The Fair Sex: White Women and Racial Patriarchy in the Early American Republic

The Fair Sex: White Women and Racial Patriarchy in the Early American Republic

The Fair Sex: White Women and Racial Patriarchy in the Early American Republic

The Fair Sex: White Women and Racial Patriarchy in the Early American Republic

Synopsis

Examines the role of white women in perpetuating racism after the American Revolution examining the lives and writings of three key women of the period--Mercy Otis Warren, Abigail Adams, and Judith Sargent Murray.

Excerpt

I feel most colored when I am thrown up against a sharp white
background.… Sometimes it is the other way around. A white
person is set down in our midst.…

  —Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” (1928)

The Fair Sex: White Women and Racial Patriarchy in the Early American Republic stems from my dissertation, A Feminist Inter- pretation of the American Founding (1994). In my dissertation, I applied Carole Pateman's theory of modern patriarchy from The Sexual Contract to the historical case of the American founding. I viewed the American founding as the establishment of a modern patriarchy and focused on the political thought of three white women in that context.

After completing my dissertation, I accepted a position at a predominantly black, open-admissions university. As I began to prepare my dissertation for publication, my whole world view was being challenged. I taught four classes a semester to mostly first-generation college students. Most of my students worked, and many had children or other relatives for whom to care. I was the only white person in a department dominated by African American and African men, and less than 1 percent of my students were European American. I was also a Midwestern Yankee teaching in Houston, which was the Deep South to me.

There were culture wars in my own classrooms like I had never before experienced. I was idealistic. I wanted to give my students at Texas Southern University the same education that my Harvard-, Yale-, Berkeley-, and Wisconsin-educated professors had given me. I expected that if I put up the requirements and held firm to the standards, students would of course jump to meet them—the bright ones, anyway. The others would learn in time, if I held fast to my vision. It didn't work, and I was called . . .

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