Academic journal article Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies

Shaping Public Space/enunciating Gender: A Multiracial Historiography of the Women's West, 1995-2000

Academic journal article Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies

Shaping Public Space/enunciating Gender: A Multiracial Historiography of the Women's West, 1995-2000

Article excerpt


Vicki Ruiz contributed the following bibliography and her comments to the Women's West conference at Washington State University held in the summer of 2000. As her title suggests, all the books on the list deal with the interconnected issues of gender, race, and class in the U.S. West. The sheer volume of work that has been published since 1995 is remarkable. Equally remarkable is its variety, considered in several different aspects. First are the subjects themselves: Many books cover people, issues, or events never before studied. Even those that discuss "old" topics like mining towns do it in new ways. The second major source of variety is the way in which individual authors combine the categories of race, class, and gender in ways best suited to their own studies.

Far from being a fad, the bibliography of gender in the U.S. West that follows complicates categories of analysis, challenges cherished assumptions, and creates ethereal and tangible communities. As the following list reveals, western women's history has journeyed far beyond the stage of reacting against the hegemony of a U.S. women's history rooted in the lives of eastern elites and/or western narratives predicated, at least in part, on the imagery of media cowboys and unlimited opportunity. Over the course of two decades, the uniracial model of U.S. women's history has lost its prevalence, and the "new" western history, which confronted the doxa of the wild frontier, is no longer "new." What has emerged during the 1990s, especially during the years covered in this bibliography, is a dazzling fluorescence of scholarship on the "Women's West."

Through the frameworks of cultural studies, gender studies, queer theory, and global feminism (to name a few), through meticulous archival work and nuanced interviews, and through creatively historicized evidence, we can begin to discern how women across class, race, sexuality, ethnicity, region, and religion lived their lives within the shadows of structural forces, material and psychic, that influenced their day-to-day decision making. Western women's history has traveled quite a distance from Western Women: Their Land, Their Lives, an anthology coedited by Lillian Schlissel, Janice Monk, and me. Based on a 1984 conference and published four years later, Western Women represented an early and valiant (well, I still like to think so) attempt at a multivalent, diverse women's history. In my mind, the collection simply forecast the exciting, engaging scholarship listed below and the works to come. This bibliography chronicles neither a rebirth nor a culmination, but marks an audacious moment. The "Women's Wes t" has truly come into her own as a field of historical inquiry and as a community of scholars.

VICKI L. RUIZ is professor of history and Chicano/Latino studies at the University of California, Irvine. Her recent book, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in 20th Century America, was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 1998. She is also the author of Cannery Women, Cannery Lives. Ruiz and Ellen DuBois have completed the third edition of Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History. She and Virginia Sanchez Korrol are coeditors of Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia. Ruiz currently serves as a member of the National Council of the Humanities and on the editorial boards of The Pacific Historical Reviw, Aztlan, and Labor History. She is the former chair of the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at Arizona State University.


Anderson, Karen. Changing Woman: History of Racial Ethnic Women in Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Aptheker, Bettina. The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis. New York: International Publishers, 1975.

Calof, Rachel. Rachel Calof's Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1995. …

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