Women in the American West

Women in the American West

Women in the American West

Women in the American West

Synopsis

Twenty years after many Western historians first turned their attention toward women, WOMEN IN THE AMERICAN WEST synthesizes the development of women's history in the region, introduces readers to current thinking on the real experiences of Western women, and explores their influence on the course of expansion and development since the 19th century. WOMEN IN THE AMERICAN WEST offers vivid portrayals of women as pioneers, prostitutes, teachers, disguised soldiers, nurses, entrepreneurs, immigrants, and ordinary citizens caught up in extraordinary times. Organized chronologically, each chapter emphasizes important themes central to gender and women's history, including women's mobility, women at home, wage labor, immigration, marriage, political participation, and involvement in wars at home and abroad. With this revealing volume, readers will see that women had a far more profound effect on the course of history in the Western United States than is commonly thought.

Excerpt

Women were everywhere men were in the American West, but the history of the region has rarely emphasized, or even acknowledged, their presence. Why? This volume seeks to find the answers to that and other questions involving western regional history and gender. To what extent did regionalism and environment affect gender relations? In what ways did women of different ethnicities, classes, and races work together and/or find themselves at cross-purposes? How has the history of the American West portrayed women in general, and how has it portrayed women of different ethnic and racial backgrounds? Did class function differently in relationship to women than it did to men in frontier regions and in the American West? How did gender function in the different Wests: the Spanish borderlands West, the northern borderlands West, the fur-trading West, the Native West?

This volume of the Cultures in the American West Series departs from the others in significant ways. Women in western North America were not a discrete individual group sharing any characteristic other than gender. They did not share a migration pattern, or cultural customs, or views of landscape. Indeed, the women portrayed in this study were sometimes enemies. Women of certain classes and social backgrounds often shared more with the men of their status than they did with women of differing cultural persuasions. In addition to questions of class and status, to write a book about women in the American West assumes that “women in the American West” can, as a category, be defined. Which women do we mean? Only women born in what becomes the U.S. West? Women who moved in and out of the West? Do we consider all women in the American West at any given time? Figuring out how these disparate experiences fit together is much like herding cats, but doing it for . . .

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