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Atlantic History Gender
by
Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor

Introduction

Women as well as men were central to the patterns of trade and conquest that made the Atlantic world. Early work in Atlantic history, however, which concentrated on the state and international commerce, often missed the vital participation of women. Recent attention to their experiences has revealed the ways that international structures had local effects. Native American women, for example, frequently acted as go-betweens or cultural brokers between Indian and European societies, gaining new allies for their families and power for themselves. The methods of women’s history, which include adding the experiences of ordinary and unusual women to traditional narratives and analyzing the ways that women’s experiences contradict, change, or reinforce traditional periodization and interpretations, have revised earlier understandings of what held the Atlantic world together. Research into women’s experiences has also revealed how central ideas about masculinity and femininity were to motivating, justifying, and shaping all manner of colonial efforts. Atlantic history has therefore proven an ideal place for gender history—the investigation of how people used ideas about gender to shore up hierarchies and power structures. Kathleen Brown coined the term “gender frontier” to capture those sites of cultural contact where multiple groups of people tried to make sense of seemingly alien notions of marriage customs, the sexual division of labor, or the meaning of motherhood. Relationships on this “gender frontier” typically led each group to solidify its own identity in contrast to a new other.

General Overviews

Most textbooks and surveys of the Atlantic world include a consideration of women’s lives and the significance of gender as integrated parts of culture, demography, and social structure. To get a sense of the most important questions in gender history in particular, there are a few brief, stand-alone introductions to major themes in Atlantic women’s history (Aslakson 2008, Pearsall 2009). Another good starting place is with collections of essays, which offer specific details and often, as with Patricia Seed’s epilogue to Jaffary 2007, a useful framework contextualizing those details. Most recent regional surveys (such as Hufton 1998 or Wiesner-Hanks 2008 on women in western Europe or Socolow 2000 on Latin America) can be good sources of information, as they tend to touch upon themes of Atlantic-world history, including colonialism and conquest, commerce and consumption, and the formation of racial ideologies. Another option is to look for textbooks on women in world history, such as French and Poska 2007.

  • Aslakson, Ken. “Women in the Atlantic World.” In The Atlantic World, 1450–2000. Edited by Toyin Falola and Kevin David Roberts, 135–150. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    An overview for undergraduates and graduates of the lives of black and white women in Atlantic-world societies, based on a framework of opportunities within overall hierarchies that subordinated blacks to whites and women to men. It synthesizes recent scholarship on the ways that ideas about gender shaped the patterns of migration and subsequent ordering of societies.

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  • French, Katherine L., and Allyson M. Poska, eds. Women and Gender in the Western Past. Vol. 2, Since 1500. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

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    A survey textbook of women and gender in the history of Western civilizations. This text includes edited primary sources and short biographies of women.

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  • Hufton, Olwen. The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western Europe. Vol. 1, 1500–1800. New York: Vintage, 1998.

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    A sweeping narrative synthesis of women in early modern western Europe, drawing on an impressive, extensive bibliography of recent scholarship. The book illuminates connections between changes in women’s and men’s lives and shifting ideas about gender, concluding that continuities were as important as change.

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  • Jaffary, Nora E., ed. Gender, Race, and Religion in the Colonization of the Americas. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

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    A new collection of essays analyzing the implications of colonialism for a wide range of women’s lives. The volume takes comparative colonialisms and female agency as its central themes by focusing on gendered frontiers, women and missionaries, interracial sexual relationships, and female social networks. The essays cover Spanish American examples in particular breadth and there is a summary epilogue on “Women in the Atlantic World” by Patricia Seed.

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  • Pearsall, Sarah M. S. “Gender.” In The British Atlantic World, 1500–1800. 2d ed. Edited by David Armitage and Michael J. Braddick, 113–132. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    One of several chapters on “identities” (others are class, civility and authority, race) in this important collection of essays geared toward undergraduates and general interest.

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  • Shepherd, Verene, Bridget Brereton, and Barbara Bailey, eds. Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1995.

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    A collection of theoretically sophisticated essays discussing wide-ranging topics in the history of women in the Caribbean from the 18th to the 20th century. The focus is on the impact of slavery and imperialism for women’s social and economic lives.

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  • Socolow, Susan Migden. The Women of Colonial Latin America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    An overview of the gender ideologies and gendered experiences of women in Latin America. Stresses both the patriarchal underpinning of old and new world societies and the varied outcomes for women under colonization. Topics covered include slavery, work, marriage, religion, deviance, and the complex variety of opportunities and new restrictions for women and men of different races and classes. The appendix has a selection of primary source documents.

