Polished Paragraph(s): She Works Hard(er) for the Money

In my paper, “She Works Hard(er) for the Money: Investigating Historical Intersectionality within the 19th Century Female American Workforce,” I will analyze multiple historical perspectives revealing the ways in which wage-earning women, of various backgrounds, were discussed, theorized and analyzed. I will also interpret how the scholarship evolved, contextualizing industrial work in new methodologies and structures to reveal more about marginalized working women. Spanning from the 1970’s to the later 2000’s, historians have employed some cohesive presentations of female factory and mill workers from the early to mid nineteenth century. Most employ a combination of economic perspective with a social framework, balancing the need for both factors. Some, such as, Julie A. Matthaei in An Economic History of Women in America favored the commercial aspect, while others such as Alice Kessler-Harris in Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States leaned towards a social orientation. Yet, all historians and scholars conferred in this paper show both elements to be integral to the study of women’s labor. Most historians also addressed the social construction of gender and how the industrial revolution, in the United States, but also around the world, shaped and shifted gendered notions of women’s and men’s work.

Moreover, historians and scholars examined in this historiography also maintained some consistency in the essential questions leading their work. These authors are concerned with questions such as: Which women worked? Why kind of work did they do? Why was the female labor force predominantly young and single? If they were married, what was the impact on family life? How did gender impact the Industrial Revolution in the shift from private to public sphere? What were the limitations of the independence of women gained from wage work? As these questions demonstrate, there is an apparent familial thread throughout all analysis of women’s work which ties into the shift from the home to the factory, private to public. As the historical analysis developed, historians began to add additional layers to the questioning, such as researching the ways in which women protested or accepted their position, and in which ways their independence was a promising or threatening.

Despite some evidence of a clear and consistent analysis of female wage-work, there also emerged a trajectory in which this analysis was developed and built upon. Starting with Joan Scott and Louise Tilly, with their foundational text based on European workers, and Thomas Dublin’s multiple texts concerning New England textile mills, other scholars developed deeper and more diverse analysis. In my research, up until the late 1990’s, a heavy Marxist perspective was used by historians to interpret the class and gender conflict coming out of factory work. This made for a very broad and vast interpretation of workers, often seeing them as a unit. Every text cited at least one of Dublin, Scott, or Tilly’s work, showing these texts to be the beginning and therefore it would seem necessary to provide much of the theoretical framework for others to build upon. However, they are not the end. Preceding historians and scholars used these texts to open the door to new interpretations, some using Foucault or a feminist perspective in which to launch their own analysis.

In addition to the various approaches historians or scholars employed, they also used the same sources but for different ends. Many authors used the same body of work, again creating cohesion in the material. Many utilize diaries, letters, and more specifically, The Lowell Offering, a newspaper written by female textile workers. They also rely on more impersonal sources such as census, tax lists and city directories. While their sourcing might be similar, the methodologies used by the author transformed the source for their intended purpose. Julie Husband used the newspaper to show the connection in discourse concerning the treatment of factory workers in comparison and to slaves. Yet, Dublin used this source to provide a more intimate narrative of the mill workers. Finally, some also weight the types of evidence differently. Especially early historians, some leaned towards a more quantitative driven interpretation while others show a more emotional and qualitative position. Based on the interpretation of the existing body of scholarship, there are arising questions this paper hopes to elucidate. How can we use these questions concerning economic and social history to discuss the working world in which women, beyond single white middle class wage workers, operated in? What space do historians give the even further marginalized or how does a particular work open up a dialogue for such a discussion to occur?  Despite the massive amount of literature on the subject, even the historians in the texts agree, there is still much more work to be done.

Discussion #6: This Republic of Suffering

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust

I was surprisingly captivated by this somber book about death and loss during the Civil War. Faust brilliantly captured death as a multidimensional construct during the later part of the nineteenth century, prevalent across the country, as literally everyone mourned or was affected by death in some way, shape or form. In the preface, she stated that “death’s threat, its proximity, and its actuality became the most widely shared for the war’s experiences” (xiii). As 20perez16 mentions, one needs to understand the “shared suffering” just as much as the individual suffering that was going on. Despite the regional and racial differences driving the conflict, death was common ground in which the North and South could reunite at the conclusion of the war (xiii). Throughout the book, Faust utilized many sources, most coming from the words of the soldiers experiencing death directly or the loved ones who were challenged with coping and grieving, often without the closure a body would bring. As Robert and 20perez16 pointed out, she integrated her evidence and narrative seamlessly, using newspapers, letters, photographs, and poetry to show the pervasive nature of death throughout all parts of society.

