Journal of Women's History

Journal of Women's History
Volume 17, Number 1, Spring 2005


New Directions in African American Women's History

    Haidarali, Laila.
  • Polishing Brown Diamonds: African American Women, Popular Magazines, and the Advent of Modeling in Early Postwar America
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • African American models -- History -- 20th century.
    • Beauty, Personal -- Social aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
    • African Americans -- Race identity -- History -- 20th century.
      This article examines the advent of modeling as a profession for African American women. This new career resulted from two developments in early postwar America: the needs of advertisers and the rise of African American photographic magazines. While modeling expanded the economic opportunities open to African American women, the profession proscribed those careers within a middle-class value system of marriage, motherhood, and domesticity. Despite the conservative definitions of feminized beauty and heterosexual appeal, the image of the "Brownskin" model—an exemplar of social, sexual, and racial parity—challenged white representations of African America. At once liberating in its redress of racist stereotyping, and confining in its narrow dictates of racialized gender expectations, this postwar visual discourse allows an understanding of an era when African America began to visualize a different public racial reality.
    Flood, Dawn.
  • "They Didn't Treat Me Good": African American Rape Victims and Chicago Courtroom Strategies During the 1950s
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Rape victims -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
    • African American women -- Civil rights -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
    • Sex discrimination against women -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
      This article analyzes the experiences of African American women who brought legal charges of rape against black men in Chicago during the 1950s. Their presence in court belies the idea that black women uniformly did not trust the legal system, and further challenges the idea that the State did not consider theirs to be "winnable" rape cases, in part because of myths regarding the promiscuous sexual nature of African American women. Despite the women's efforts, defense attorneys clung to racist and sexist stereotypes, causing a significant evolution of the rape trial into the more recognizably hostile territory that contemporary rape victims in the United States face and modern American feminists have increasingly sought to reform. A consideration of intra-racial rape trials that ended with convictions complicates the historical understanding of prosecuting sexual violence while demonstrating new ways of thinking about civil rights and modern women's activism.
    Johnson, Joan Marie.
  • "Ye Gave Them a Stone": African American Women's Clubs, the Frederick Douglass Home, and the Black Mammy Monument
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • African American women -- Societies, etc. -- History -- 20th century.
    • African American women -- Monuments -- History -- 20th century.
    • Group identity -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
    • Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Washington, D.C.)
    • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
      In the early twentieth century, the institutionalization of disfranchisement and segregation and the surging popularity of the Lost Cause, a movement to honor the Confederacy, led African Americans who recognized the power of public image to attempt to take control over their public representations. This article examines the ways in which African American clubwomen rejected the message of African American contentment in slavery and continued inferiority implicit in a proposed monument to honor the Black Mammy in Washington DC, and, through the purchase and restoration of the former home of Frederick Douglass, negotiated an alternative public identity for African Americans that focused on African American history, heroism, and respectability. African American women wanted to turn attention away from their service in white homes to their lives in their own homes as wives, homemakers, and mothers. Clubwomen's attention to public representation was an important foundation for their social welfare work.

Maternal Matters

    Adams, Christine, 1962-
  • Maternal Societies in France: Private Charity Before the Welfare State
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Société de charité maternelle (Paris, France) -- History.
    • Maternal and infant welfare -- France -- History.
    • Charity organization -- Government policy -- France -- History.
      Although some historians have argued that women's charitable organizations did more to shape family welfare policies in decentralized states than "strong states," the influence of the Society for Maternal Charity in late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century France suggests that scholars must reassess this weak state/strong state dichotomy. Maternal societies played a key role in shaping the language and policies of maternalism and provided a future model for the provision of family social welfare services in France. These female-run charitable organizations offered power and prestige to the women staffing them and a voice in national debates concerning the social claims of poor mothers and their children.
    Curran, Laura.
  • Social Work's Revised Maternalism: Mothers, Workers, and Welfare in Early Cold War America, 1946-1963
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Aid to families with dependent children programs -- United States -- History.
    • Mothers -- Employment -- Law and legislation -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
    • Women's rights -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
      Through a review of professional publications, this article discusses U.S. social workers' increasing acceptance of maternal employment in the early cold war years from 1946 to 1963. American social work's shifting stance on women's employment constituted a response to both liberalizing gender relations and the backlash against the Aid to Dependent Children program. The mid-twentieth century was an important, though contested, period for the profession's maternalist philosophy, as social workers continued to prioritize maternal identities, but increasingly acknowledged women's autonomy. Influenced by popular psychotherapeutic rhetoric and by liberal feminism, American social work's revised maternalism was multifaceted, yet it generally excluded the socio-structural and state building impulses of its progressive era predecessor and failed to take into account racial and socioeconomic differences among women.

