VOLUME 25

NUMBER 2

October 2021

 
Editors: Rebecca Jo Plant and Judy Tzu-Chun Wu
Editorial Assistants: Jordan Mylet, Kacey Calahane, and Samantha de Vera
Book Review Editors: Katherine Marino and Donna Schuele
Founding Editors: Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin
Published by Alexander Street Press
with support from the University of California, Irvine and San Diego

 

In This Issue:

Our Fall 2021 edition features Alina R. Méndez's, "Gendered Invisibility: Ethnic Mexican Women and the Bracero Program." This document project focuses on the effects of the Bracero program, which brought thousands of Mexicans to the United States as contract laborers between 1942 and 1964. Because the vast majority of braceros were men, the Bracero Program is often mentioned fleetingly (if at all) in U.S. women's history courses. Yet as Méndez shows, it dramatically impacted women, including wives who were left behind in Mexico, those who accompanied their husbands, and women already in the U.S., who interacted with the new arrivals in a variety of capacities—for example, as food vendors, employers, or romantic partners. The documents presented in this collection, which are drawn from both U.S. and Mexican archives, include letters that women sent to the Mexican president, newspaper articles, a notarized statement by the widow of bracero, as well as photographs and remarkable oral histories collected by the Bracero History Archive. Together, these sources demonstrate how a rigidly gendered program produced powerfully gendered effects, shaping women's lives in myriad and enduring ways.

A second document project by Rima Lunin Schultz and Kathryn Kish Sklar, is entitled "The Wife of Jane Addams." It explores the forty-year relationship between the social reformer and Hull House founder Jane Addams and Mary Rozet Smith, who as the daughter of one of Chicago's wealthiest families became an important donor to the settlement house. The project focuses on how Addams and Smith creatively wove together their intimate and public lives in a manner that prioritized their mutual quest for personal meaning and social significance. Challenging prior depictions of Smith as simply a helpmate to Addams, the featured documents—including personal correspondence, poems that Addams wrote for Smith, candid photographs and formal portraits, and references to their relationship in the writings of their many friends and coworkers—offer new insight into the improvisational same-sex relationships that helped to fuel and sustain women's activism in this period.

We are also presenting a new primary source collection called "2020 in Review: Reflections on Life and Politics." Because it was so apparent that we were living through dramatic and disruptive historical events, we decided to deviate from our usual course and create (rather than curate) a body of primary documents. We solicited reflections and photographs seeking to capture the Trump era and its demise, with a particular emphasis on the year 2020. We asked people to discuss how they viewed and were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter and other political movements, recent changes to the Supreme Court, and/or the historic 2020 presidential election. We hope that these submissions can serve as an important repository in the future for students and researchers who will attempt to understand and analyze these turbulent times.

Finally, we also would like to call readers' attention to #EmpireSuffrageSyllabus, a resource that is freely available on our website. This collective endeavor emerged from discussions within the University of California's Consortium on Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Histories in the Americas on how to best recognize the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19thAmendment. We hoped to honor this decades-in-the-making achievement while also calling attention to its limitations. At the same time, we wanted to bring the insights of historical research on U.S. empire and imperialism to bear on discussions of women's access to the ballot and political power. The results of these efforts are now accessible the form of an online syllabus divided into four modules, which are essentially starter toolkits that identify conceptual questions and major themes and provide instructors with annotated secondary readings and suggested primary sources (both textual and visual) to use in the classroom. To help students grasp the full complexity of these issues, each of the four modules is accompanied by a StoryMap that will help students understand the fight for women's suffrage and political power in spatial as well as chronological terms. Ultimately, the syllabus highlights how different groups of women had complex, ambivalent, and antagonistic relationships to the suffrage movement based on their own people's distinctive and historically determined relationship to the U.S. state and U.S. citizenship. For some, the acquisition of suffrage represented an extension of power, but for others, it seemed a wholly inadequate tool, and one that could not be disentangled from the legacies of colonial oppression.

Since our last issue, we have added to the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States (OBD) about 300 new crowdsourced biographical sketches, bringing its total to 3,250 sketches. We are pleased to announce that with our final addition in December of 400-450 sketches we will have completed the crowdsourcing phase of the project. All of the biographical sketches are organized in separate sections of militant suffragists, Black suffragists, and mainstream suffragists. They are accessible in two ways—in a freely-accessible, stand-alone database, and as a component of our subscription database. Using the subscription version also provides access to substantial collections of the writings of each group, which are particularly strong for the 400 Black women suffragists.

Given how large the OBD has grown, users may appreciate guidance in approaching these resources. A new section, "Highlighted Sketches," features seven sketches of a diverse array of suffrage activists. Teachers may find it useful to point students to these essays as a way for them to become acquainted with the organization of the database and its technical functionalities. The search capacity of the database permits users to analyze suffragists by state, region, time period, and race. The breadth of the sketches permits users to identify the other social movements that engaged these activists.

Finally, this edition includes five new book reviews, for which we once again thank the contributors and our book review editors, Donna Schuele and Katherine Marino.

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