Most scholarship on republican citizenship has emphasized the domestication of women and their exclusion from politics in the wake of the Atlantic revolutions, but attention to such loyalist women as Kezia Coffin in Massachusetts and María Antonia Bolívar in Venezuela reveals the ongoing viability of female agency in several arenas. This comparative study argues that, in choosing to retain their colonial identity within European empires, loyalist women in the Americas implicitly rejected the rising republican emphasis on the separation of public and private spheres. Coffin and Bolívar were motivated in defense of family position rather than individual political partisanship, but neither one would have identified herself primarily as wife or mother. Rather, they saw themselves as positioned in multiple ways within their kin networks and larger imperial communities, and this more supple and intersectional identity allowed their strategic deployment of power within overlapping economic and political fields.
This essay explores why some groups of women in nineteenth–century Colombia were able to engage in public, political action but others were not. Elite conservative women (mostly white) and popular liberal women (mostly black and mulatta) found ways to participate publicly in republican politics, but elite liberal women (mostly white) and some popular conservative women (mostly Indian) were largely absent from the public sphere. I argue that colonial gender roles, elite and popular visions of citizenship, the contest between the Liberal and Conservative Parties, the structure of indigenous communities, and popular liberal women's access to independent economic resources all helped shape women's abilities to publicly practice republican politics. Instead of asserting that the rise of republicanism in nineteenth–century Latin America reduced women's political space, I propose that race, class, and partisan ideologies acted in complex and locally determined ways to both create male political subjects and open or close possibilities for women to forge political discourses and practices for themselves.
This article explores how black women who joined the Black Panther Party, one of the leading Black Power organizations in the 1960s and 70s, were empowered to challenge racism and sexism in society, in the Panthers, and in themselves. Using oral history and archival sources, it examines such issues as formal and informal leadership, state political repression, gendered guerilla imagery, and debates around child rearing and birth control to reveal how these women were able to shape the Panthers' organizational evolution, even as they struggled against misogyny. This article contributes to historical understanding of the Black Power movement from the bottom up.
For many indigenous women of Latin America, their association as bearers of culture hindered their ability to efficaciously engage in national society. Yet their subordinate position as females in patriarchal communities conversely afforded them more freedom than men to negotiate their gender norms, rights, and obligations. Based on archival documents and oral histories, an examination of quotidian Mayan life in early–twentieth–century highland Guatemala reveals competing gender codes. Mayan women's efforts to expand their autonomy ranged from cross–dressing to wielding tools traditionally reserved for males. While these activities loosened the reins of gender limitations, they were not necessarily harbingers of improved lifestyles. Often women who transgressed gender identities experienced more oppression than liberation. Against the backdrop of Guatemala's effort to count itself among the world's modern nations by instituting liberal reforms and championing the ideas of positivism, these gender negotiations seem at once both appropriate and radical. When dictators Manuel Estrada Cabrera (1898–1920) and General Jorge Ubico (1931–1944) sought to impose order and progress, they assumed patriarchy was immutable; in contrast, contemporary Mayan gender benders exposed its organic nature.
The Inquisition case of a Muslim slave woman in sixteenth–century Spain who was named both "Fatima" and "Ana" challenges assumptions that historians must leave in silent obscurity disenfranchised people for whom we have very few and very problematic sources. This essay presents a three–part methodological strategy for analyzing the single document available about this woman: contextualizing it with secondary and primary sources specific to her life; reading the document "against the grain"; and analyzing it with insights from anthropology, politics, and cultural and literary criticism. Although a cleric reported that Fatima/Ana had converted to Christianity in a hospital while ill with the plague, she denied after her recovery that she had been baptized and insisted that she was and would continue to be a Muslim. If she had in fact converted while in the hospital, she argued, it could only have been because she was "crazy and without sanity and without judgment." Her case illustrates the complexities of identity and the vulnerabilities of minority slave women, yet it also demonstrates that disenfranchised people develop strategies to empower themselves and challenge official power.
Excavating left–wing women is vital to our understanding of women's political diversity and the radicalism that has often been foundational to feminism. In Progressive Era California, socialist–feminists made important contributions to social reform, including women's enfranchisement, the construction of the early welfare state, and the gendered integration of partisan politics. But because few radical women left archival materials, researching them has proved difficult. This article details a method of "researching around our subjects" I developed in order to reconstruct and interpret their activism. This methodology is certainly not unique; in fact, it may characterize the process by which much of the research on little–known or "marginalized" women must, by necessity, proceed. For me, this process involved mining the small number of manuscript collections and oral histories of my subjects, and then working outward in concentric circles of related sources. Integrating these layers of materials enabled me to piece together the fabric of early–twentieth–century socialist–feminism. Yet these fragmented sources provided few clues regarding their personal lives (and the relationship between personal and political). Still, the "researching around" methodology is indispensable to the recovery of marginalized political voices.
African American women have been placed on the periphery of most historical documents. In fact, the material traces holding the clues to their experiences are limited, heavily tainted, or virtually nonexistent. Given these circumstances, locating African American women's individual and collective identities is difficult and thus requires intensive and critical work in archival sources. It is usually under the most challenging archival conditions, however, that one must call most creatively and rigorously upon historical methods and theoretical ideas. This essay details my personal archival encounters as well as efforts to follow a trail of documents. Evaluating the claims of an alleged experience as well as theorizing from these same documents is an effort not only to recover voices but also to disrupt those canonical discourses that have too often rendered African American women invisible.
In 1864, Krishnobhabini Das was born in a zamindar (landlord) family in a village of southern Bengal. She was a self–taught woman. In 1882, she went to London with her husband. In London, while her husband taught India–bound British civilians Indian history and culture, she spent most of her time in the British Library. In 1885, she published her travel narrative, Englande Bangamohila (A Bengali Lady in England), in Bengali. While on the surface the book was a travel narrative, in reality this book emphasized a spirit of nationalism and feminism to middle–class Bengali female and male readers. In this article, I have analyzed Krishnobhabini Das's concept of nationalism and feminism based on the contents of her travel narrative, her sketchy biography, and some of her poems. These writings have collectively become a corpus to construct Krishnobhabini's home life, which sheds light on the condition of the majority of nineteenth–century Bengali women irrespective of their class backgrounds. Thus her biography and her writings, especially her travel narrative, serve as an archive for nineteenth–century Bengali women. Her experiences as a woman made her sensitive to the Indian societal restrictions as well as to the colonial support of the Indian patriarchy. Her home life as well as social customs made her aware of her double subjugation: oppressed as a woman and oppressed as a Bengali/Indian woman in a colonial context.