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Black Power Action Films
This lively study unpacks the intersecting racial, sexual, and gender politics underlying the representations of racialized bodies, masculinities, and femininities in early 1970s black action films, with particular focus on black femininity. While low-budget blaxploitation films typically portrayed black women as trifling "bitches" compared to the supermacho black male heroes, the terms "baad bitches" and "sassy supermamas" signal the emergence of films featuring self-assured, empowered, and tough (or "baad") black female protagonists: Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Foxy Brown. Stephane Dunn closely examines a distinct moment in the history of African American representation in popular cinema, tracing its influences from the Black Power movement and feminism.
Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition
One of the first women’s organizations to mask and perform during Mardi Gras, the Million Dollar Baby Dolls redefined the New Orleans carnival tradition. Tracing their origins from Storyville-era brothels and dance halls to their re-emergence in post-Katrina New Orleans, author Kim Marie Vaz uncovers the fascinating history of the “raddy-walking, shake-dancing, cigar-smoking, money-flinging” ladies who strutted their way into a predominantly male establishment. The Baby Dolls formed around 1912 as an organization of African American women who used their profits from working in New Orleans’s red-light district to compete with other Black prostitutes on Mardi Gras. Part of this event involved the tradition of masking, in which carnival groups create a collective identity through costuming. Their baby doll costumes—short satin dresses, stockings with garters, and bonnets—set against a bold and provocative public behavior not only exploited stereotypes but also empowered and made visible an otherwise marginalized female demographic. Over time, different neighborhoods adopted the Baby Doll tradition, stirring the creative imagination of Black women and men across New Orleans, from the downtown Tremé area to the uptown community of Mahalia Jackson. Vaz follows the Baby Doll phenomenon through one hundred years with photos, articles, and interviews and concludes with the birth of contemporary groups, emphasizing these organizations’ crucial contribution to Louisiana’s cultural history.
Racial Politics in the Women's Peace Movement
A Band of Noble Women brings together the histories of the women’s peace movement and the black women’s club and social reform movement in a story of community and consciousness building between the world wars. Believing that achievement of improved race relations was a central step in establishing world peace, African American and white women initiated new political alliances that challenged the practices of Jim Crow segregation and promoted the leadership of women in transnational politics. Under the auspices of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), they united the artistic agenda of the Harlem Renaissance, suffrage-era organizing tactics, and contemporary debates on race in their efforts to expand women’s influence on the politics of war and peace. Plastas shows how WILPF espoused middle-class values and employed gendered forms of organization building, educating thousands of people on issues ranging from U.S. policies in Haiti and Liberia to the need for global disarmament. Highlighting WILPF chapters in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Baltimore, the author examines the successes of this interracial movement as well as its failures. A Band of Noble Women enables us to examine more fully the history of race in U.S. women’s movements and illuminates the role of the women’s peace movement in setting the foundation for the civil rights movement
The Life of Belle W. Baruch
Belle W. Baruch (1899–1964) could outride, outshoot, outhunt, and outsail most of the young men of her elite social circle—abilities that distanced her from other debutantes of 1917. Unapologetic for her athleticism and interests in traditionally masculine pursuits, Baruch towered above male and female counterparts in height and daring. While she is known today for the wildlife conservation and biological research center on the South Carolina coast that bears her family name, Belle's story is a rich narrative about one nonconformist's ties to the land. In Baroness of Hobcaw, Mary E. Miller provides a provocative portrait of this unorthodox woman who gave a gift of monumental importance to the scientific community. Belle's father, Bernard M. Baruch, the so-called Wolf of Wall Street, held sway over the financial and diplomatic world of the early twentieth century and served as an adviser to seven U.S. presidents. In 1905 he bought Hobcaw Barony, a sprawling seaside retreat where he entertained the likes of Churchill and FDR. Belle's daily life at Hobcaw reflects the world of wealthy northerners, including the Vanderbilts and Luces, who bought tracts of southern acreage. Miller details Belle's exploits—fox hunting at Hobcaw, show jumping at Deauville, flying her own plane, traveling with Edith Bolling Wilson, and patrolling the South Carolina beach for spies during World War II. Belle's story also reveals her efforts to win her mother's approval and her father's attention, as well as her unraveling relationships with friends, family, employees, and lovers—both male and female. Miller describes Belle's final success in saving Hobcaw from development as the overarching triumph of a tempestuous life.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
This timely and compelling ethnography examines the impact of welfare reform on women seeking to escape domestic violence. Dána-Ain Davis profiles twenty-two women, thirteen of whom are Black, living in a battered women’s shelter in a small city in upstate New York. She explores the contradictions between welfare reform’s supposed success in moving women off of public assistance and toward economic self-sufficiency and the consequences welfare reform policy has presented for Black women fleeing domestic violence. Focusing on the intersection of poverty, violence, and race, she demonstrates the differential treatment that Black and White women face in their entanglements with the welfare bureaucracy by linking those entanglements to the larger political economy of a small city, neoliberal social policies, and racialized ideas about Black women as workers and mothers.
