Early American Studies

Offers a sampling of recent work along with occasional pieces commissioned to survey important aspects in history, literary studies, art history and material culture, and other fields examining America before 1850.

Articles from Vol. 12, No. 3, 2014

Beyond the Binaries in Early America: Special Issue Introduction
In February 2014 the world's largest social media network, Facebook, revised the options available for users to identify their gender from the binary choice of male or female to include more than fifty custom labels ranging alphabetically from agender...
Cherokee "Two Spirits": Gender, Ritual, and Spirituality in the Native South
Around 1825 a lone white traveler crossing through Cherokee country encountered a group of Cherokees. After stopping and engaging them in conversation, the traveler learned that "There were among them formerly, men who assumed the dress and performed...
Consecrated Merchants and Midnight Criers: Commercial Evangelicalism and a Jazz Theory of Gender Distinctions in Nineteenth-Century America
In 1843 the image of William Miller flooded America in tracts, magazines, and books proclaiming the end of the world. Four years earlier Miller had been a regional Jeremiah in the burned-over district of western New York, only one voice in a sea of prophets...
Consider the Source: The Man Who Thought Himself a Woman
Japhet Colbones was a very odd individual. All his ancestors were odd individuals, as far back as they can be remembered. His great-grand-father, at the age of seventy-one, built a hut in a patch of thick woods, leaving a handsome and comfortable home,...
Fair Bosom/Black Beard: Facial Hair, Gender Determination, and the Strange Career of Madame Clofullia, "Bearded Lady"
Twenty-first-century conventional wisdom holds that women should not have beards-a point made unmistakably clear by Mara Altman's 2012 memoir, Bearded Lady. In one memorable scene, Altman discovers a few dark mustache hairs, which prompt an episode of...
From the Scarlet Letter to Stonewall: Reading the 1629 Thomas(ine) Hall Case, 1978-2009
On March 25, 1629, the Council and General Court of colonial Virginia heard the case against Thomas Hall, an indentured servant living in the settlement of Warraskoyack.* 1 The minutes of the session do not specify Hall's crime; although a charge of...
"Indescribable Being": Theological Performances of Genderlessness in the Society of the Publick Universal Friend, 1776-1819
In the years following the Revolutionary War, a strange itinerant rode sidesaddle through southern New England, preaching "the wrath to come." This remarkable figure wore a combination of men's and women's clothing beneath rich, flowing robes. Ringlets...
Making Meaningful Bodies: Physical Appearance in Colonial Writings
In his 1744 journal of travels through Maryland and Pennsylvania, William Black wrote about the people he met. He detailed James Logan's ill health, work with the Indians, and beautiful house, and then described the seventy-year-old as still having "some...
Sex and "Unsex": Histories of Gender Trouble in Eighteenth-Century North America
During a moment at which both queer theorists and historians of sexuality are returning to the history of gender-a term that, as many scholars have complained, has been critically underattended, especially when compared to the scholarly attention that...
Transgender Identity at a Crossroads: A Close Reading of a "Queer" Story from 1857
In 1857 New York's premier literary magazine, the Knickerbocker, published an anonymously written short story, "The Man Who Thought Himself a Woman." It was surprising that the author depicted what we would call today a transgender identity in a way...
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