The first aspect to the book that I found very compelling was the balance of the emotional angle and presenting an objective reflection of the data, both from a present analysis but also from the time. Especially in the first three chapters, Faust created an emotional and heartbreaking picture of the battlefields and at home. In the first chapter, “Dying,” she discusses how soldiers and those writing home desired to portray their death as morally “good” versus as “bad” death that could result from being executed for desertion (7, 18). The motivations for war became complicated, as vengeance entered into play and soldiers were compelled to fight against those who killed their brothers in arms (35). The emotional side of war contrasts with a removed analysis on the actual data concerning the numbers of casualties. In “Accounting” and “Numbering,” Faust looked at the actions by the government to account for the dead in a systematic and organized way. The cause for counting actually shifted after the war ended, as it tried to bring closure to families instead of account for remaining resources (252). While the numbers can not be fully devoid of the human element, Faust effectively shows the varying ways in which to understand death.

In addition, I appreciated Faust’s attention to those who worked to identify the soldiers. Often times, these were women, such as Clara Barton, who resolved to notify as many families as possible. It was these people who attempted to heal a very broken nation. Even more so, I thought the discussion on the “female responsibility for mourning” was particularly interesting (242). In this section, Faust showed how women took this informal and traditional role and turned it into “motivation for women’s leadership of the souther reburial effort” (242). Through these efforts, women who tried to honor the Confederate soldiers who had fallen, in addition to Union fighters, were displaying a personal and private act gone “unavoidably public and political” (242). To me, this connected to last week’s text, Beyond the Founders. Women were able to gain political agency after the war through public mourning of those the country deemed not worthy of grieving for. Just as in Beyond the Founders, women, like Clara Barton, were able to establish some political culture as a result.

Finally, Faust delves into ideas and thoughts about memory, as the soldiers and their families desired to create closure. Soldiers did this through their actions of wanting to be identified, such as keeping artifacts on them that could help them be named if found dead on the battlefield (28). The entirety of chapter 3, “Burial” showed the lengths at which the military tried to give combatants proper burials. However, it was the families of those who had died who suffered the most in terms of memory, as some drove to great lengths in order to preserve the memory of their loved one loss. J. M. Taylor, who lost his son, spent many years after the war still looking for specific details on how his son died (134). In sum, this text was incredibly put together, with an effective structure and use of evidence, woven to create a heartbreaking but irresistible story of Civil War death.


Discussion Post #5: Beyond the Founders

Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic

Edited by Jeffrey L. Pasley, Andrew W. Robertson, and David Waldstreicher

Through a broad collection of essays, Pasley, Robertson, and Waldstreicher in Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic attempt to analyze and interpret the formation of United States government and politics from a “top down, from the bottom up, and perhaps especially from the middle out in every direction” (18). The authors in this work all resolve to balance the focus between the larger than life Founding Fathers and other elites who influenced politics and the masses who shaped the country as the local, state, regional and national levels (2-3). Thus, the authors challenge the notion of separate political and social constructions of government, developing the concepts of “political culture” (6-8), as well as “cultural politics” (9-10). In the introduction, the objective of this text is made clear: the articles are “more and less cultural in orientation, in recognition of the fact that current debates reflect more the division between social history and ‘founders’ or high political history that any sustained or rigorous discussions about the relative importance of policy, institutions, ideas and cultural practices’ (11). The essays are successful in showing that elite and everyday politics co-existed and sometimes even collided and contradicted.

The text provides a variety of topics showing the connection between elite politics of the Founding Fathers and how those without direct access carved out spaces for themselves to influence and assert their voice. In the first article written by Pasley, “The Cheese and Words,” a giant gift of Cheshire Cheese was sent to Thomas Jefferson from the Baptists of that town to try and win political favor (32). As made clear by this discussion on Mammoth Cheese, “popular politics in the early republic was necessarily creative, adaptive, and variable” (39). Pasley uses the gift of cheese to show how this was not some out-of-the-box suggestion but rather fits into the context of the political avenues available to those people at the time, showing this by analyzing songs and regional practices (39-41). In the third article, “Why Thomas Jefferson and African Americans Wore their Politics on Their Sleeves,” Waldstreicher explores the politics of clothing. He shows how Thomas Jefferson himself was aware of the effect his clothing had, and used it for political purposes in the way he chose to dress up or down (84). Yet, he also shows the political context of slave clothing and slave labor to make clothing, which was largely left out of discourse surrounding the self-sufficiency of the United States (87). I appreciated how yaremenkolena tied in the discussion of clothing to Closer to Freedom, which also showed the ways marginalized people gained power, although in a different context.