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  • Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E. Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. 3d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    A succinct undergraduate textbook introducing major themes in the history of women and gender, organized into sections on mind, body, and spirit. The book, which includes useful bibliographies and clear summaries of recent historiography, has material on masculinity and colonialism, as well. The textbook has an accompanying website with bibliographies, website links, and primary sources.

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Journals and Online Resources

There is no single journal devoted to the history of gender in the Atlantic world. Important articles can be found in regional and thematic history journals such as American Historical Review, Slavery and Abolition, William and Mary Quarterly. Gender and History, established in 1989, is truly transatlantic in coverage and organization and is the best source for Atlantic and comparative work specifically on gender. Patrick Manning’s recent article in that journal exploring electronic sources for studying the African diaspora is a useful starting point for online research. Additional web-based materials on women and gender can be found on sites devoted to Atlantic history, such as the Harvard International Seminar site or sites covering world history, such as the Women in World History site. ViVa is a searchable online database of journal articles on women and gender. Finally, scholarly discussions of women’s and gender history can be found on H-Women, although there is a US bias to the coverage there.

Primary Sources

As historians of the Atlantic world become increasingly interested in questions about gendered power, the meaning of masculinity and femininity, and the different experiences of men and women, they look afresh at all of the familiar types of primary sources, from laws to literature. A few kinds of primary sources, including fiction and autobiography, received particular early attention. Publishers have begun to collect other types of sources to make them more accessible to nonspecialists.

Fiction

There are a variety of novels and fictionalized travel accounts from the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries that address gender ideologies and men’s and women’s experiences. The literary conventions and characters in these works provide interesting evidence of how gender shaped the way people wrote about transatlantic encounters (Defoe 2004, Winkfield 2001), revolutions (Sansay 2007), and the international slave trade (Behn 2003, Felsenstein 1999).

  • Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko. Edited by Janet Todd. New York: Penguin, 2003.

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    A novel about an African prince and his lover who are enslaved and transported to the sugar plantations of Surinam. Presents a vision of black manhood that is highly honorable and even aristocratic and contains the strong and central presence of black and white women characters. In the 1690s the novel was remade as a popular play, The Innocent Mistress, in which the central female character, originally an African woman, has become white.

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  • Defoe, Daniel. Moll Flanders. Edited by Albert J. Rivero. New York: Norton, 2004.

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    A 1722 novel of Atlantic-crossing female adventurer who seeks self-preservation and advancement through marriages, theft, and travel.

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  • Felsenstein, Frank, ed. English Trader, Indian Maid: Representing Gender, Race, and Slavery in the New World: An Inkle and Yarico Reader. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

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    A popular 18th-century elaboration of a 17th-century tale in which an English trader is rescued by an American Indian woman only to sell her and their unborn child into slavery when they sail to Barbados. The edited collection contains several versions of the story and supplementary texts.

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  • Sansay, Leonora. Secret History, or, the Horrors of St. Domingo. 2d ed. Edited by Michael J. Drexler. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2007.

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    A seduction novel set during the Haitian Revolution that makes comparisons between revolutionary St. Domingo and the United States, told through the experiences of two American sisters. The story, which explores the gendered dimension of republicanism, is based on the female author’s firsthand experience of the Haitian Revolution.

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  • Winkfield, Unca Eliza. The Female American, or, The Adventures of Unca Eliza Winkfield. Edited by Michelle Burbham. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2001.

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    A novel published in 1767 about a mixed-race Virginia woman shipwrecked on an island where she converts the inhabitants to Christianity. Explores the meaning of colonial identity for women.

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Autobiographies

In addition to the explicitly fictional stories of women and men who crossed Atlantic boundaries, there are several autobiographies published in the 18th and early 19th centuries that touch upon themes of travel (Snell, et al. 2008) and slavery (Prince 2000).

  • Prince, Mary. The History of Mary Prince. Edited by Sarah Salih. New York: Penguin, 2000.

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    An antislavery autobiography published in 1831 by a woman who survived as a household and field slave in Bermuda and the West Indies before being granted freedom in England, where her owners had transported her. The history was widely circulated by the Anti-Slavery Society. This edition includes supplementary material on Mary Prince.

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  • Snell, Hannah, Mary Lacy, and Mary Anne Talbot. The Lady Tars: The Autobiographies of Hannah Snell, Mary Lacy, and Mary Anne Talbot. Tucson, AZ: Fireship, 2008.

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    Three 18th-century accounts of English women who “passed” as men in the Royal Navy. Their stories highlight how gender was shaped and enacted in the largely male world of seafaring.

