Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History; Ruiz, Vicki L. and Ellen Carol Dubois, Eds

By Palen-Hernandez, Edmee | Transformations, March 31, 1995 | Go to article overview

Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History; Ruiz, Vicki L. and Ellen Carol Dubois, Eds


Palen-Hernandez, Edmee, Transformations


Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History; Ruiz, Vicki L. and Ellen Carol Dubois, eds.

This multicultural reader is an anthology of scholarship centered on the experiences of women from different races and cultures living in the United States, and encompassing historical periods from 1789 until the present. The editors added six works to this second edition, for a total of 36 articles. Furthermore, a six-page introduction, four "ethnic" bibliographies, and an index make this a hefty paperback book. The articles are all reprints: four of them were extracted from books or book-collections while thirty-two were originally published in different scholarly journals, mostly specializing in women's studies or history. The majority of the articles - 26 of them - were published in the 1980's; nine came out in the 1990's, and only one dates from the late 1970's. The following journals published two or three articles: Signs, Feminist Studies, Gender & History, The Journal of American History, and Radical History. The recompilation of works from such a variety of journals, many hard-to-find ones due to their reduced circulation, makes this book an excellent resource for teachers and/or college libraries that do not have access to these specialized sources.

In their introduction to the Second Edition, the editors criticize past efforts to create "a universal female past" based on the white, middle-class women's experience. Their goal is to move away from uniracial or biracial historical views to provide instead an inclusive history of United States women, highlighting the research on "women of color" in 24 articles about African American, Native American, Hispanic and Asian American women. In fact, the bibliographies at the end of the book for these four groups ("African American Women" compiled by Chana Kai Lee; "Asian American Women" compiled by Brian Niiya, "Latinas" compiled by Vicki L. Ruiz, and "Native American Women" compiled by Annette Reed Crum) are among the most valuable features of this anthology.

The articles are about gender, exploring the interplay of race, class and culture. The essays are arranged in chronological order. Unfortunately, the editors do not provide a guide or direction as to any themes that might link all the works. There is a partially thematic grouping in the five articles about suffrage - "The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920 (Paula Baker); "Working Women, Class Relations, and Suffrage Militance: Harriot Stanton Blatch and the New York Woman Suffrage Movement, 1894-1909" (Ellen Carol Dubois); "The Social Awakening of Chinese American Women as Reported in Chung Sai Yat Po, 1900-1911" (Judy Yung); "The Emergence of Feminism in Puerto Rico, 1870-1930" (Yamila Azize-Vargas); and "Womanist Consciousness: Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of St. Luke" (Elsa Barkley Brown) - and in a few dealing with the change in the American economy from "family-based subsistence production to a segmented, wage-based labor force" (xiv) - "The Uprising of the Thirty Thousand" (Meredith Tax), "Disorderly Women: Gender and Labor Militancy in the Appalachian South" (Jacquelyn Dowd Hall) and "From Servitude to Service Work: Historical Continuities in the Racial Division of Paid Reproductive Labor" (Evelyn Nakano Glenn). The editors do state that they avoided using a "single narrative framework" and decided to use instead "overlapping narratives, such as those rooted in region" (xiv) to show the range of women's experiences without sacrificing coherence. Among the new articles added, there are two focused on women's lives in geo-political borders: Canada/United States and Mexico/United States. Two of the articles about African-American women discuss the concept of the "culture of dissemblance:" Darlene Clark Hine in "Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West: Preliminary Thoughts on the Culture of Dissemblance" and Paula Giddings in "The Last Taboo. …

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