- Women and the Texas Revolution ed. by Mary L. Sheer
In picking up this comprehensive overview of women's lives during the Texas Revolution, the reader begins with the effort to fill in the deafening silences in the historiography and ends with the unavoidable conclusion that the war and its aftermath had uneven results for the majority of people living in Texas. The unevenness ranges from no noticeable improvement (Anglo American women), to the loss of rights and opportunities (Tejanas), to the crushing end of freedom (American Indian and [End Page 207] African American women.) On balance, the Texas Revolution was not a liberating experience for women, nor did it improve their opportunities and lives over the course of the nineteenth century. The essays in the volume Women and the Texas Revolution provide a useful introduction and initial attempt to bring a more complete, gendered perspective to Texas history.
Eight accessible and clearly written essays appear in roughly two sections, the first focused on individual groups and the second on events and their interpretation. The first four chapters each cover the four major racial groups living in Texas during the war and into the Texas Republic period. Lindy Eakin provides a long view of Native women's lives ranging from initial European settlements through the violence and dislocation wrought by the Texas Revolution. He finds women's roles powerful in the maintenance of community and culture in the face of these obstacles. Jean A. Stuntz's examination of Tejanas makes note of their loss of legal rights to land under the new American-based political system. Mary L. Scheer laments the lost opportunities for Anglo American women, particularly after their support for the war. Finally, the revolution was perhaps most devastating for the hopes and aspirations of black women and their families. The revolution eliminated the possibility of emancipation under Mexican rule and firmly established slavery under the Texas Republic.
The subsequent chapters take significant events in Texas history, namely the Battle of the Alamo, the Runaway Scrape, and the Battle of San Jacinto, and recast them with an emphasis on women, who are frequently absent from their retelling. Dora Elizondo Guerra places Mexican women inside the Alamo itself, noting that their misfortune and erasure from history parallels the negative impact of the revolution on Tejanos generally. The evacuation of Anglo American families in advance of the Mexican Army serves as an example of women's survival strategies and frontier resourcefulness for Light Townsend Cummins. Jeffrey D. Dunn's fine detective work uncovers the hidden role women played in the Battle of San Jacinto, including insight into the complex life and background of Emily West, known popularly as the Yellow Rose of Texas. Laura Lyons McLemore further develops these revolution stories by exploring three important women who transmitted them in writing and memorializing.
This overview challenges the next generation of Texas historians to write more inclusive and analytical histories of this region. What was to be gained by excluding women from narratives of the Texas Revolution? Telling the complete story presents a historically complex picture of these events that combines triumph and tragedy. The current generation is capable of understanding this range. [End Page 208]