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Document Collections

There are numerous useful document collections, both books and databases (such as Early American Imprints), for specific regions of the Atlantic world but no extensive comparative work. Revised editions of the major collections all include material on women and gender, including Collins 2001. There are also some region-specific collections specifically concentrating on gender, including Berkin and Horowitz 1998 and Bell and Offen 1983, though many cover a much longer time period, such as DiCaprio and Wiesner 2001. Clark 2007 and Arenal and Schlau 2009 are examples of collections focusing on one specific group of women—in this case, nuns.

  • Arenal, Electa, and Stacey Schlau, eds. Untold Sisters: Hispanic Nuns in Their Own Works. Rev. ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2009.

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    This collection includes poetry and prose by nuns in Spain and New Spain that addresses topics such as nuns and church/state institutions and the integration of Catholic teachings with personal lives. There are helpful notes, essays, and a bibliography for contextualizing these writings in this new, expanded version of the original collection, published in 1989.

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  • Bell, Susan Groag, and Karen Offen. Women, the Family, and Freedom: The Debate in Documents. Vol. 1, 1750–1880. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1983.

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    An extensive collection of documents of the public debate in Europe over the role of free women in society. A good source for the intellectual history of ideas about gender and education, labor, and politics.

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  • Berkin, Carol, and Leslie Horowitz, eds. Women’s Voices, Women’s Lives: Documents in Early American History. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998.

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    A diverse, useful collection of short primary source selections, including texts by and about women. The collection, which includes a section on changing gender ideologies, is not explicitly Atlantic in focus, but does provide useful comparative examples concerning a wide range of women.

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  • Clark, Emily. Voices from an Early American Convent: Marie Madeleine Hachard and the New Orleans Ursulines, 1727–1760. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2007.

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    This translated collection of letters and other documents from a New Orleans convent includes a useful introduction and notes to place the documents in context.

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  • Collins, Robert, ed. Documents from the African Past. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2001.

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    An example of the kind of published collection of primary sources that includes material by and about women.

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  • DiCaprio, Lisa, and Merry E. Wiesner, eds. Lives and Voices: Sources in European Women’s History. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

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    Provides an overview of women’s lives through primary documents.

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  • Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639–1800. Readex, in combination with the American Antiquarian Society.

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    Digital collection of almost every published work in what became the United States over a 160-year period. Searchable by keyword, time period, region, etc., with links to images of the originals. This is a particularly rich example of the kind of general source database that can be used to research questions about gender in history.

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    Biographies

    Biographies offer a good opportunity to see the influence of gender on a fully fleshed-out individual’s life. One group of Atlantic biographies concentrates on women who moved between cultures as intermediaries, including Greer 2006 and Townsend 2006. Stories of women whose lives spanned the Atlantic world through geographic mobility, both voluntary (Colley 2007) and coerced (Breslaw 1996, Sensbach 2006, Crais and Scully 2008) to confront important cultural, social, and political movements of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries also offer a new cast of historical characters. Some biographies of men, such as Caretta 2005, have begun to consider the significance of gender to their subjects.

    • Breslaw, Elaine. Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem: Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

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      A provocative biography of the woman at the center of the Salem witchcraft panic that introduces historical evidence suggesting she was a South American Arawak enslaved in Barbados before she was transported to New England.

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    • Caretta, Vincent. Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2005.

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      A biography of the most famous freed slave of the 18th-century Atlantic world. Caretta argues that Equiano’s autobiographical presentation of himself as a self-made man depended on details about his origins, family, and work life that may have been fabricated.

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    • Colley, Linda. The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History. New York: Anchor, 2007.

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      Atlantic-spanning story of a woman whose life took her from Britain to the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, India, and North America. Colley not only reconstructs this remarkable life but places it within larger imperial contexts, emphasizing the ways that gender, Atlantic forces, and personal choices combined to shape her life.

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    • Crais, Clifton, and Pamela Scully. Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

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      Biography of a South African woman brought to Europe in the early 19th century and exhibited as a scientific and racial curiosity. The biography explores her extensive travels and the context of gender, colonialism, and slavery that surrounded her identity and exploitation.

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    • Davis, Natalie Zemon. Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1997.

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      A comparative biography of three literate merchant-class women who lived strikingly different lives in Europe, North America, and South America as a Jewish merchant, a Catholic mystic, and a Protestant artist and scientist, respectively.

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    • Greer, Allan. Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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      Reconstructs the lives of a 17th-century Native American woman who became a saint and two Jesuits who worked with her and publicized her visions. The book contrasts the lives of men and women, in France and North America, and the role of gender in colonial interaction.

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    • Sensbach, Jon F. Rebecca’s Revival: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

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      A biography of Rebecca Protten, born a slave in Dutch St. Thomas. After being freed, Protten became a widely traveled Moravian Christian evangelist. The book argues for her central importance in converting African slaves and helping to shape the African American religious community of the 18th century.

