Journal of Social History
Volume 37, Number 3, Spring 2004
"Lots of Them Did That": Desertion, Bigamy, and Marital Fluidity in Late-Nineteenth-Century America [Access article in HTML] Subjects:
Marriage law -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Bigamy -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Women -- United States -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
Women -- United States -- Economic conditions -- 19th century.
Although marriage was invested with significant
personal, ideological, economic, legal, and political
importance in late-nineteenth-century America, its
endings and beginnings could be more fluid than the law
suggested. This study of "contesting widow"
applications, where two wives applied for a single
soldier's pension, in Civil War pension files
demonstrates these fluid marriage patterns among
working-class couples. Some couples separated, and other
individuals abandoned or deserted spouses. Short-term
temporary separations sometimes lasted lifetimes. Many
times the husbands and wives from these informal
divorces married others, becoming bigamists. Their
bigamous remarriages, however, showed fundamental
respect for the institution of marriage. The article
demonstrates and illustrates the common use of alias
names, the importance of geographical mobility, the
practice of informal divorce and separation, the uses of
deception, common understandings and uses of family law,
the prevalence of bigamy and serial marriage among men
and women, and the economic circumstances of abandoned
wives. Pension records help reveal significant marital
histories that are otherwise hidden from view.
Battan, Jesse F.
"You Cannot Fix the Scarlet Letter on My Breast!": Women Reading, Writing, and Reshaping the Sexual Culture of Victorian America [Access article in HTML] Subject Headings:
Free love -- Press coverage -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
American newspapers -- History -- 19th century.
Women -- United States -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
By the nineteenth century, privacy was increasingly
valued and increasingly scarce. While some culture
critics attacked the willingness of publishers to expose
private experiences to public scrutiny, others viewed
this as an essential weapon in the arsenal of reform.
This was especially true of a group of
nineteenth-century sexual radicals, the self-described "Free
Lovers."In the newspapers they published, such as
The Word, Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly, and
Lucifer, the Light-Bearer, they provided a public forum
in which readers could unburden their hearts and
describe in intimate detail the sexual problems they
experienced. As confidants to the discontented, the
editors of these newspapers published ideas and
experiences not commonly found in public discourse from
those who seldom saw their words in print. This in turn
provided readers with a sense that the problems they
faced were shared by many and gave support to those who
sought to break free from the restrictions placed on
their behavior by Victorian sexual ideology. By
exploring the articles and the letters to the editor
columns published in the Free Love press, this essay
examines the ways in which these newspapers were read by
exploring their impact on the sexual ideas and behaviors
of "real readers."
The Bloody Blonde and the Marble Woman: Gender and Power in the Case of Ruth Snyder [Access article in HTML] Subject Headings:
Snyder, Ruth May, d. 1928 -- Trials, litigation, etc.
Trials (Murder) -- New York (State) -- History -- 20th century.
Women murderers -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- New York (State) -- History -- 20th century.
In 1928, the state of New York sent Ruth Snyder to the
electric chair for the brutal murder of her husband. The
case generated enormous publicity, turning Snyder into
an overnight celebrity, and became the focus of an
ongoing national debate over gender and capital
punishment. Two complex, contradictory, gendered
characterizations of Snyder emerged from the public
discourse surrounding her case: in one, Snyder was a
woman (a "Bloody Blonde''), but one who must die in the
electric chair regardless of her sex. In the other
characterization, Snyder was no longer a true woman at
all. She was a "Marble Woman,"lacking all proper
feminine emotions, a sexual aggressor who overstepped
gender boundaries. Through the resulting cultural
narrative, newspaper reporters, editorialists, letter
writers, and popular authors grappled with the very
meaning of modernity and gender roles in the 1920s, many
expressing concern that women were threatening the
patriarchy of family and state. By examining the debate
surrounding Snyder's execution, and situating her case
in historical context, this paper seeks to uncover the
political work of the "Execute Her"narrative as it
serves to prop up traditional gender and power
Sievens, Mary Beth.