Performing Identities

    Ross, Becki, 1959-
    Greenwell, Kim.
  • Spectacular Striptease: Performing the Sexual and Racial Other in Vancouver, B.C., 1945-1975
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Striptease -- British Columbia -- Vancouver -- History -- 20th century.
    • Vancouver (B.C.) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
    • City and town life -- British Columbia -- Vancouver -- History -- 20th century.
      This article explores the postwar performance of striptease in Vancouver, British Columbia, and sheds new light on received understandings of exotic dancing's "golden age," which flourished until the mid-1970s. Specifically, the racialization of the industry is charted using the hierarchically structured geography of the city's nightlife—West End vs. East End—as a frame through which to analyze archival documents and interviews. Inequalities structuring the business of bump and grind unsettle notions of stripteasers as a homogeneous category, while simultaneously revealing the diversity within dancers' experiences of stigmatization and their strategies of resistance. The article discusses the ways in which white women and women of color were differentially located within local and transnational circuits of erotic entertainment. That striptease staged the performance of not only sexual but also racial Otherness prompts a comparison of the prestige and profitability of white headliners with the resilient stereotypes and limited marketability that constrained dancers of color. An approach that probes the intersections of gender and sexuality with race and class captures the complexities of this industry and the rich histories of the business insiders, especially the erotic dancers, who gave it life.
    Meeker, Martin.
  • A Queer and Contested Medium: The Emergence of Representational Politics in the "Golden Age" of Lesbian Paperbacks, 1955-1963
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Homosexuality -- Public opinion -- History -- 20th century.
    • Public opinion -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
    • Gays -- United States -- Identity -- History -- 20th century.
    • Publishers and publishing -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
      With the publication of the first paperback originals and the founding of the first lesbian civil rights organization in the first half of the 1950s, the lesbian politics of representation emerged as a distinct and articulate political discourse. Ann Aldrich, probably the most widely-read lesbian non-fiction writer of the 1950s, and members of the Daughters of Bilitis, the most visible lesbian organization of the era, engaged in a lively debate that spanned nearly ten years, from 1955 until at least 1963. Emerging from the exchange, which often was quite contentious, were new ideas about how lesbianism should be portrayed to the mainstream American public. But, as this article proposes, from the debates also grew a shared understanding of the complex relationship of media representation to the social processes of identity acquisition and community formation, what is called in this article the politics of communication.

Book Reviews

    Huber, Karen.
  • Catholic Women and the Development of Maternal Welfare in France
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Cova, Anne. "Au service de l'église, de la patrie et de la famille": femmes catholiques et maternité sous la IIIe République.
    • Catholic women -- France -- Societies, etc. -- History -- 19th century.
    Stewart, Mary Lynn, 1945-
  • The Politics and Spectacle of Fashion and Femininity
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Berry, Sarah, 1962- Screen style: fashion and femininity in 1930s Hollywood.
    • Buckley, Cheryl, 1956- Fashioning the feminine: representation and women's fashion from the fin de siècle to the present.
    • Fawcett, Hilary.
    • Lipovetsky, Gilles, 1944- Empire of fashion: dressing modern democracy.
    • Porter, Catherine, tr.
    • Parkins, Wendy, ed. Fashioning the body politic: dress, gender, citizenship.
    • Costume.
    • Femininity -- Great Britain -- History -- 20th century.
    Morris, Marilyn, 1957-
  • Representation, Categorization, Identity, and Sex
    [Access article in HTML] [Access article in PDF]
    Subject Headings:
    • Cheek, Pamela. Sexual antipodes: enlightenment globalization and the placing of sex.
    • Stafford, William. English feminists and their opponents in the 1790s: unsex'd and proper females.
    • English literature -- 18th century -- History and criticism.
    • Feminism -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century.



[Project MUSE] [Search Page] [Journals] [Journal Directory] [Top]