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    • Townsend, Camilla. Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.

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      This biography of Hernan Cortés’s Indian interpreter fills in the gaps and contradictions in evidence about her life with a rich background of contexts in which she acted. Townsend presents speculation and possibilities creatively and occasionally provocatively.

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    Women’s History and Gender History

    Both women’s history and gender history have been influential in analyzing the historical forces animating the Atlantic world. The approaches are distinct, although many scholars are interested in both gender and women’s history, as can be seen in the works included in this bibliography. Joan Scott’s pathbreaking article (Scott 1986) set the agenda for historians of gender, arguing that it had the potential to revise traditional histories more fundamentally than women’s history because studying gender excavates fundamental categories of human understanding rather than focusing on the experiences of marginalized groups. Hoff 1994 makes the strongest case for the concerns of women’s historians confronting gender history. The tension between women’s and gender history is not limited to the case of the United States. For global perspectives, including Atlantic ones, see Allman and Burton 2003 and AHR Forum 2008. Interest in gender history has encouraged historians to examine the meaning of masculinity over time. Because commerce, colonialism, and labor cultures of the Atlantic world all rested on ideas about masculinity, this is an important area for new scholarship.

    • AHR Forum: “Revisiting ‘Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.’ American Historical Review 113 (December 2008).

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      This forum, which includes five articles assessing Scott’s influence on the history of the United States, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle Ages, and China, as well as a response by Scott, is a very useful historical and historiographical introduction to the last twenty years of gender history.

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    • Allman, Jean, and Antoinette Burton. “Destination Globalization? Women, Gender, and Comparative Colonial Histories in the New Millennium.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 4.1 (2003).

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      This introductory essay to a special journal issue lays out the tensions and overlap between women’s and gender history in the context of comparative colonialism and area studies, which are relevant to the study of the Atlantic world.

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    • Hoff, Joan. “Gender as a Postmodern Category of Paralysis.” Women’s History Review 3.2 (1994): 149–168.

      DOI: 10.1080/09612029400200102Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A sharp critique of Scott 1986 and gender history arguing that it abandons the politically important feminist work of uncovering women’s voices and experiences from the past.

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    • Ditz, Toby L. “The New Men’s History and the Peculiar Absence of Gendered Power: Some Remedies from Earlier American Gender History.” Gender and History 16.1 (April 2004): 1–35.

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      Ditz introduces the scholarship on masculinity that emerged partially in response to Scott’s essay and argues that it has not always achieved Scott’s promise of a critical analysis of gendered power. She uses examples from early British American history to suggest how to write a critical history of masculinity.

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    • Scott, Joan. “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.” American Historical Review 91.5 (December 1986): 1053–1075.

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      Groundbreaking article laying out the methods and significance of historical work focused on gender—that is, perceived sex differences. Scott proposes that feminist historians look at how ideas about “masculine” and “feminine” were used to support political, social, and intellectual hierarchies in the past.

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    Colonial Encounters

    Gender ideologies influenced the direction and shape of colonial encounters throughout the Atlantic world and historians have increasingly pointed to these ideas to explain interactions between imperial and indigenous people (Montrose 1993, Silverblatt 1987). For the English Atlantic, Brown 1996 is a now-classic book that created a template for combining women’s and gender history with persistent attention to race and class. For the Spanish Atlantic, Gutiérrez 1991 linked indigenous and Spanish practices of sexuality and marriage to explain cultural conquest. Subsequent books, including Barr 2007 use the concept of “borderlands” to talk about regions beyond the direct control of early states. In these places, power negotiations frequently took place over understandings of masculinity and femininity, kinship, and sexual relationships between men and women. One of the most important findings has been that although there were striking differences in gender systems and individual lives among European, African, and American societies, there were also apparent similarities that all sides tried to use to their advantage (Little 2007, Sleeper-Smith 2001).

    • Barr, Juliana. Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

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      Demonstrates that a “diplomacy of gender” structured relationships between Spanish and Indian groups, not merely a hierarchy of race. Barr states that the Texas borderlands were a site of Indian dominance, rather than resistance or accommodation, in the 18th century.

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    • Brown, Kathleen M. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

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      Influential study of legal, social, and economic interactions among English colonists, Native Americans, and enslaved Africans and African Americans that attributes the emergence of the racial/class order to ideas about gender and interactions between women, as well as between women and men.

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    • Gutiérrez, Ramón A. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

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      A classic work documenting the ways that sexual relationships and understandings of honor shaped communities in New Mexico. Gutiérrez uses marriage as the focus for exploring how gendered identities formed under the pressures of colonialism. Historians of gender, sexuality, and indigenous women have vigorously debated Gutiérrez’s findings.

