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Women's Studies, Gender, and Sexuality > Women's Studies

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Beyond the Gibson Girl Cover

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Beyond the Gibson Girl

Reimagining the American New Woman, 1895-1915

Martha H. Patterson

Challenging monolithic images of the New Woman as white, well-educated, and politically progressive, this study focuses on important regional, ethnic, and sociopolitical differences in the use of the New Woman trope at the turn of the twentieth century. Using Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson Girls" as a point of departure, Martha H. Patterson explores how writers such as Pauline Hopkins, Margaret Murray Washington, Sui Sin Far, Mary Johnston, Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, and Willa Cather challenged and redeployed the New Woman image in light of other "new" conceptions: the "New Negro Woman," the "New Ethics," the "New South," and the "New China." Examining a diverse array of cultural products, Patterson shows how the seemingly celebratory term of the New Woman becomes a trope not only of progressive reform, consumer power, transgressive femininity, modern energy, and modern cure, but also of racial and ethnic taxonomies, social Darwinist struggle, imperialist ambition, assimilationist pressures, and modern decay.

Beyond the Pulpit Cover

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Beyond the Pulpit

Women’s Rhetorical Roles in the Antebellum Religious Press

Lisa J. Shaver

In the formative years of the Methodist Church in the United States, women played significant roles as proselytizers, organizers, lay ministers, and majority members. Although women's participation helped the church to become the nation's largest denomination by the mid-nineteenth century, their official roles diminished during that time. In Beyond the Pulpit, Lisa Shaver examines Methodist periodicals as a rhetorical space to which women turned to find, and make, self-meaning. In 1818, Methodist Magazine first published "memoirs" that eulogized women as powerful witnesses for their faith on their deathbeds. As Shaver observes, it was only in death that a woman could achieve the status of minister. Another Methodist publication, the Christian Advocate, was America's largest circulated weekly by the mid-1830s. It featured the "Ladies' Department," a column that reinforced the canon of women as dutiful wives, mothers, and household managers. Here, the church also affirmed women in the important rhetorical and evangelical role of domestic preacher. Outside the "Ladies Department," women increasingly appeared in "little narratives" in which they were portrayed as models of piety and charity, benefactors, organizers, Sunday school administrators and teachers, missionaries, and ministers' assistants. These texts cast women into nondomestic roles that were institutionally sanctioned and widely disseminated. By 1841, the Ladies' Repository and Gatherings of the West was engaging women in discussions of religion, politics, education, science, and a variety of intellectual debates. As Shaver posits, by providing a forum for women writers and readers, the church gave them an official rhetorical space and the license to define their own roles and spheres of influence. As such, the periodicals of the Methodist church became an important public venue in which women's voices were heard and their identities explored.

Bike Lust Cover

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Bike Lust

Harleys, Women, And American Society

Barbara Joans

Bike Lust roars straight into the world of women bikers and offers us a ride. In this adventure story that is also an insider’s study of an American subculture, Barbara Joans enters as a passenger on the back of a bike, but soon learns to ride her own. As an anthropologist she untangles the rules, rituals, and rites of passage of the biker culture. As a new member of that culture, she struggles to overcome fear, physical weakness, and a tendency to shoot her mouth off—a tendency that very nearly gets her killed.
    Bike Lust travels a landscape of contradictions. Outlaws still chase freedom on the highway, but so do thousands of riders of all classes, races, and colors. Joans introduces us to the women who ride the rear—the biker chick, the calendar slut straddling the hot engine, the back-seat Betty at the latest rally, or the underage groupie at the local run. But she also gives us the first close look at women who ride in their own right, on their own bikes, as well as a new understanding of changing world of male bikers. These are ordinary women’s lives made extraordinary, adding a dimension of courage to the sport not experienced by males, risking life and limb for a glimpse of the very edge of existence. This community of riders exists as a primal tribute to humanity's lust for freedom.

Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Movements and Feminisms Cover

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Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Movements and Feminisms

Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe, 19th and 20th Centuries

Edited francisca DeHaan, Anna Loutfi

Contains 150 expertly-researched biographical portraits (with pictures) of women and men who were active in, or part of, women's movements and feminisms in 22 countries in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thus it challenges the widely-held belief that there was no feminism in this part of Europe. The biographical portraits not only show that feminists existed here, but also that they were widespread and diverse, and included Romanian princesses, Serbian philosophers and peasants, Latvian and Slovakian novelists, Albanian teachers, Hungarian Catholic social workers, Austrian factory workers, Bulgarian feminist scientists and socialist feminists, Russian radicals and philanthropists, Turkish republican leftist political activists and nationalists, internationally recognized Greek feminist leaders, and so on-women, and some men, from all walks of life. Their stories together constitute a rich tapestry of feminist activity, rejecting the notion that either there was no feminism here, or that it was 'imported from the West.' Women in every society and in every generation protest gender injustice, and any suggestion to the contrary is a denial of the intelligence and human agency of countless women and men, including those featured in this Biographical Dictionary. The biographies not only provide a window onto the historical background of contemporary feminism (thus giving present-day women's movements the 'historical support' that they need and are entitled to), in some cases they demonstrate explicitly the historical continuities between feminisms past and present.

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Birth Chairs, Midwives, and Medicine

Amanda Carson Banks

There was a time when birth was treated as a natural process rather than a medical condition. Before 1800, women gave birth seated in birth chairs or on stools and were helped along by midwives. Then societal changes in attitudes toward women and the practice of medicine made birthing a province of the male-dominated medical profession.

