Inventing the American Woman: An Inclusive History - Vol. 2

Inventing the American Woman: An Inclusive History - Vol. 2

Inventing the American Woman: An Inclusive History - Vol. 2

Inventing the American Woman: An Inclusive History - Vol. 2

Synopsis

In two volumes, this third edition features expanded coverage of women in the military, women's healthcare, divorce, and women of colour, especially Spanish-speaking, American Indian, African American, and Asian-American. It also reviews important people, events and concepts.

Excerpt

Since the first edition of Inventing the American Woman appeared in 1986, the study of women’s history has penetrated the curriculums of most American high schools, colleges, and universities. The widespread response to Inventing, as well as subsequent requests for its revision and updaßting, further demonstrate the tremendous thirst that Americans have developed for knowledge concerning the nation’s women and their historical experiences.

Like the first and second editions, this one presents an overview of the history of women in the United States. Intended for use as an introductory textbook supplement in U.S. history or a core text in women’s history courses, it combines factual knowledge with a thesis meant to provoke discussion and further thought. More specifically, this volume tracks the evolution of gender expectations and social constructs concerning the essence of womanhood that have played, and continue to play, a critical role in directing and shaping American women’s behaviors, responses, and dissatisfactions.

American Indians were the first to establish gender expectations in what is today the United States, yet when European settlers reached America they disregarded or rejected Native peoples’ ideas regarding women. Instead, the newcomers established their own beliefs, which soon became dominant and reflected the thinking of a society that argued for the acceptance of certain enduring “truths” regarding women. A real American woman supposedly was, among other things, a devoted mother, a domestic individual who labored most happily and productively within her own home, an unusually virtuous person who remained aloof from the corruption of politics, and a weak-minded, physically inferior being in need of guidance from wiser and stronger people, namely men. Once established as principles, these tenets were embodied in a series of intricate images and prescriptions that defined and limited women’s roles. In other words, people invented an ideal American woman.

On one hand, this model of womanhood might be judged harmless. Generally, white middle- and upper-class women best fulfilled its man-

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