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    • Little, Ann. Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

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      Argues that ideas about gender and family were fundamental to the ways that Europeans and Native Americans understood, explained, and conducted warfare in 17th- and 18th-century New England, New France, and Indian country. Interactions between European and Indian groups subsequently transformed their understandings of masculinity, in particular.

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    • Montrose, Louis. “The Work of Gender in the Discourse of Discovery.” In New World Encounters. Edited by Stephen Greenblatt, 177–217. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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      An artistic and literary analysis of early European explorers’ texts and illustrations emphasizing the significance of gendered imagery in justifying and explaining conquest. This article is a good example of the influential work being done outside of history on gender, colonialism, and the Atlantic.

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    • Powers, Karen Vieira. Women in the Crucible of Conquest: The Gendered Genesis of Spanish American Society, 1500–1600. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

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      This valuable study surveys the impact of colonization on Native American, Spanish, and mixed-race women in New Spain. Covering sexual relationships, economic strategies, religious beliefs, and social institutions, Powers demonstrates that although indigenous women overall lost status over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, some found ways to create new places for themselves in the creolized society.

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    • Silverblatt, Irene Marsha. Moon, Sun, and Witches: Gender Ideologies and Class in Inca and Colonial Peru. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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      An innovative study of how Spanish colonization changed Peruvian men’s and women’s lives differently. The book provides an early model for the study of gender and class in colonial encounters by analyzing sources ranging from court records to mythology.

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    • Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Indian Women, French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

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      An important, accessible book that brings together several extended case studies and decades of historical literature on the role of American Indian women as “go-betweens” in the economic, political, and diplomatic relationships between Europeans and Americans. In keeping with others’ findings, the author emphasizes adaptation and change on the part of Native Americans, as well as their fundamental role in transatlantic trade.

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    Religion

    Ideas about gender were at the heart of many missionaries’ messages. Conflicting notions of what was masculine and what was feminine could result in daily misunderstandings, religious syncretism, or violence, all common responses to colonial interactions in the Atlantic world. Although many insights about Atlantic encounters come from comparative studies of women and religion (Dinan and Meyers 2001, Kostroun and Vollendorf 2009), religion has been one of the areas where scholars have pursued a truly Atlantic (and not merely comparative) approach to questions of gender (Juster 2003, Thornton 1998, Martínez 2008). The work on Catholic women—both nuns and converts—(Clark 2007, Greer and Bilinkoff 2002, Giles 1998, Martinez 2008) is particularly rich.

    • Clark, Emily. Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1727–1834. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

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      A focused examination of the first female Catholic order in what became the United States that emphasizes these women’s autonomy as well as their connections to the transatlantic movement of people (often forced; these nuns were slaveholders) and ideas in the 18th and 19th centuries. Clark published a separate collection of primary sources from the convent (Clark 2007, cited under Document Collections).

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    • Dinan, Susan E., and Debra Meyers, eds. Women and Religion in Old and New Worlds. New York: Routledge, 2001.

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      This collection brings together articles on the religious experiences of women in France, Spain, England, and the Netherlands with their colonial counterparts. The various essays offer a unique opportunity to examine the gendered nature of religious power and authority across the Atlantic world.

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    • Giles, Mary E., ed. Women in the Inquisition: Spain and the New World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

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      These essays, covering the experiences of women caught up in the Spanish Inquisition, permit comparisons across races, regions, and time. They also demonstrate the efforts of women to shape their own interpretations of religious practice.

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    • Greer, Allan, and Jodi Bilinkoff, eds. Colonial Saints: Discovering the Holy in the Americas. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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      Gender is a central component of the essays in this collection, all exploring aspects of the mixing of Catholicism and the colonial experience. In addition to essays on religious synthesis, there are many chapters on holy men and women as well as comparisons of the gendered nature of saint veneration in Europe and the Americas.

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    • Juster. Susan. Doomsayers: Anglo-American Prophesy in the Age of Revolution. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

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      Although not solely about gender, this book tracing transatlantic millennial culture in the late 18th and early 19th centuries takes gender as a central point of analysis in understanding the behavior of prophets and the cultural politics of their messages.

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    • Kostroun, Daniella, and Lisa Vollendorf, eds. Women, Religion, and the Atlantic World, 1600–1800. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

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      A new multidisciplinary collection examining women’s religious activities (both as laypeople and women religious) around the Atlantic rim. Essays focusing on nuns, witchcraft, religious syncretism and others highlight the relationship between gender and authority in newly created communities.

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    • Martínez, María Elena. Genealogical Fictions: Limpieza de Sangre, Religion, and Gender in Colonial Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.