In Birth Chairs, Midwives, and Medicine, Amanda Carson Banks examines the history of the birth chair and tells how this birthing device changed over time. Through photographs, artists' renditions of births, interviews, and texts from midwives and early obstetricians, she creates an evolutionary picture of birthing practices and highlights the radical redefinition of birth that has occurred in the last two centuries.

During the 1800s the change from a natural philosophy of birth to a medical one was partly a result of heightened understandings of anatomy and physiology. The medical profession was growing, and with it grew the awareness of the economic rewards of making delivery a specialized practice. In the background of the medical profession's rise was the prevailing perception of women as fragile invalids. Gradually, midwives and birth chairs were relegated to rural and isolated settings.

The popularity of birth chairs has seen a revival in the late twentieth century as the struggle between medical obstetrics and the alternative birth movement has grown. As Banks shows through her careful examination of the chairs themselves, these questions have been answered and reconsidered many times in human history. Using the artifacts from the home and medical office, Banks traces sweeping societal changes in the philosophy of how to bring life into the world.

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Biting the Moon

A Memoir of Motherhood and Feminism

by Joanne Frye

Joanne Frye reflects on her experience as a literary scholar and single mother, seeing her life as the convergence of "three strands of contemporary culture; feminism, literature and changing ideas of motherhood."

Black Eye Cover

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Black Eye

Escaping a Marriage, Writing a Life

Judith Strasser

    Seventeen years after she married, Judith Strasser escaped her emotionally and physically abusive husband and sought a better way to live. In the process, Strasser rediscovered what she had suppressed through that long span of time: exceptional strength and a passion for writing.
    Black Eye includes excerpts from a journal Strasser kept from 1985 to1986, the year she made the decision to leave her marriage, and present-day commentary on the journal passages and her family history. Strasser works like a detective investigating her own life, drawing clarity and power from journal passages, dreams, and memories that originally emerged from confusion and despair. With language that is both insightful and poetic, she reveals the psychological and social circumstances that led a "strong" woman, an intelligent and politically active feminist, to become an emotionally dependent, abused wife.
    Not coincidentally, the same year that Strasser finally found the courage to leave her husband, she also reclaimed her creative voice. Newly empowered and energized by this enormous life change, Strasser began writing again after twenty-five silent years dominated by her mother’s illness and death, her own cancer, and her painful, fearful marriage. Black Eye is one of the fruits of this creative reawakening. Strasser’s writing is refreshingly honest and instantly engrossing. Not shy of wretchedness or beauty, Strasser’s story is bitterly personal, ultimately triumphant, and inspiring to all who deal with the adversity that is part of human life.

Black Female Playwrights Cover

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Black Female Playwrights

An Anthology of Plays before 1950

Edited with an Introduction by Kathy A. Perkins

"Fine reading and a superb resource." -- Ms.

"Highly recommended." -- Library Journal

"Perkins has chosen the plays well, and her issue-oriented introduction places the women and their works in a literary and historical context." -- Choice

"As well as being centered on the black experience, the plays in Black Female Playwrights are centered on the female experience." -- Voice Literary Supplement

"Perkins' anthology is valuable for a number of reasons... Perkins' book (which includes a bibliography of plays and pageants by black women before 1950 as well as a selected bibliography of critical works) is a major help in providing access to [the world of black drama]." -- Theatre Journal

The need to acknowledge these works was the impetus behind this volume. Perkins has selected nineteen plays from seven writers who were among the major dramatizers of the black experience during this early period. As forerunners to the activist black theater of the 1950s and 1960s, these plays represent a critical stage in the development of black drama in the United States.

Black Feminist Voices in Politics Cover

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Black Feminist Voices in Politics

In Black Feminist Voices in Politics, Evelyn M. Simien charts a course for black women’s studies in political science. Examining the simultaneous effects of race and gender on political behavior, Simien uses a national telephone survey sample of the adult African American population to discover the extent to which black women and men support black feminist tenets. At the heart of this book are answers to such questions as: How does the absence of black feminist voices impair our understanding of group consciousness? What factors make individuals more or less likely to adopt black feminist views? Are men just as likely as women to support black feminist tenets? Simien analyzes the survey data, responds to limitations of existing research, and addresses critical questions that many black academics, intellectuals, and activists have devoted significant energy to debating without much empirical evidence.

Black Internationalist Feminism Cover

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Black Internationalist Feminism

Women Writers of the Black Left, 1945-1995

Cheryl Higashida

Black Internationalist Feminism examines how African American women writers affiliated themselves with the post-World War II Black Communist Left and developed a distinct strand of feminism. This vital yet largely overlooked feminist tradition built upon and critically retheorized the postwar Left's "nationalist internationalism," which connected the liberation of Blacks in the United States to the liberation of Third World nations and the worldwide proletariat. Black internationalist feminism critiques racist, heteronormative, and masculinist articulations of nationalism while maintaining the importance of national liberation movements for achieving Black women's social, political, and economic rights._x000B__x000B_Cheryl Higashida shows how Claudia Jones, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Childress, Rosa Guy, Audre Lorde, and Maya Angelou worked within and against established literary forms to demonstrate that nationalist internationalism was linked to struggles against heterosexism and patriarchy. Exploring a diverse range of plays, novels, essays, poetry, and reportage, Higashida illustrates how literature is a crucial lens for studying Black internationalist feminism because these authors were at the forefront of bringing the perspectives and problems of black women to light against their marginalization and silencing._x000B__x000B_In examining writing by Black Left women from 1945 to 1995, Black Internationalist Feminism contributes to recent efforts to rehistoricize the Old Left, Civil Rights, Black Power, and second-wave Black women's movements.

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