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Journal of Women's History 13.4 (2002) 6-7

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Editor's Note

Ten days after 11 September 2001, as the initial horror and grief have begun to make room for more distanced reflection on the terrorist attack on the United States, one is struck by the nearly complete absence of women among those managing the crisis and developing official reactions to it. Male domination of the state stands out starkly when we take note of the persons who are guiding the recovery efforts, instructing Americans on how they should cope with the loss of lives and security, lending their expertise to comprehending how this could have happened, responding to the terror as political leaders around the world, and forming the policies that will guide the nation in the perilous months and years ahead.

The articles in this volume help us understand the multiple ways in which the male-controlled state across the world and time has made itself impervious to the intrusion of female citizens and subjects. Yet more importantly, they also demonstrate that scholarship has gone beyond such dichotomizing debates as whether the male-constructed state can ever benefit women as women or whether feminists should seek state policies based on sameness or difference. In doing so, they reveal a rich variety of women's agency in resisting subjection and neglect and in opening cracks in gendered political systems for women to claim inclusion, welfare, and justice. They illustrate how class position, race and ethnicity, and sexuality have shaped women's diverse relationships to the state as well as the kinds of political and economic environments that prove most and least conducive to women's search for power.

Kif Augustine-Adams shows how, in the absence of legislation, Argentine jurisprudence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used liberal ideology to construct female citizenship and nationality that ostensibly rested on women's agency to make decisions for themselves but, in actuality, imposed restraints on women by making their relationships to the state dependent on their husbands' status. Indeed, the laws of most countries made women's citizenship dependent upon that of their husbands', but as both James McCord and Steven Kale demonstrate, lack of agency in one area did not mean that women were without influence on the state. Examining the political activities of Lady Jersey in the Queen Caroline affair of 1820-1821, McCord describes both the opportunities for British aristocratic women to engage in partisan politics and the intense opposition they encountered.

Kale looks at another group of aristocratic women, those who presided over political salons in France in the first half of the nineteenth century. In documenting the revival of salon culture under Napoleon and its [End Page 6] enfeeblement as a means for aristocratic women to exercise political influence, Kale explores how the state acted to mobilize women for its purposes within carefully circumscribed boundaries. Shifting the focus to aristocratic and bourgeois women's organizations in early-nineteenth-century Germany, Rita Huber-Sperl examines how the state's need for women's services during national crises opened opportunities for their participation in public life and suggests why the female associational movement in Germany did not flow into political reform as it did in Britain and the United States.

Jocelyn Olcott studies another time and place of state efforts to mobilize women--northern Mexico during the Cárdenas regime's modernization program in the 1930s. Examining contested constructions of gender among government agents, Mexico City feminists, and peasant and working-class women of the Comarca Lagunera region, she shows how the latter appropriated particular elements of the government program to meet their self-identified interests.

The articles by Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman and Marisa Chappell illuminate women's efforts to shape policy in the United States, both as insiders and as outsiders. Wilkerson-Freeman focuses on the career of Gay Bolling Shepperson, who in the 1930s administered Georgia's federal relief programs, to demonstrate how a group of female social workers developed an interracial effort to ameliorate economic and racial injustice. Examining women as political actors in civil society, Marisa Chappell...


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