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Journal of Women's History

Patricia Skinner
Time magazine's cover photograph in August 2010 of a noseless Afghan woman beside the emotive strap line, "What happens if we leave Afghanistan," fuelled debate about the "medieval" practices of the Taliban, whose local commander had instructed her husband to take her nose and ears. Press reports attributed the violence to the Pashtun tradition that a dishonored husband "lost his nose." This equation of nose-cutting with tradition begs questions not only about the Orientalist lens of the western press when viewing Afghanistan, but also about the assumption that the word "medieval" can function as a label for such practices...
2014: Journal of Women's History
Tovah Bender
This article addresses the apparent shortage of women in the 1427 Florentine Catasto, perhaps the most complete premodern European demographic source. It argues that the shortage exists because it was only when they entered their first marriage that Tuscan women were viewed as complete, gendered beings by their families, government officials, and society. Before marriage, a woman’s place within the household, her gender, and even her existence were liminal, at least in Tuscan documents. The result is that the ratio of men to women is more balanced for that portion of the population past the age of marriage for women...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Diana Georgescu
Drawing on recent Romanian films, this article explores the distinctive post-communist concerns with national relocation in the symbolic geography of Europe. The focus on tragic comedies, an increasingly popular genre in Eastern European cinematography, foregrounds the critical usage of irony to express skepticism about the inclusive nature of geopolitical projects such as the European Union by national communities situated at its periphery. While the tragic comedies examined here are successful in challenging official narratives of European belonging, they rely on highly gendered scripts that prove more resilient to ironic reworkings...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Manon Parry
In the first half of the twentieth century, birth control advocates used the mass media to reframe contraception from a private, secret matter to an acceptable part of life fit for public discussion. Although their campaign began in print, they quickly embraced the more far-reaching medium of film to deliver their message. This article argues that birth control advocates circumvented the Comstock Act in the early decades of the twentieth century by taking up this new medium as part of a long-running strategy to publicize the birth control movement...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Melissa Feinberg
This article examines a survey of rural Czech women conducted in 1944–1945. It argues that the survey tells two very different stories. First, the survey provides an unvarnished look into the everyday material circumstances of a few rural Czech women. But for all they tell us about the material conditions of these rural women’s lives, the surveys tell us very little about their ideals, hopes, and dreams. The surveys do, however, reveal quite a bit about the inner motivations of the very different group of women who commissioned this research, a group known as the Women’s Center...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Dáša Frančíková
An 1850 article “Uzavírání sňatku” (“Marriage”) by Czech physician Jan Špott outlined the requirements for those who considered themselves part of the Czech national community. Špott stressed that those concerned with the future national existence had to educate themselves and each other to create healthy offspring. I examine Špott’s article with regard to contemporary ideas about fitness, the role of women, the need to discipline the female body, as well as the importance of education in reproducing the community...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Nancy Locklin
This article investigates the legal provision for two adult, unmarried women to create a “perpetual society” with one another found in the customary code of 1725 for the French province of Brittany. This arrangement allowed women who shared a household to designate one another as primary heir and to protect their community property from the claims of others. Evidence of this arrangement demonstrates that single women in some places had options outside of marriage and the convent. The contracts filed by the women also reveal the extent to which this arrangement went beyond considerations of property to express both affection and loyalty...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Charu Gupta
This article focuses on disparate sites and subjects to reflect on and problematize the relationship between sexuality and the archives in colonial north India. I dwell on how ‘recalcitrant’ and hidden histories of sexuality can be gleaned by not only expanding our arenas of archives, but also by decentering and recasting colonial archives. I do so by specifically investigating some of the “indigenous” writings in Hindi, through texts concerning homosexuality, sex manuals, the writings of a woman ayurvedic practitioner, didactic literature and its relationship to Dalit (outcaste) sexuality, and current popular Dalit literature and its representations of the past...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Christin L Hancock
This article argues that the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) field nursing program of the 1930s, which continued much of the same assimilation-style health care practices begun generations earlier by missionaries and field matrons, perpetuated the nineteenth-century link between religion and health care. Following in the footsteps of their female predecessors, field nurses targeted native women for health education, emphasizing personal hygiene and individual responsibility at the expense of socioeconomic causes of illness...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Emily Machen
This article explores the efforts of French Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish women to morally, spiritually, and physically protect immigrant and migrant women and girls in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Women of faith worried about the dangers posed by the white slave trade, and they feared the loss of spiritual consciousness among women living far from their families and their places of worship. In response to these concerns, they developed numerous faith-based international organizations aimed at protecting vulnerable working-class immigrants...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Nancy Y Reynolds
