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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.
Escaping a Marriage, Writing a Life
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.
An Anthology of Plays before 1950
"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.
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.
Women Writers of the Black Left, 1945-1995
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.
Mildred Brown and the Omaha Star Newspaper, 1938-1989
Mildred Dee Brown (1905–89) was the cofounder of Nebraska’s Omaha Star, the longest running black newspaper founded by an African American woman in the United States. Known for her trademark white carnation corsage, Brown was the matriarch of Omaha’s Near North Side—a historically black part of town—and an iconic city leader. Her remarkable life, a product of the Reconstruction era and Jim Crow, reflects a larger American history that includes the Great Migration, the Red Scare of the post–World War era, civil rights and black power movements, desegregation, and urban renewal.
Within the context of African American and women’s history studies, Amy Helene Forss’s Black Print with a White Carnation examines the impact of the black press through the narrative of Brown’s life and work. Forss draws on more than 150 oral histories, numerous black newspapers, and government documents to illuminate African American history during the political and social upheaval of the twentieth century. During Brown’s fifty-one-year tenure, the Omaha Star became a channel of communication between black and white residents of the city, as well as an arena for positive weekly news in the black community. Brown and her newspaper led successful challenges to racial discrimination, unfair employment practices, restrictive housing covenants, and a segregated public school system, placing the woman with the white carnation at the center of America’s changing racial landscape.
The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil
In Brazil and throughout the African diaspora, black women, especially poor black women, are rarely considered leaders of social movements let alone political theorists. But in the northeastern city of Salvador, Brazil, it is these very women who determine how urban policies are established. Focusing on the Gamboa de Baixo neighborhood in Salvador’s city center, Black Women against the Land Grab explores how black women’s views on development have radicalized local communities to demand justice and social change.
In Black Women against the Land Grab, Keisha-Khan Y. Perry describes the key role of local women activists in the citywide movement for land and housing rights. She reveals the importance of geographic location for understanding the gendered aspects of urban renewal and the formation of black women–led social movements. How have black women shaped the politics of urban redevelopment, Perry asks, and what does this kind of political intervention tell us about black women’s agency? Her work uncovers the ways in which political labor at the neighborhood level is central to the mass mobilization of black people against institutional racism and for citizenship rights and resources in Brazil.
Highlighting the political life of black communities, specifically those in urban contexts often represented as socially pathological and politically bankrupt, Black Women against the Land Grab offers a valuable corrective to how we think about politics and about black women, particularly poor black women, as a political force.
Julie A. Gallagher documents six decades of politically active black women in New York City who waged struggles for justice, rights, and equality not through grassroots activism but through formal politics. In tracing the paths of black women activists from women's clubs and civic organizations to national politics--including appointments to presidential commissions, congressional offices, and even a presidential candidacy--Gallagher also articulates the vision of politics the women developed and its influence on the Democratic party and its policies. Deftly examining how race, gender, and the structure of the state itself shape outcomes, she exposes the layers of power and discrimination at work in all sectors of U.S. society.
Vol. 3 (2009) - vol. 6 (2012)
Black Women, Gender & Families analyzes, develops, and furthers Black Women's Studies paradigms. It centers the study of Black women and gender within the critical discourses of history, the social sciences, and the humanities. Second, this journal provides an Africana/Black Studies and Women's Studies cross-field and interdisciplinary venue for Black womanist and Black feminist theories, methodologies, and analyses. Third, it more fully integrates gender as an analytic category, and strengthens Black Women's Studies as a paradigm for studying black women, gender, families, and communities—especially policy-related issues within the broader disciplines of Black Studies and Women's Studies. Fourth, this journal provides the space for interdisciplinary, comparative/transnational studies of Global Africa/the African Diaspora and other women, families, and communities of color, using Black Women's Studies frameworks.
BWGF is peer-reviewed and published in collaboration with the African American Studies and Research Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.