White Slavery and Mothers Alive and Dead: The Troubled Meeting of Sex, Gender, Public Health, and Progress in Latin America (review)
- Journal of the History of Sexuality
- University of Texas Press
- Volume 11, Number 4, October 2002
- pp. 674-677
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Journal of the History of Sexuality 11.4 (2002) 674-677
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White Slavery and Mothers Alive and Dead: The Troubled Meeting of Sex, Gender, Public Health, and Progress in Latin America.By Donna J. Guy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. Pp. 216. $29.95 (cloth).
Donna Guy presents twelve previously published essays on sex and gender issues in Argentina and Latin America in this, the fifth in a series of works on Engendering Latin America by the University of Nebraska Press. The strength of this volume is the way Guy takes issues relating to women's roles and their place in society and uses them to explain [End Page 674] aspects of the political and economic history of Argentina. This approach places women directly within the discussion of state formation rather than relegating them to the periphery. Guy explores how women were affected by economic changes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and how their labor was at times controlled and coerced by the state. She also explains that women should not be seen simply as independent actors but as members of families whose duties were defined by both state and society. The state Guy describes is Argentina, which differed in some respects from other Latin American countries that did not experience massive immigration during this period. The reader should be advised that this volume is based almost entirely on research Guy has done in Argentina. The essays on Pan-American child congresses do not focus specifically on Argentina, and Guy does bring in comparisons with other Latin American countries; nevertheless, this volume is really about Argentina's history and is not the broad study of Latin America that the title suggests.
Guy provides an introductory essay and a closing essay to inform readers about approaches to gender studies in Latin America and current research. The first essay, "Future Directions in Latin American Gender History," raises several issues about the relevance of many current theories on gender to Latin America. In Western-oriented gender studies, for example, the individual is the basis of society (11), but in Latin America, according to Guy, the family is the basic unit of society, emanating from the colonial concept of a corporate society. The next eleven essays, which Donna Guy has written over the last twenty years, address such topics as white slavery, prostitution, the impact of industrialization on women, and the child rights movement. These essays are well researched and provide many insights into the role of women in Argentina's economy and society. The concluding essay is bibliographic.
In many respects this volume of research studies on women and gender issues is a helpful resource for both the general reader and the Latin American specialist. Some wonderful passages in "Parents before the Tribunals: The Legal Construction of Patriarchy in Argentina" give the reader a detailed view of daily life and gender relations. "Señora Carmen R. de Fernandez went to a Buenos Aires police station to denounce her husband Eugenio. In a fit of pique over a poorly cooked meal, a drunken Eugenio had beaten his wife and seven-year-old son" (173). Guy uses this and several other colorful descriptions of women and men vying for legal rights over children of extramarital affairs to show how Argentina's laws were interpreted to benefit men's rights. What Guy only hints at, however, is how women could have, and must have, manipulated the system through force of will, bribery, or other influences over their lover or husband, information that is not presented in court documents. Guy's reliance on legal documentation is understandable. But perhaps newspapers, [End Page 675] letters, journals, and other sources could be used to see how women have operated despite the legal bias against them.
White Slavery and Mothers Alive and Dead has several drawbacks in its organization that limit its intended usefulness. First, a minor point, there is no indication as to when these essays were first published...