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Journal of Women's History 13.2 (2001) 6-8



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Editor's Note


For the �rst time in several years, because of my editing and adminis- trative roles, I taught a graduate readings course in women's history this spring. Rereading the articles on conceptual frameworks in women's history that I routinely assign at the beginning of the class, I was struck once again by the too-often unrecognized sophistication of early theoretical and methodological work in the �eld. In the course of the 1990s, we sometimes came to think that women's history was, early on, the story of white, middle-class women projected on to everyone else. But in fact differences among women, the relationality of difference, and even deconstruction of the category "woman" have been central to women's history from the �owering of the �eld in the 1970s. The articles in this issue illustrate how much our current work echoes the concerns of such historians as Joan Kelly, even as we pursue new insights and directions.

Kristin Hoganson leads off with an analysis of the relationship between U.S. women's suffragists and anti-imperialists at the turn of the twentieth century, providing a new chapter in the story of the suffrage movement's complex and sometimes troubled relationship with progressive antiracist movements. Her focus on the Philippine-American War allows her to explore why some suffragists identi�ed their cause with enfranchisement for the Filipinos but the majority did not. By connecting women's suffrage to U.S. foreign policy and to international issues of empire, she makes women's history part of the kind of "universal history" Gerda Lerner long ago urged us to write. And she also follows Linda Gordon's advice to take our questions but not our answers from the women's movement.

The next four articles all deal in different ways-and in varying times and places-with the complexities of women's work. Kirsten Wood uses a variety of sources to show the ways that white slaveholding widows in the southeastern United States made use of an unlikely mixture of their dead husbands' authority, their maternal roles, female networks, and ideas of female dependence to exercise authority over plantations and households. Combining "grief and grit," they walked a �ne line, functioning as neither deputy husbands because of their widowed status nor masters because of their gender. Like Kelly, Wood shows that, in her words, the "meaning of gender is inextricably linked to class."

In a very different context, Darlene Abreu-Ferreira portrays early modern Portuguese market women with the "grit" of Wood's widows. Recalling our early turn away from a stark choice of simplistic narratives, Abreu-Ferreira proclaims these troublesome women who devised strategies to survive economically "neither victim nor heroine." She uses municipal records to tease out the histories of economically active women, discusses differences between single and married women, and considers Portugal in a broader European context. Putting women's experiences in the context of men's, she illuminates the social relations of the sexes in Portuguese cities.

Patricia Kelleher attends to ethnic differences in the experiences of deserted or widowed Chicago women. Using census data enriched with the story of one Irish woman's life, she, like both Wood and Abreu-Ferreira, shows women working creatively to survive. Like Hoganson, although only implicitly, Kelleher's historical analysis speaks to contemporary public policy issues by putting a new spin on female-headed families.

In the last of the regular articles, Valerie Gordon Hall deconstructs the category of working-class women in mining communities by identifying the divergent identities of "domestic women" and "political women" in twentieth-century Northumberland. If Wood is de�ning gender in class terms, Hall is "reinterpreting class in gender terms" and analyzing the relationship of ideological and structural factors in that process. Like Lerner, Nancy Hewitt, Elsa Barkley Brown, and so many others, she also shows the relationality of the two groups of women she discusses.

Kirsti Niskanen's contribution to the "Theoretical Issues" section uses statistical data about Finnish family farms, economic theory, and Alice Kessler...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 6-8
Launched on MUSE
2001-07-01
Open Access
No
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