forgot the war for a little while as they danced together in USO clubs, which served as havens of stability in a time of social, moral, and geographic upheaval. Meghan Winchell demonstrates that in addition to boosting soldier morale, the USO acted as an architect of the gender roles and sexual codes that shaped the "greatest generation." Combining archival research with extensive firsthand accounts from among the hundreds of thousands of female USO volunteers, Winchell shows how the organization both reflected and shaped 1940s American society at large. Throughout World War II, when Saturday nights came around, servicemen and hostesses happily forgot the war for a little while as they danced together in USO clubs, which served as havens of stability in a time of social, moral, and geographic upheaval. Meghan Winchell demonstrates that in addition to boosting soldier morale, the USO acted as an architect of the gender roles and sexual codes that shaped the "greatest generation." Combining archival research with extensive firsthand accounts from among the hundreds of thousands of female USO volunteers, Winchell shows how the organization both reflected and shaped 1940s American society at large. The USO had hoped that respectable feminine companionship would limit venereal disease rates in the military. To that end, Winchell explains, USO recruitment practices characterized white middle-class women as sexually respectable, thus implying that the sexual behavior of working-class women and women of color was suspicious. In response, women of color sought to redefine the USO's definition of beauty and respectability, challenging the USO's vision of a home front that was free of racial, gender, and sexual conflict. Despite clashes over class and racial ideologies of sex and respectability, Winchell finds that most hostesses benefited from the USO's chaste image. In exploring the USO's treatment of female volunteers, Winchell not only brings the hostesses' stories to light but also supplies a crucial missing piece for understanding the complex ways in which the war both destabilized and restored certain versions of social order.

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Island Queens and Mission Wives

How Gender and Empire Remade Hawai‘i’s Pacific World

Jennifer Thigpen

In the late eighteenth century, Hawai'i's ruling elite employed sophisticated methods for resisting foreign intrusion. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, American missionaries had gained a foothold in the islands. Jennifer Thigpen explains this important shift by focusing on two groups of women: missionary wives and high-ranking Hawaiian women. Examining the enduring and personal exchange between these groups, Thigpen argues that women's relationships became vital to building and maintaining the diplomatic and political alliances that ultimately shaped the islands' political future. Male missionaries' early attempts to Christianize the Hawaiian people were based on racial and gender ideologies brought with them from the mainland, and they did not comprehend the authority of Hawaiian chiefly women in social, political, cultural, and religious matters. It was not until missionary wives and powerful Hawaiian women developed relationships shaped by Hawaiian values and traditions--which situated Americans as guests of their beneficent hosts--that missionaries successfully introduced Christian religious and cultural values.

Incisively written and meticulously researched, Thigpen's book sheds new light on American and Hawaiian women's relationships, illustrating how they ultimately provided a foundation for American power in the Pacific and hastened the colonization of the Hawaiian nation.

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Liberated Threads

Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul

Tanisha C. Ford

From the civil rights and Black Power era of the 1960s through antiapartheid activism in the 1980s and beyond, black women have used their clothing, hair, and style not simply as a fashion statement but as a powerful tool of resistance. Whether using stiletto heels as weapons to protect against police attacks or incorporating African-themed designs into everyday wear, these fashion-forward women celebrated their identities and pushed for equality.

In this thought-provoking book, Tanisha C. Ford explores how and why black women in places as far-flung as New York City, Atlanta, London, and Johannesburg incorporated style and beauty culture into their activism. Focusing on the emergence of the "soul style" movement—represented in clothing, jewelry, hairstyles, and more—Liberated Threads shows that black women's fashion choices became galvanizing symbols of gender and political liberation. Drawing from an eclectic archive, Ford offers a new way of studying how black style and Soul Power moved beyond national boundaries, sparking a global fashion phenomenon. Following celebrities, models, college students, and everyday women as they moved through fashion boutiques, beauty salons, and record stores, Ford narrates the fascinating intertwining histories of Black Freedom and fashion.