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      This study of Spanish ideas about “purity of blood” and the racial ideologies of colonization demonstrates how ideas about gender, race, religion, and family transformed Spanish ideals in the context of life in colonial Mexico.

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    • Thornton, John. The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684–1706. Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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      This study focuses on the movement inspired by a young woman who claimed to be possessed by a saint and criticized Italian missionaries for not supporting black saints. The book demonstrates the influence of a female-led indigenous religious and political movement on the Atlantic slave trade, as a significant portion of slaves originally came from Kongolese roots in central Africa.

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    Witchcraft

    One aspect of gendered religious ideologies that Atlantic communities shared was a belief in witchcraft. Many considered women to be particularly susceptible to demonic control and skilled in the manipulation of the supernatural, although the mechanism for how this worked changed over region and time (Karlsen 1998, Reis 1998, Roper 1994). Studies of witchcraft are popular and widespread (although in many cases they do not consider gender), permitting increasingly subtle comparative readings of the connections among gender, race, religion and power (Oldridge 2008). Published, translated primary sources on witchcraft are especially rich for this period (Gibson 2003; see Breslaw 2000 for an explicitly Atlantic perspective).

    • Breslaw, Elaine, ed. Witches of the Atlantic World: An Historical Reader and Primary Sourcebook. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

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      This cross-cultural collection of witchcraft documents and shorter secondary interpretations by leading scholars offers readers the chance to grapple with the significance witchcraft held for very different individuals and groups. The collection is unique in including the perspectives of Africans and Native Americans in addition to Europeans.

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    • Gibson, Marion, ed. Witchcraft and Society in England and America, 1550–1750. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

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      This collection of documents includes selections from literary works, court records, and private papers originating on both sides of the Atlantic.

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    • Karlsen, Carol. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: Norton, 1998.

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      Karlsen’s study of New England Puritans’ witchcraft beliefs was one of the first to consider the role of gender in creating the “image” of the witch. She presents extensive evidence from the witchcraft trials to argue that it was women threatening to disrupt male property holding who were especially vulnerable to accusation, prosecution, and execution.

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    • Oldridge, Darren, ed. The Witchcraft Reader. 2d ed. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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      A collection of scholarly essays covering witchcraft beliefs and practices in Europe, with some North American comparisons. Gender is the focus of many of the essays, which discuss both masculinity and femininity.

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    • Reis, Elizabeth, ed. Spellbound: Women and Witchcraft in America. S. R. Books, 1998.

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      This collection of essays exploring the link between gender (male and female) and witchcraft covers four hundred years of North American history and considers the intersection of witchcraft and colonialism in several contexts.

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    • Roper, Lyndal. Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Religion, and Sexuality in Early Modern Europe. New York: Routledge, 1994.

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      A groundbreaking book that examines gendered witchcraft beliefs through the history of the body and sexuality. Roper ties increasing witch hunts in early modern Germany to a crisis in masculinity and gender relations provoked by the Reformation and the growth of Atlantic commerce.

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    Atlantic Slave Systems

    The Atlantic slave system not only transformed lives and economies but also was pivotal in determining the way people in racialized slave societies understood themselves and others. For much of the slave trade era, more men were transported than women, although at pivotal points African women predominated, with consequences for the resulting slave societies and African communities that remained (Campbell, et al. 2007). Early histories of the Atlantic slave trade considered only commercially productive labor as part of the exploitation of slave systems, but enslaved women’s reproductive work had vital cultural and social significance as well. One branch of recent research uncovers basic information about women’s daily lives in Atlantic slavery systems. For this work, Gaspar and Hine 1996 and Bush 1990 are good places to start. Led by Morgan 2004 and Nishida 2003, another group of books incorporates a new focus on the cultural construction of race and gender undertaken in travel literature, elite diaries, abolitionist texts, and published images of hypersexualized African women.

    • Beckles, Hilary. Centering Woman: Gender Discourses in Caribbean Slave Society. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1999.

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      This collection of essays considers both the varying experiences of white and black women in the colonial Caribbean and their roles in constructing the meanings of slavery. Chapters on female labor gangs, interracial sex, and enslaved women’s entrepreneurship highlight how ideas about men and women shaped the form that slavery took and the ideological justifications for it. The research focusing on relationships between women of different races is especially valuable. The book also stresses the large proportion of women enslaved in West Africa and on 19th-century sugar plantations.

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    • Bush, Barbara. Slave Women in Caribbean Society, 1650–1838. London: James Currey, 1990.

