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Hispanic American Historical Review 82.1 (2002) 163-164

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Book Review

White Slavery and Mothers Alive and Dead: The Troubled Meeting of Sex, Gender, Public Health, and Progress in Latin America

White Slavery and Mothers Alive and Dead: The Troubled Meeting of Sex, Gender, Public Health, and Progress in Latin America. By DONNA J. GUY. Engendering Latin America, vol. 5 . Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000 . Tables. Bibliographic Essay. Index. viii, 216 pp. Paper, $29 .95 .

The essays in White Slavery and Mothers Alive and Dead are the collected works of historian Donna J. Guy, chronicling her ideas and her impact on the field of gender and women's history in Latin America from the 1980 s to the present. As she states in her introduction, these wide-ranging essays share a "gendered connection to work, family, and the rise of increasingly interventionist nation-states in Latin America." While readers familiar with the obra guyense may also appreciate a single volume of her previously published articles, the collection seems primarily intended for relative newcomers to the field of gender studies in Latin America, and it should serve such an audience well.

Particularly suited to younger scholars is the autobiographical tone of the introduction and the first chapter. Moving back and forth between the tantalizing insights provided by theories devised for other regions and the discoveries made during long hours in the archives, Guy has felt her way into uncharted intellectual territory and made pioneering contributions to our knowledge of Latin American women and to the theoretical structure of gender studies.

The next group of essays examine international topics. Perhaps best known for her work on white slavery and legalized prostitution, Guy uses international comparisons here to highlight the links between these issues and medical imperialism on the one hand, and nationality and citizenship for women on the other. Other chapters explore the hemispheric cooperation that evolved around the child rights movement and the Pan-American Child Congresses of the twentieth century. [End Page 163]

The Argentine-oriented section of the book begins with essays on nineteenth-century women that explore the impact of class and region on women's livelihoods. Guy charts the efforts of the Argentine government to control women's labor through definitions of criminality and through the medical supervision that brought nineteenth-century doctors into the family itself. These essays further examine legal and legislative issues, and the positioning of political parties and the Catholic Church. By considering parenthood--and patriarchy in particular--as a site of contention between the government and the family, Guy illustrates the complexities not only of mothering but of fathering, and the ways these practices have changed over time.

In addition to many shared themes, these essays are linked by a certain methodological approach. Guy rarely studies women in isolation from men and the family; rarely explores the ramifications of gender without consideration of class, race, and sexuality; never studies ideological pronouncements without historical evidence of people's actions; and always sets her analyses in the context of larger social and political processes--particularly those associated with state formation.

It is impossible to argue with the strength of her work or the importance of Guy's contributions to the field, but the preparation of this volume involved a couple of questionable editorial decisions. The first was to eliminate the endnotes that appear in the original publications. When used as a classroom text, most students will probably not mourn the absent scholarly apparatus, and a bibliographical essay is included. But those considering a more serious study of women's or gender history may miss the attributions of mentioned secondary authorities and quoted primary authors. With this same concern for the aspiring, Guy might have asked someone else to write her introduction. As mentioned, its autobiographical aspects are interesting, but its tone is necessarily modest. A different author might have been more forthcoming about how these essays were received and could have lionized the author more enthusiastically as a means of...


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