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Living the Revolution

Italian Women's Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945

Jennifer Guglielmo

Italians were the largest group of immigrants to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, and hundreds of thousands led and participated in some of the period's most volatile labor strikes. Jennifer Guglielmo brings to life the Italian working-class women of New York and New Jersey who helped shape the vibrant radical political culture that expanded into the emerging industrial union movement. Tracing two generations of women who worked in the needle and textile trades, she explores the ways immigrant women and their American-born daughters drew on Italian traditions of protest to form new urban female networks of everyday resistance and political activism. She also shows how their commitment to revolutionary and transnational social movements diminished as they became white working-class Americans.

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Mobilizing New York

AIDS, Antipoverty, and Feminist Activism

Tamar W. Carroll

Examining three interconnected case studies, Tamar Carroll powerfully demonstrates the ability of grassroots community activism to bridge racial and cultural differences and effect social change. Drawing on a rich array of oral histories, archival records, newspapers, films, and photographs from post–World War II New York City, Carroll shows how poor people transformed the antipoverty organization Mobilization for Youth and shaped the subsequent War on Poverty. Highlighting the little-known National Congress of Neighborhood Women, she reveals the significant participation of working-class white ethnic women and women of color in New York City's feminist activism. Finally, Carroll traces the partnership between the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and Women's Health Action Mobilization (WHAM!), showing how gay men and feminists collaborated to create a supportive community for those affected by the AIDS epidemic, to improve health care, and to oppose homophobia and misogyny during the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s. Carroll contends that social policies that encourage the political mobilization of marginalized groups and foster coalitions across identity differences are the most effective means of solving social problems and realizing democracy.

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The Myth of Seneca Falls

Memory and the Women's Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898

Lisa Tetrault

The story of how the women's rights movement began at the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 is a cherished American myth. The standard account credits founders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott with defining and then leading the campaign for women's suffrage. In her provocative new history, Lisa Tetrault demonstrates that Stanton, Anthony, and their peers gradually created and popularized this origins story during the second half of the nineteenth century in response to internal movement dynamics as well as the racial politics of memory after the Civil War. The founding mythology that coalesced in their speeches and writings--most notably Stanton and Anthony's History of Woman Suffrage--provided younger activists with the vital resource of a usable past for the ongoing struggle, and it helped consolidate Stanton and Anthony's leadership against challenges from the grassroots and rival suffragists.

As Tetrault shows, while this mythology has narrowed our understanding of the early efforts to champion women's rights, the myth of Seneca Falls itself became an influential factor in the suffrage movement. And along the way, its authors amassed the first archive of feminism and literally invented the modern discipline of women's history.

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Pauli Murray and Caroline Ware

