- Editorial Note“Carefully examin[ing] . . . delicate matters:” Creative Source Analyses in Women’s and Gender History
This issue highlights how the creative exploration of untapped sources enriches women’s and gender history. We take our title from the traditional Ga proverb that inspired Harry Odamtten’s article. It calls for “circumspection” and “patience” to make sense out of precise social and historical meanings, thus capturing the meticulous behind-the-scenes work that undergirds the field of women’s history. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of the Journal of Women’s History in today’s complex publishing landscape is our authors’ insistent attention to primary source materials that advance and challenge understandings of women’s roles and representations in distinct historical contexts. In this issue, the contexts are quite disparate: patterns of racial and gendered violence in early-twentieth-century New Orleans; examples of female leadership in the seventeenth century in both early America and among the Ga people of present-day Ghana; moments of dramatic change and challenge in post-Reformation England; and midnineteenth-century unease with British imperial rule in Quebec City. We also have two articles located in South Asia. One extends transformative feminist scholarship on domesticity and colonialism, and the other offers a new reading of the life’s work of the South Asian feminist Rajkumari Amrit Kaur who, in the climate of international mobilizations after World War II, proposed an understanding of citizenship based on social service. Thematically diverse, each article will have a dual appeal: to the specialist reader interested in the author’s arguments, details, and documentation, and to the general reader who will profit from the exciting source analyses that can serve as models of research applicable to other times and places. Four book review essays complete this issue.
We open with Jeffrey S. Adler’s evocatively written article “’I wouldn’t be no woman if I wouldn’t hit him:’ Race, Patriarchy, and Spousal Homicide in New Orleans, 1921–1945.” The author uncovered “lengthy reports from the police” investigating the murders, as well as transcripts of interviews of family, friends, and neighbors, suicide notes, and other materials that provide “unique internal perspectives” on the killings. These sources offer an enriching view of the existing literature, which centers mainly on England and the northern regions of the United States, and documents patterns of spousal murder of wives by jealous husbands enraged when women sought to initiate divorce proceedings. In contrast, Adler’s geography is a city in the U.S. South and his case studies involve African American families and neighborhoods that he compares to their white contemporaries. He deals [End Page 7] with a sample of 232 spousal murders, 48 percent of which were committed by women. As he notes, while most white murders were wife-murders, most African American murders were wives killing their husbands, demonstrating how race, gender, and neighborhood conditions shaped different understandings of patriarchal control, the shared trigger to violence. Adler moves away from simple analyses—static reasons for spousal murders or appeals to legacies of slavery—and underscores the importance of historically sensitive scholarship to capture the tragic patterns of murder in what he describes as one of the most violent cities in early-twentieth-century America.
The next two articles are specialized studies that happen to share a chronology of the middle and later seventeenth century, a similar thematic interest in female leadership, and innovative source analysis. Gina M. Martino-Trutor has written “’As Potent a Prince as Any Round About Her’: Rethinking Weetamoo of the Pocasset and Native Female Leadership in Early America.” Martino-Trutor’s focus is on the King Philip’s War, 1675–76, when a coalition of Native American allies sought unsuccessfully to drive the English settlers out of indigenous territory. Much of the literature on the war and conflict has focused on Philip but his chief and crucial ally was Weetamoo, “a native female ruler who left a strong presence in the historical records.” Indeed, Martino-Trutor uses the rich documentation of Weetamoo’s leadership before and during the war to explore the “wide range of roles a female sachem might assume as a ruler...