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      A detailed social history of enslaved women’s lives on the sugar plantations of the British Caribbean (particularly Jamaica), covering family life, work, community, and images of black women in European texts and illustrations. The book argues against much recent literature in asserting that women played important roles in transatlantic slave resistance—often through daily activities of forming families and retaining West African customs.

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    • Campbell, Gwyn, Suzanne Miers, and Joseph C. Miller, eds. Women and Slavery. Vol. 2, The Modern Atlantic. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007.

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      A collection from leading scholars of slavery in Africa, the Americas, and the Caribbean. The essays focus on female experiences and strategies under slavery, as well as the formation of racial and gendered ideals in countries around the ocean. Several of the pieces trace connections and continuities between African and American experiences. Includes work on the legacy of slavery for emancipated women in the Caribbean and the efforts of enslaved women to work within legal systems.

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    • Gaspar, David Barry, and Darlene Clark Hine, eds. More than Chattel: Black Women and Slavery in the Americas. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.

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      Valuable collection of essays covering the experiences of enslaved women in Africa and the Americas as well as how ideas about gender shaped and transformed the institution of slavery. Topics include the gender division of labor, female sexuality and childbearing, economic life, and the gendered patterns of resistance.

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    • Morgan, Jennifer. Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

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      A comparative study of enslaved women in South Carolina and Barbados, placed in the context of transatlantic movement of people and ideas concerning race and slavery. The study, drawing upon extensive archival research, demonstrates how slave owners depended on enslaved women as laborers, mothers, and as symbols to make sense of racial slavery.

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    • Morrissey, Marietta. Slave Women in the New World: Gender Stratification in the Caribbean. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1989.

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      A close look at enslaved African women’s material lives in the Caribbean, with comparisons made to the southern parts of North America. The book argues that enslaved women’s trading and provisioning were vital not only to slave communities but also to the development of world economies.

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    • Nishida, Mieko. Slavery and Identity: Ethnicity, Gender, and Race in Salvador, Brazil, 1808–1888. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

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      A study of the lives of African- and Brazilian-born slaves in the Atlantic port city of Salvador that argues personal and collective identities formed around shifting ideas about gender. Like a number of books on female slaves in the Atlantic world, this one emphasizes their dominance in port markets as sellers and their collective identity as social and economic negotiators.

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    Work

    Free women and men, like their enslaved counterparts, saw their daily work lives transformed by Atlantic connections. As several scholars have shown, the nature of international trade, conducted by ship over great and uncertain distances, had a profound influence on what it meant to be a man or a woman (Ditz 1994). Most studies of gender and free labor have focused either on work performed at sea (Newman 1998, Howell and Twomey 1991) or in the port cities that furnished transatlantic expeditions (Creighton and Norling 1996, Haggerty 2006, Brooks 2003). Recent attention to the work associated with producing and circulating consumer goods around the Atlantic rim has brought women’s activities and the significance of gender to the surface (Hartigan-O’Connor 2009, Vickery and Styles 2006).

    • Brooks, George. Eurafricans in Western Africa: Commerce, Social Status, Gender, and Religious Observance from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003.

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      Social history of the work that descendants of Portuguese traders and African women performed in West African and Atlantic commerce. Pays particular attention to the creation of social status in polyglot communities.

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    • Creighton, Margaret, and Lisa Norling, eds. Iron Men, Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World, 1700–1920. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

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      A collection of essays that looks at changing ideas of manhood and womanhood around maritime life in the 18th and 19th centuries. Essays consider female pirates, the gendered division of labor on ship and shore, and black sailors’ opportunities for mixed-race masculine work community. Several essays have a literary focus, studying the textual representation of ships and the sea as masculine or feminine spaces.

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    • Ditz, Toby. “Shipwrecked; or Masculinity Imperiled: Mercantile Representations of Failure and the Gendered Self in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia.” Journal of American History 81.1 (June 1994): 51–80.

      DOI: 10.2307/2080993Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Forward-thinking article arguing that male merchants engaged in the Atlantic trade faced the vicissitudes of economic failure by creating and defending a new kind of masculine identity. Draws upon influential ideas such as the performance of gender and the contrast between an inner and outer self in early modern writing.

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    • Haggerty, Sheryllynne. The British Atlantic Trading Community, 1760–1810: Men, Women, and the Distribution of Goods. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2006.

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      A detailed comparative study of traders in Liverpool and Philadelphia that highlights the importance and ubiquity of small traders—male and female—in local and Atlantic economies. Includes some discussion of the role of gender ideologies in shaping urban work lives. This is a rare book to take female traders seriously as parts of the Atlantic economy.

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    • Hartigan-O’Connor, Ellen. The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

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      A comparative study of Newport, Rhode Island, and Charleston, South Carolina, that demonstrates black and white women workers’ centrality to and dependence on an Atlantic service economy that supported international commerce.