Forty Years of Letters in Black and White

Edited by Anne Firor Scott

In 1942 Pauli Murray, a young black woman from North Carolina studying law at Howard University, visited a constitutional law class taught by Caroline Ware, one of the nation's leading historians. A friendship and a correspondence began, lasting until Murray's death in 1985. Ware, a Boston Brahmin born in 1899, was a scholar, a leading consumer advocate, and a political activist. Murray, born in 1910 and raised in North Carolina, with few resources except her intelligence and determination, graduated from college at 16 and made her way to law school, where she organized student sit-ins to protest segregation. She pulled her friend Ware into this early civil rights activism. Their forty-year correspondence ranged widely over issues of race, politics, international affairs, and--for a difficult period in the 1950s--McCarthyism. In time, Murray became a labor lawyer, a university professor, and the first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. Ware continued her work as a social historian and consumer advocate while pursuing an international career as a community development specialist. Their letters, products of high intelligence and a gift for writing, offer revealing portraits of their authors as well as the workings of an unusual female friendship. They also provide a wonderful channel into the social and political thought of the times, particularly regarding civil rights and women's rights. This collection of letters documents the 40- year interracial friendship between writer Pauli Murray and historian Caroline Ware, both of whom were considered radical feminists at the time. Ware (1899-1990) was a Boston Brahmin with a Harvard Ph.D. who taught history and social work for two decades at Howard University and later became an adviser in community development & cultural affairs for the UN. Murray (1910-1985), who was biracial (African American and Cherokee), was raised by her aunt and grandparents in Durham, NC, graduated high school at 16 and earned her law degree from Howard, where she was a student of Ware. She became a labor lawyer, teacher, activist, poet, and writer, best known for her family memoir, Proud Shoes (1956). The correspondence is at times personal, sometimes political, and covers such topics as the civil rights movement, electoral politics, the labor movement, the debate about Fair Employment Practices, McCarthyism, feminism, NOW, as well as everyday struggles and triumphs. Strip & rebind: 1000 Cloth sales: 553 Cloth inventory: 1203 Recommendation for cloth edition: OP/OS Caroline Ware (1899-1990), a white historian, was a leading consumer advocate and a political activist. Pauli Murray (1910-1985), was an African American student of Ware's at Howard University who went on to become a labor lawyer, a university professor, and the first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. The women shared a life-long friendship, and their forty-year correspondence ranges widely over issues of race, politics, international affairs, and McCarthyism. The letters, products of high intelligence and a gift for writing, reveal portraits of their authors as well as the workings of an unusual female friendship. They also provide a wonderful channel into the social and political thought of the times, particularly regarding civil rights and women's rights. In 1942 Pauli Murray, a young black woman from North Carolina studying law at Howard University, visited a constitutional law class taught by Caroline Ware, one of the nation's leading historians. A friendship and a correspondence began, lasting until Murray's death in 1985. Ware, a Boston Brahmin born in 1899, was a scholar, a leading consumer advocate, and a political activist. Murray, born in 1910 and raised in North Carolina, with few resources except her intelligence and determination, graduated from college at 16 and made her way to law school, where she organized student sit-ins to protest segregation. She pulled her friend Ware into this early civil rights activism. Their forty-year correspondence ranged widely over issues of race, politics, international affairs, and--for a difficult period in the 1950s--McCarthyism. In time, Murray became a labor lawyer, a university professor, and the first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest. Ware continued her work as a social historian and consumer advocate while pursuing an international career as a community development specialist. Their letters, products of high intelligence and a gift for writing, offer revealing portraits of their authors as well as the workings of an unusual female friendship. They also provide a wonderful channel into the social and political thought of the times, particularly regarding civil rights and women's rights.

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The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America

Kate Haulman

In eighteenth-century America, fashion served as a site of contests over various forms of gendered power. Here, Kate Haulman explores how and why fashion--both as a concept and as the changing style of personal adornment--linked gender relations, social order, commerce, and political authority during a time when traditional hierarchies were in flux. In the see-and-be-seen port cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, fashion, a form of power and distinction, was conceptually feminized yet pursued by both men and women across class ranks. Haulman shows that elite men and women in these cities relied on fashion to present their status but also attempted to undercut its ability to do so for others. Disdain for others' fashionability was a means of safeguarding social position in cities where the modes of dress were particularly fluid and a way to maintain gender hierarchy in a world in which women's power as consumers was expanding. Concerns over gendered power expressed through fashion in dress, Haulman reveals, shaped the revolutionary-era struggles of the 1760s and 1770s, influenced national political debates, and helped to secure the exclusions of the new political order.

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Radical Relations

Lesbian Mothers, Gay Fathers, and Their Children in the United States since World War II

Daniel Winunwe Rivers

In Radical Relations, Daniel Winunwe Rivers offers a previously untold story of the American family: the first history of lesbian and gay parents and their children in the United States. Beginning in the postwar era, a period marked by both intense repression and dynamic change for lesbians and gay men, Rivers argues that by forging new kinds of family and childrearing relations, gay and lesbian parents have successfully challenged legal and cultural definitions of family as heterosexual. These efforts have paved the way for the contemporary focus on family and domestic rights in lesbian and gay political movements.
Based on extensive archival research and 130 interviews conducted nationwide, Radical Relations includes the stories of lesbian mothers and gay fathers in the 1950s, lesbian and gay parental activist networks and custody battles, families struggling with the AIDS epidemic, and children growing up in lesbian feminist communities. Rivers also addresses changes in gay and lesbian parenthood in the 1980s and 1990s brought about by increased awareness of insemination technologies and changes in custody and adoption law.

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