Divorce, Patriarchal Authority, and Masculinity: A Case from Early National Vermont [Access article in HTML] Subject Headings:
Divorce -- Law and legislation -- Vermont -- History.
Patriarchy -- Vermont -- History.
Married women -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Vermont -- History.
Masculinity -- Vermont -- History.
This article explores the effects that divorce had on
patriarchal authority within early nineteenth-century
marriages by analyzing the experiences and perceptions
of one Vermont man. Elias Hall's wife obtained a divorce
on the ground~ of intolerable severity, as well as a
sizeable alimony award. Believing the divorce and
alimony award to be unjust, Hall published a pamphlet in
which he provided an autobiographical sketch and
detailed accounts of his marital conflict and the legal
proceedings surrounding the divorce. Hall's pamphlet
reveals that his marital difficulties and divorce
experience were painful and disconcerting because they
violated beliefs that were central to his masculine
identity. The court's affirmation of his wife's charge
of intolerable severity threatened Hall's sense of
himself as a benevolent husband and father. The alimony
award granted to his wife jeopardized Hall's ownership
of his property, threatening his status as an
independent producer. Finally, Hall believed that his
wife's successful divorce, which he felt she obtained
through fraud and manipulation, threatened his right as
a citizen to a fair, impartial hearing in a court of
law. Hall's pamphlet demonstrates the potential of
divorce to threaten patriarchy and masculinity in very
Nelson, Robert K.
"The Forgetfulness of Sex": Devotion and Desire in the Courtship Letters of Angelina Grimke and Theodore Dwight Weld [Access article in HTML] Subject Headings:
Sex role -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Courtship -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Women's rights -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
In his love letters to Angelina Grimké in 1838,
Theodore Dwight Weld did something one would not expect
from a man courting a woman: he repeatedly desexed his
fiancé in his rhetoric (and at moments even
imaginatively remade her into a man) by conflating her
with a male friend of his, Charles Stuart. Lacking
contemporary examples of egalitarian marriages to
emulate, the abolitionist couple repeatedly invoked
their close homosocial friendships as models for the
heterosexual marriage they hoped to build. This essay
argues that this surprising feature of the abolitionist
couple's courtship letters was a central element of
their effort to radically reform marriage and sex.
Considering conventional practices of marriage and sex
foundational to male power over women in antebellum
America, Weld and Grimké saw their personal romance as
a site of social engineering where they might redeem
both; their courtship was an opportunity to remake
marriage into an feminist institution and sex into an
egalitarian act they shared and enjoyed as equals. In
their love letters, the spiritually minded couple
labored to "forget sex"(which for them encompassed by
both the inextricably connected categories of gender and
sexuality) and see each other only as unsexed souls and
not as sexed bodies.
Banerjee, Swapna M.
Down Memory Lane: Representations of Domestic Workers in Middle Class Personal Narratives of Colonial Bengal [Access article in HTML] Subject Headings:
Domestics -- India -- Bengal -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
Middle class families -- India -- Bengal -- History -- 20th century.
Bengal (India) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
Salvaging information from the autobiographical
narratives of middle-class men and women this paper
explores an important aspect of employer-servant
relationships in predominantly Hindu middle class
families of colonial Bengal. The essay focuses on a
selective sample of Bengali autobiographical writings by
both the male and female members of the bhadralok
population that describe the "strength"and
"authority"of servants within colonial families. By
juxtaposing the childhood recollections of male writers
with women's experiences of personal interactions with
domestic workers, the paper documents how the dominant
actors viewed, constructed, and maintained
employer-servant relationships on a basis of difference and
"otherness"through the simultaneously nurturing and
oppressive aspects of familial ties. It probes the basis
of the emotionality and sentiments that turned servants
into "important"actors and points out the politics
that lay behind such representations. Questioning the
employers' memories that mediated the representations of
the domestics the paper investigates not only how
domestic workers were represented but what justified a
particular kind of representation by male and female
writers. The attempt of the paper is to demonstrate how
the employer-servant relationship acted as a site of
articulating Bengali middle-class cultural identity.