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    • Howell, Colin, and Richard Twomey, eds. Jack Tar in History: Essays in the History of Maritime Life and Labor. Fredericton, NB: Acadiensis, 1991.

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      Several articles in this collection, including those by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, Diana Dugaw, Lisa Norling, and Margaret Creighton, address the role of gender (and specifically masculinity) in shaping seafaring life.

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    • Newman, Simon. “Reading the Bodies of Early American Seafarers.” William and Mary Quarterly 55 (1998): 59–82.

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      This interesting study of the physical marks of seafaring men—including tattoos and crippling injuries—points out the ways that a masculine work identity specific to sailors could be visible to port residents and authorities as well as fellow mariners.

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    • Vickery, Amanda, and John Styles, eds. Gender, Taste, and Material Culture in Britain and North America, 1700–1830. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

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      Wide-ranging collection of articles about the work of buying and using the products of Atlantic trade with a particular emphasis on the influence of gender. Divided equally between work on Britain and on North America, the chapters are organized to permit comparisons between regions, although as a whole the book argues for an integrated Atlantic world.

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    Gendered Power

    Social and political theory associated with the 18th-century Enlightenment opened the door to recognizing the equal rights of men and women. At the same time, however, an emphasis on “natural” differences among people also hardened ideas about male and female “natures.” By the late 18th century, free women were characterized in Western philosophy as ruled by passion and feeling, with men governed by reason. These contradictory strains of equality and difference in transatlantic thought influenced the political revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries (Applewhite and Levy 1993, Landes 2001) and states’ attitudes toward slavery (Scully and Paton 2005). Although the effect of political theory on individual lives is hard to measure, the works cited here show several ways that historians have pursued questions of gendered power. Norton 1996 uses court records; Stern 1997 examines peasant politics; Jaffee and Lewis 2009 and Howe 2008 explore educational practices to test the limits of female authority in a new intellectual climate.

    • Applewhite, Harriet B., and Darlene Levy, eds. Women and Politics in the Age of the Democratic Revolution. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.

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      Pathbreaking collection of articles comparing the involvement of white women in revolutionary movements across Europe and North America.

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    • Jaffe, Catherine M., and Elizabeth Lewis. Eve’s Enlightenment: Women’s Experience in Spain and Spanish America, 1726–1839. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.

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      An interdisciplinary collection that focuses on how the cultural, artistic, and intellectual work of women interpreted Enlightenment philosophies.

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    • Howe, Elizabeth Theresa. Education and Women in the Early Modern Hispanic World. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008.

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      A wide-ranging study of girls’ schooling in Spain and New Spain that explores changing ideas about the purpose of female education in the 16th and 17th centuries. The book not only profiles several influential female writers on the topic of education but also juxtaposes theory and practice in the colonial context.

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    • Landes, Joan B. Visualizing the Nation: Gender, Representation, and Revolution in Eighteenth-Century France. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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      A study of political language and iconography. Argues that while revolutionaries used female images to represent liberty and justice, they also worked to drive actual women from public political activity. The book offers a useful, detailed discussion of the gendered elements of nationalism and citizenship.

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    • Norton, Mary Beth. Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society. New York: Knopf, 1996.

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      Explores the gendered ideologies and lived experience of colonial North American white women. In addition to presenting an overarching framework contrasting a patriarchal, familial model of political power with a contract-based one, the book contains many interesting and useful examples of the ways that men and women established and justified their authority. Argues that free women lost public power over the course of the 17th century.

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    • Scully, Pamela, and Diana Paton, eds. Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

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      A collection of essays that presents a comparative history of gender and emancipation across the Atlantic world. Argues that ideas about gender influenced the political theory of abolition, post-emancipation liberalism, and the ideology of “free” labor, as well as the aspirations and strategies of enslaved and free people. Individual contributions discuss topics including the gender strategies of abolitionists and the meaning of masculinity in post-emancipation societies.

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    • Stern, Steve. The Secret History of Gender: Women, Men, and Power in Late Colonial Mexico. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

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      Sociocultural study of the role gender played in peasant politics and rebellion. Argues that nonelites in colonial Mexico created their own models of the appropriate authority granted to women and men. Although not explicitly transatlantic throughout, the book’s study of gender and political power is presented in a framework encouraging comparison with other American and European models.

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    • Vicente, Marta V., and Luis R. Corteguera, eds. Women, Texts, and Authority in the Early Modern Spanish World. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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      The essays in this collection take a literary historical approach to poetry, court documents, and business papers to understand women’s access to power (and the way authority was understood as masculine or feminine) in Spain and Spanish America.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199730414-0027

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