At dawn on January 29, 1863, Union-affiliated troops under the command of Col. Patrick Connor were brought by Mormon guides to the banks of the Bear River, where, with the tacit approval of Abraham Lincoln, they attacked and slaughtered nearly three hundred Northwestern Shoshoni men, women, and children. Evidence suggests that, in the hours after the attack, the troops raped the surviving women—an act still denied by some historians and Shoshoni elders. In exploring why a seminal act of genocide is still virtually unknown to the U.S. public, Kass Fleisher chronicles the massacre itself, and investigates the National Park Service’s proposal to create a National Historic Site to commemorate the massacre—but not the rape. When she finds herself arguing with a Shoshoni woman elder about whether the rape actually occurred, Fleisher is forced to confront her own role as a maker of this conflicted history, and to examine the legacy of white women “busybodies.”
The Politics of Women's Bodies in France
Beauvoir and Her Sisters investigates how women's experiences, as represented in print culture, led to a political identity of an "imagined sisterhood" through which political activism developed and thrived in postwar France. Through the lens of women's political and popular writings, Sandra Reineke presents a unique interpretation of feminist and intellectual discourse on citizenship, identity, and reproductive rights._x000B__x000B_Drawing on feminist writings by Simone de Beauvoir, feminist reviews from the women's liberation movement, and cultural reproductions from French women's fashion and beauty magazines, Reineke illustrates how print media created new spaces for political and social ideas. This sustained study extends from 1944, when women received the right to vote in France, to 1993, when the French government outlawed anti-abortion activities. Touching on the relationship between consumer culture and feminist practice, Reineke's analysis of a selection of women's writings underlines how these texts challenged traditional gender models and ideals._x000B_
Christianity and the Cultivation of Female Genius
Because of Beauvoir does what many say is impossible: it demonstrates how women can flourish, without conflict, while being simultaneously Christian and feminist. Alison Jasper offers a vision of Julia Kristeva's "female genius" as the capacity of women to thrive and cultivate intellect within and across different cultural and theological environments. Using the writings of English women from the 17th through the 21st centuries as living profiles, Jasper draws upon the creative power in the lives of real women to recognize and retrieve a female subjectivity—one that determines how women see and are seen after Simon de Beauvoir.
Hedwig Dohm (1831–1919) was a thinker and writer significantly ahead of her time. She championed women’s rights in Germany and criticized with acerbic wit the social, political, and familial inequities inherent in gender relationships at the time of the first wave of the women’s movement. Her novella Become Who You Are is about a woman, Agnes Schmidt, whose husband has died and who is grappling with finding an identity for herself as an aging widow—reflecting the restrictions imposed especially on aging, widowed women who often yearn for a life and identity of their own. Also included here is the English translation of Dohm’s essay, “The Old Woman,” which is a compelling call for women to resist the social, intellectual, psychological, and physical restraints placed on women of Dohm’s time.