January
3rd 2008
Where the Girls Aren’t (because they’re not getting paid, dammit!)

Posted under: book reviews, Gender, women's history

practice-of.gif Hot off the presses-in both cloth and paperback-Historiann’s latest article is now available in The Practice of U.S. Women’s History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues, a collection of essays edited by S. Jay Kleinberg, Eileen Boris, and Vicki L. Ruiz (Rutgers University Press, 2007). (See the table of contents.) It’s the first article I’ve ever co-authored with a colleague, and I’m grateful to Trevor G. Burnard of the University of Warwick for inviting me to work with him. It’s only his expertise as a Caribbean historian and historian of slavery that allowed us to make a larger argument about women’s labor in the New World, and to include the critical contributions of African women to colonial societies.

Our essay, prankishly titled “Where the Girls Aren’t: Women as Reluctant Migrants but Rational Actors in Early America,” offered me the opportunity to work out some arguments about the transhistorical and transcultural expectation for women to volunteer their labor rather than get a paycheck. We argue that European women’s unwillingness to migrate was enormously determinative of the racist, violent, and exploitative character of North American colonial societies. Although they desperately needed European women’s labor, colonial entrepreneurs offered no incentives to European women to move to America, and in fact demonized those few who volunteered for Virginia or New France as women of loose morals and low character. (Some men, on the other hand, were offered land or cash incentives to migrate, and no men were called names for attempting to improve their material circumstances by migrating to America.) Accordingly, colonial societies turned to the stolen labor of hundreds of thousands of African men and women to fill the gap.

The rest of the book is full of fascinating essays by both established and emerging scholars, and it should become essential reading in upper-level American women’s and gender history courses and on grad student reading lists. See especially the essays by Gail D. MacLeitch, “‘Your Women Are of No Small Consequence” on Native American women, Susan Armitage’s “Turner’s Ghost” on Western women’s history, S. Jay Kleinberg’s and Inge Dornan’s “From Dawn to Dusk,” on women’s work in the antebellum U.S., and Susan-Mary Grant’s “To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds,” an impressively thorough but concise review of women and the Civil War. There is a series of essays in chapters eight through twelve that further explore the themes of imperialism, race, labor, and migration by Laura Briggs, Shirley Hune, Donna R. Gabaccia and Vicki L. Ruiz, Leslie Brown, and a second essay by Vicki Ruiz again, and an excellent survey on sexualities by Leisa D. Meyer.

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One Response to “Where the Girls Aren’t (because they’re not getting paid, dammit!)”

  1. Back in the saddle again : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 06 Jul 2011 at 11:27 am #

    [...] child in both Germany and Italy. This sidles up to a point that I’ve made here before (and even in my day job writing recently) about the global and apparently transhistorical resistance to see women as rational economic [...]

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