Personal Occupations: Women's Responses to U.S. Military Occupations in Latin America

By McPherson, Alan | The Historian, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Personal Occupations: Women's Responses to U.S. Military Occupations in Latin America


McPherson, Alan, The Historian


INTRODUCTION

"THE WOMEN IN MY country have allowed themselves to be more imbued with the fatal consequences of the morbid and corrupt relations with the Yankee than the men," an anonymous Dominican author (most likely a man) claimed in 1921, in the midst of the occupation of his country by U.S. marines. (1) One might attribute the comment to a nationalist looking for someone to blame. Or perhaps to a man whose woman chose to love a marine instead of him. But, absent the vitriol, was it wrong? Did women under occupation have a different relationship with forces of occupation than did men?

The three longest Latin American occupations in U.S. history, those of Nicaragua (1912-1933), Haiti (1915-1934), and the Dominican Republic (1916-1924), are all well documented and may be good places to attempt to answer those questions. These were all hierarchical societies where class, race, and gender differences were discernible and meaningful. At the same time all three underwent similar processes of having their governments and, to a varying degree, other institutions taken over, or at least indirectly controlled, by the same foreign power. They therefore present the opportunity to analyze both differences and especially similarities in the ways women responded to occupation and how these responses were different from men's. To attempt these tasks, one must focus not only on women who openly opposed or supported occupation but on the vast majority of women who, ignored by outside observers, nevertheless struggled to adjust to foreigners wielding guns. Their voices are hard to hear, but they do exist, scattered in the three languages, five countries, and dozens of archives in which the research for this article took place.

A study of women during these occupations does, as the Dominican writer suggested above, uncover a different response from that of men, but rather than more "morbid and corrupt," I suggest that it was more personal and ambivalent. Women responded to these occupations in ways that reflected gendered aims, a consciousness of women's needs and grievances as distinct and worth pursuing. Those aims were less formally political than those of men but still political in the sense of fighting against power structures that harmed women. Latin American women's activities under U.S. occupations indicated what might be intuitive but rarely highlighted in the scholarship of gender and international relations: that women respond to occupations as women first and as nationalists second.

VICTIMS AND SYMBOLS

Historians have barely scratched the surface of women's resistance to U.S. occupations in Latin America, a neglect that allowed misconceptions born in the occupation era to survive. This is understandable since U.S. government and other archives concerned with occupations do not have collections or even boxes devoted to issues concerning women. At most, a scholar might find a folder on prostitution as a concern of marines, but often even that is subsumed under "public health" concerns. Because of this "invisibility" of women, only a few scholarly articles have discussed them under any of these three occupations, and only peripherally. (2) Major books on the occupations devoted attention to women but tended to provide anecdotes rather than comprehensive analysis. More commonly, given that the bulk of the evidence about these occupations comes from Navy and State Department archives, historians focusing on gender have emphasized not women's agency but rather imperial agency, the sexist imperial "gaze" of Yankee occupiers. Mary Renda's brilliant Taking Haiti, for instance, applies a cultural studies lens to masculinity and paternalism within U.S. imperialism rather than to the consciousness of women. (3) As a result, Renda's work unwittingly relegates women to the role of recipients of the occupations, as objects of primitivist desire, victims of rape and sexual harassment, or characters in pulp fiction. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Personal Occupations: Women's Responses to U.S. Military Occupations in Latin America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.