Fugitive slaves -- Mexican-American Border Region -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
Mexican-American Border Region -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century.
The continual redrawing of the boundaries between the
United States, Texas, and Mexico in the nineteenth
century prompted slaves to view the border as a symbol
of liberation. When the border was first fixed by treaty
in 1819, enslaved Texans attached no particular
significance to it because slavery was legal in both the
United States and Spanish Texas. Slaves only began to
associate the Mexican state with freedom in the 1820s,
when national and state governments adopted a series of
antislavery measures. However, because Texas was still
part of Mexico, the border played no role in slave
resistance. With the establishment of an independent
Texas in the 1830s and with annexation to the United
States in 1845, slavery was placed on a firm footing in
Texas for the first time. The border soon became the
focal point of slave flight and resistance. Even with
the end of slavery, black Texans continued to associate
Mexico with freedom and equality.
Between Civil Rights and Black Power in the Gateway City: The Action Committee to Improve Opportunities for Negroes (ACTION), 1964-75 [Access article in HTML] Subject Headings:
Black power -- Missouri -- Saint Louis -- History -- 20th century.
African American construction workers -- Missouri -- Saint Louis -- Political activity -- History -- 20th century.
African Americans -- Civil rights -- Missouri -- Saint Louis -- History -- 20th century.
Saint Louis (Mo.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
This article discusses the origins and development of
the Action Committee to Improve Opportunities for
Negroes (ACTION), a protest organization based in St.
Louis, Missouri. Active during the 1960s and 1970s, the
group used militant, nonviolent direct action to fight
for more and better black employment at the city's major
firms. Exploring ACTION's evolution contributes to a
revisionist narrative of the Civil Rights' struggle that
foregrounds local working-class African Americans. A
study of ACTION also challenges depictions of a Civil
Rights agenda focused on public accommodations and the
vote, and highlights the demand for economic opportunity
that anchored the movement. Further, this work augments
new historical interpretations framing Civil Rights and
"Black Power"as cohesive political projects. Yet,
this paper suggests that scholars should not commit the
error of collapsing Civil Rights and Black Power as
historical constructs; removing the distinguishing
traits between the two effectively removes the African
American experience from the fluid patterns of
continuity and change that ground historical inquiry.
Using ACTION as an illustration, this paper contends
that Civil Rights and Black Power were neither
dichotomous nor seamless, but rather discernible phases
in an ongoing Black Freedom Movement.
Police -- England -- Middlesbrough -- History -- 19th century.
Crime -- England -- Middlesbrough -- History -- 19th century.
Middlesbrough (England) -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
Over the period of the reign of Queen Victoria,
Middlesbrough---the British Ballarat in Asa Briggs'
memorable phrase---was transformed from a
rough-and-ready 'frontier' town, with high crime rates
and little in the way of policing, into a relatively
stable and policed community, with appreciably lower
levels of both serious and petty crimes. Crime rates
were not reduced significantly until the last quarter of
the century, under the Black Country (for example) were
the transition came in the third quarter. The 1870s and
1880s were also critical decades in the creation of a
stable police force in the town. The causal links
between the emergence of a 'professional' police force
and the reduction in crime rates is far from
straightforward. Recent interpretations have played down
the contribution of the police, seeing them more as
beneficiaries of wider socio-economic changes. Without
ignoring the impact of the diversification of the local
economy, rising working-class living standards and the
spread of respectability, it is argued that the town's
police force (and in particular the rank-and-file men
who were most in contact with the local population)
played a major role in the conquering of the British
Martin, Ann Smart, 1960-
The Invention of Comfort: Sensibilities and Design in Early Modern Britain and Early America (review) [Access article in HTML] Subject Headings:
Crowley, John E., 1943- Invention of comfort: sensibilities and design in early modern Britain and early America.