Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology

By Sally Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
New Woman

In anticipation I can say that my gender was never an argument by my parents against schooling, graduate study, association with Blacks, Africans, people of other revealed religions. — RL to George Park, May 20, 1985, RLP, box 1

COMING OF AGE in New York during the 1920s and 1930s, Ruth was caught in the furor of flappers, the gendered images in advertising, films, and plays, the arguments for companionate marriage, and the public debates surrounding the working girl. Popular images of women were changing from selfsacrificing and maternal to sexually provocative and glamorous. Expressions of feminism moved away from the political and economic reforms advocated by the turn-of-the-century women's movement and toward a more individualized focus on equality with men and freedom of (hetero)sexual expression. This was the period between the two World Wars and encompassed the Great Depression (1929 — 33) and a further economic downturn during 1937—38.

The time was one of massive social and economic transformation in the United States. Over one-half of the population now lived in urban areas. Most lived in apartments, but by the end of the 1920s people were flocking to newly built suburbs. By 1928 one in six Americans owned a car. Economic growth measured by manufacturing production, per capita income, and consumer spending was at an all-time high. Advertising emerged as a major industry in the 1920s, becoming a new means of both socialization and representation of women, who purchased 80 percent of all consumer goods (Cott 1987 : 172). Wage earnings of industrial workers, advertiser- promoted consumer behavior, and new forms of communication and leisure (especially radio and movies) combined—despite continuing rural-urban and South-North differences and increasing immigration and ethnic diversity—to give birth to American mass

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Ruth Landes: A Life in Anthropology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ruth Landes - A Life in Anthropology *
  • Contents vii
  • List of Illustrations *
  • Series Editors' Introduction *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • Part One - Beginnings *
  • Chapter One - Immigrant Daughter *
  • Chapter Two - New Woman *
  • Chapter Three - Student at Columbia *
  • Part Two - Apprenticeship in Native American Worlds *
  • Prologue *
  • Chapter Four - Maggie Wilson and Ojibwa Women's Stories *
  • Chapter Five - Lusty Shamans in the Midwest *
  • Part Three - She-Bull in Brazil's China Closet *
  • Prologue *
  • Chapter Six - Fieldwork in Brazil *
  • Chapter Seven - Writing Afro-Brazilian Culture in New York *
  • Chapter Eight - The Early Ethnography of Race and Gender *
  • Conclusion - Life and Career *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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