This article investigates change and continuity in anxieties about shopping during the first half of the twentieth century in Egypt to argue that department stores and their salesclerks became critical sites for enacting and challenging new notions of sexuality and citizenship. Retail innovations, such as commission pay, display, free entry, and large commercial staffs, became understood as sexual and moral problems because department stores blurred the boundaries between classes and were public spaces where unrelated men and women could mix...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Sasha Turner
Once the British transatlantic slave trade came under abolitionists' scrutiny in 1788, West Indian slaveholders had to consider alternative methods of obtaining well-needed laborers. This article examines changes in enslaved women's working lives as planters sought to increase birth rates to replenish declining laboring populations. By focusing more on variances in work assignment and degrees of punishment rather than their absence, this article establishes that enslaved women in Jamaica experienced a considerable shift in their work responsibilities and their subjection to discipline as slaveholders sought to capitalize on their abilities to reproduce...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Amy E Randall
This article examines Soviet reproductive politics after the Communist regime legalized abortion in 1955. The regime's new abortion policy did not result in an end to the condemnation of abortion in official discourse. The government instead launched an extensive campaign against abortion. Why did authorities bother legalizing the procedure if they still disapproved of it so strongly? Using archival sources, public health materials, and medical as well as popular journals to investigate the antiabortion campaign, this article argues that the Soviet government sought to regulate gender and sexuality through medical intervention and health "education" rather than prohibition and force in the post-Stalin era...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Lisa Andersen
In the nineteenth-century Prohibition Party, American women ascribed new gendered meanings to party work traditionally performed by male partisans, and also drew upon their gendered roles as women, mothers, and wives to create new partisan strategies. This article investigates the political culture that sustained a remarkable departure from traditional Democratic and Republican practices, and further explores why women's contributions to the Prohibition Party declined in the early-twentieth century. In so doing, it traces how gender and gender roles shaped the meaning of party and politics, and elucidates the interplay between institutions, constituencies, and policy during one of America's most tumultuous political eras...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Ann Taylor Allen
This article discusses the career of Patty Smith Hill, a major figure in the American kindergarten movement, in the context of the Progressive Era in American history. Hill, an educator and child-welfare activist, became known both as a reformer of early-childhood education and as an advocate of the inclusion of the kindergarten, originally a private institution, in public-school systems. The article acknowledges this as one of the most significant achievements of the woman-led reform movements of the Progressive Era, but at the same time notes that it involved a substantial transfer of power from the women who had originally developed the kindergarten to the male principals and superintendants who now supervised kindergarten teachers, often without much understanding of their distinctive methods and aims...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Robin Dearmon Muhammad
The Women's Service Section (WSS) investigated federally controlled railroad stations and yards at the end of World War I. Few women worked in car cleaning before the war, and railroad management preferred to block women workers, especially African Americans, from gaining any kind of foothold in railroad work. African American women were the single largest group of railroad car cleaners during this period but they were routinely denied adequate facilities, including toilets, locker rooms, and dining facilities throughout the railroad system...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Jan Doolittle Wilson
From 1900 to 1902, the General Federation of Women's Clubs' official commitment to "unity in diversity" was tested to the limits when an explosive debate over the admission of African American women's clubs deeply, and in some cases irreparably, divided individual clubs and state federations and nearly resulted in the loss of half of the organization's burgeoning membership. The controversy reveals a captivating, complicated, and at times bizarre struggle between Northern and Southern white members of the General Federation to defend their particular views of race and, in many cases, to obfuscate their own deep-seated racial prejudices...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Vanessa May
In response to the poor working conditions suffered by domestics struggling to survive the Depression, middle-class women's organizations initiated various legislative reforms aimed at tackling the problems they believed plagued the occupation. Throughout these years, organized women debated three key pieces of reform related to domestic service: efforts to suppress street-corner markets, health requirements for prospective domestics, and state-level wage and hour reform. These reforms were united by the rhetoric of privacy, which clubwomen used both to oppose wage and hour reform and to support requirements that domestics have physicals before applying for work...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Roisin Cossar
This essay reconstructs the lives of a neglected group of women in the Christian church during the later Middle Ages. So-called clerical “concubines” were well-known in their communities, but their lived experience has been largely ignored by modern historians. Yet studying clerical concubines sheds light not only on the women themselves, but also on the social organization of the medieval Christian church. Drawing on information gathered from notarial acts across the northern Italian peninsula, I argue that concubines were not a unitary group...
2011: Journal of Women's History
Ella Howard
Second-wave feminist media had a contentious relationship with corporate advertisers. This article uses automotive advertisements to explore the role of gender, class, and race in the construction of consumer markets from the 1970s through the 1980s. It analyzes the struggle of Gloria Steinem and other liberal feminists to navigate the terrain between the women's movement and corporate advertisers. The increased economic power of women, stemming from the Equal Credit Opportunity Act as well as broader social and political shifts, facilitated their efforts...
2010: Journal of Women's History
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