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Women's Studies, Gender, and Sexuality

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Black Print with a White Carnation Cover

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Black Print with a White Carnation

Mildred Brown and the Omaha Star Newspaper, 1938-1989

Amy Helene Forss

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.

 

Black Women against the Land Grab Cover

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Black Women against the Land Grab

The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil

Keisha-Khan Y. Perry

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.

Black Women and Politics in New York City Cover

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Black Women and Politics in New York City

Julie A. Gallagher

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.

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Black Women, Gender & Families

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.

Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit Cover

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Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit

Nelly Roussel and the Politics of Female Pain in Third Republic France

Elinor Accampo

Nelly Roussel (1878–1922)—the first feminist spokeswoman for birth control in Europe—challenged both the men of early twentieth-century France, who sought to preserve the status quo, and the women who aimed to change it. She delivered her messages through public lectures, journalism, and theater, dazzling audiences with her beauty, intelligence, and disarming wit. She did so within the context of a national depopulation crisis caused by the confluence of low birth rates, the rise of international tensions, and the tragedy of the First World War. While her support spread across social classes, strong political resistance to her message revealed deeply conservative precepts about gender which were grounded in French identity itself. In this thoughtful and provocative study, Elinor Accampo follows Roussel's life from her youth, marriage, speaking career, motherhood, and political activism to her decline and death from tuberculosis in the years following World War I. She tells the story of a woman whose life and work spanned a historical moment when womanhood was being redefined by the acceptance of a woman's sexuality as distinct from her biological, reproductive role—a development that is still causing controversy today.

Blind Rage Cover

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Blind Rage

Letters to Helen Keller

Georgina Kleege

As a young blind girl, Georgina Kleege repeatedly heard the refrain, “Why can’t you be more like Helen Keller?” Kleege’s resentment culminates in her book Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller, an ingenious examination of the life of this renowned international figure using 21st-century sensibilities. Kleege’s absorption with Keller originated as an angry response to the ideal of a secular saint, which no real blind or deaf person could ever emulate. However, her investigation into the genuine person revealed that a much more complex set of characters and circumstances shaped Keller’s life. Blind Rage employs an adroit form of creative nonfiction to review the critical junctures in Keller’s life. The simple facts about Helen Keller are well-known: how Anne Sullivan taught her deaf-blind pupil to communicate and learn; her impressive career as a Radcliffe graduate and author; her countless public appearances in various venues, from cinema to vaudeville, to campaigns for the American Foundation for the Blind. But Kleege delves below the surface to question the perfection of this image. Through the device of her letters, she challenges Keller to reveal her actual emotions, the real nature of her long relationship with Sullivan, with Sullivan’s husband, and her brief engagement to Peter Fagan. Kleege’s imaginative dramatization, distinguished by her depiction of Keller’s command of abstract sensations, gradually shifts in perspective from anger to admiration. Blind Rage criticizes the Helen Keller myth for prolonging an unrealistic model for blind people, yet it appreciates the individual who found a practical way to live despite the restrictions of her myth.

Blue Daughter of the Red Sea Cover

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Blue Daughter of the Red Sea

A Memoir

Meti Birabiro

    Born into a life of constant financial, physical, and moral threat, Meti Birabiro takes refuge in literature and the fantastic. Blue Daughter of the Red Sea is Birabiro’s poetic account of the harsh reality of her young life spread across three continents. Her voice is a fresh mélange of child and adult perspectives, at once brutally honest and wise beyond her years. Through her journey from Ethiopia to Italy and finally to the United States, we encounter Birabiro’s relatives, friends, and enemies—relationships so intense that these people become her vampires, devils, angels, and saints. These characterizations always lead her back to the truth, helping her to decipher what is fair and good, to understand what she must cherish and what she must rage against.

Blue Studios Cover

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Blue Studios

Poetry and Its Cultural Work

Written by Rachel Blau DuPlessis

Feminist issues in avant garde poetry.
 
In her now-classic The Pink Guitar, Rachel Blau DuPlessis examined a number of modern and contemporary poets and artists to explore the possibility of finding a language that would question deeply held assumptions about gender. In the 12 essays and introduction that constitute Blue Studios, DuPlessis continues that task, examining the work of experimental poets and the innovative forms they have fashioned to challenge commonplace assumptions about gender and cultural authority.
 
The essays in “Attitudes and Practices” deal with two questions: what a feminist reading of cultural texts involves, and the nature of the essay itself as a mode of knowing: how poetry can be discursive and how the essay can be poetic. The goal of “Marble Paper,” with its studies of William Wordsworth, Ezra Pound, and Charles Olson is to suggest terms for a “feminist history of poetry.”
 

The Blue Tattoo Cover

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The Blue Tattoo

The Life of Olive Oatman

Margot Mifflin

In 1851 Olive Oatman was a thirteen-year old pioneer traveling west toward Zion, with her Mormon family. Within a decade, she was a white Indian with a chin tattoo, caught between cultures. The Blue Tattoo tells the harrowing story of this forgotten heroine of frontier America. Orphaned when her family was brutally killed by Yavapai Indians, Oatman lived as a slave to her captors for a year before being traded to the Mohave, who tattooed her face and raised her as their own. She was fully assimilated and perfectly happy when, at nineteen, she was ransomed back to white society. She became an instant celebrity, but the price of fame was high and the pain of her ruptured childhood lasted a lifetime.

Based on historical records, including letters and diaries of Oatman’s friends and relatives, The Blue Tattoo is the first book to examine her life from her childhood in Illinois—including the massacre, her captivity, and her return to white society—to her later years as a wealthy banker’s wife in Texas.

Oatman’s story has since become legend, inspiring artworks, fiction, film, radio plays, and even an episode of Death Valley Days starring Ronald Reagan. Its themes, from the perils of religious utopianism to the permeable border between civilization and savagery, are deeply rooted in the American psyche. Oatman’s blue tattoo was a cultural symbol that evoked both the imprint of her Mohave past and the lingering scars of westward expansion. It also served as a reminder of her deepest secret, fully explored here for the first time: she never wanted to go home.
 

Bodied Mindfulness Cover

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Bodied Mindfulness

Women’s Spirits, Bodies and Places

“I see spirituality and social change to be integrally related to each other. I believe that liberation efforts that are supported by spiritual experiences of integration promote human dignity as well as social equality.”

Bodied Mindfulness combines spiritual, social and analytical perspectives to explore topics central to women’s development: spirituality, women’s bodies, cultural constructions of women’s sexuality in language, sexual ethics, the sexual contract in politics and at work, and the relation between nature and culture. It is Tomm’s deeply held conviction that women need to bring a vital spirituality to feminist social criticism in order to resolve these issues and increase their power to promote social justice and ecological balance.

Tomm embraces a vast store of knowledge from diverse sources, including Buddhist, shamanist and feminist resources. In a move away from abstract theorizing, she explicitly connects theory with realities lived by women. Grounding theory in personal experience — her own and others — Tomm delivers a powerful and empowering account of women’s spirituality. The resulting ontological transformation allows women to live deeply in the body while strengthening their relation to human and non-human matter and energy.

Bodied Mindfulness will be of great interest to feminist scholars in all disciplines, but most particularly to those in Women’s Studies and Religious Studies.

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