Some of the articles presented in the text actually surprised me. In the fourth article, “Women and Party Conflict in the Early Republic,” Rosemarie Zagarri showed how women were able to informally participate in politics. I found it interesting that women actually were sought after for their opinion on candidate’s virtue and moral character (110). Women were able to establish themselves as a powerful constituency despite their lack of voting rights. As yaremenkolena stated, the book shows “a demonstration of the influence of politically less powerful citizens at the grassroots level to effect change” and I think is greatly illustrated in the chapter. In the ninth article, “Beyond the Myth of Consensus,” Saul Cornell demonstrates that the second amendment was not accepted as a natural inclusion or addition to the Constitution. The second amendment was added to protect from internal and external threats, some factions were concerned about a militia of citizens being used to establish a tyranny (255-256). Yet, something I never considered was the context of civic duty in which this amendment was created (258). Today, the idea that citizens would obviously defend their nation when called upon is separated from the duties of being a citizen, such as serving jury duty (258). All in all, the work shows the continuity of mass participation in politics rather than a rise of everyday people involving in politics evident in recent American history.

After reading the text, I think that this format was actually a great delivery for these ideas. A compilation of essays from various authors shows the multiplicity of views from this period. In this work, the editors effectively and cohesively demonstrated their thesis through the very different works within. The portrayal of bottom-up sources to show their part in developing political culture and cultural politics would have been less striking had this been a single work. This gave flexibility to show a variety of examples, sources, and methods to essentially prove their case.

Discussion Post #4: Fugitive Landscapes

Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S. Mexico Borderlands by Samuel Truett

In Fugitive Landscapes, Truett explored the natural spaces that both the United States and Mexico occupied and how they operated in an often contentious but also a symbiotic environment. In this work, Truett shows how the “electrification,” coming from the Industrial Revolution, led to the need for copper found in Sonora, helping to construct the border as a “new frontier” needing to be developed (4). Truett complicated this study by framing the history of this border as “forgotten,” arguing that people now take the defined border between the United States and Mexico for granted (5). This is supported by the nation-centered histories. Truett contends that both United States and Mexican history, as separate entities, only turned towards each other when Mexicans crossed the border and when the United States played a role in Mexican events, respectively (5). From past to present, Americans and Mexicans underwent a clear shift in attitudes towards each other, and this connection appears to be lost (6). Through his work, Truett illustrated how studying the borders can show how these powers were interwoven at one point and the current relationship between these two nations was not inevitable (8).

Truett was successful at demonstrating the various ways Mexicans and Americans connected in Sonora. They were able to do this by maintaining a fugitive landscape, or one that was mobile and flexible, continuing to exist by “eluding the scrutiny of empire and resisting incorporation” (18). The identity of people in the borderlands was in constant flux and thus people living in this space had to play by the a different set of rules. For example, the Jesuits, who were not given all their provisions by the Church, had to interact with the indigenous population whom they were trying to convert in order to survive (21-23). He gives much evidence for why these spaces were “fugative,” such as discussing the intermarriages between Americans and Mexicans resulting from American migration to Sonora (37). From Truett’s evidence, it is clear that the resources and commercial power resulting from copper was the driving force for this relationship and in helping to form these identities (68). It forced people, both Mexicans and Americans, to value the “dollar more, dominion less” (56). This led to a formation of a system that had to rely on custom and kinship ties, as was common in the area, instead of nation-driven policies which only further contributed to the fluidity of the space (86). Yet, he also demonstrates how white privilege still permeated this territory. He shows the disparity of the housing conditions and state of Mexican v. American encampments but also how even the price of beef afforded only Americans the best cuts due to their higher wages (112, 137). Throughout the book, he showed how Mexicans and Americans both interacted and transacted in this fluid space.  

One of the most interesting components to Truett’s analysis was his ability to show how the borders was not just a space where Mexicans and Americans interacted for economic purposes. Although his focus was the relationships between people working in this area, he effectively highlighted how this was a contested space for others. Women were shown to be present in the borderlands but instead of feeling opportunity, they felt restriction due to the crime and gangs present (106). Truett also discusses how the Chinese and Mormons were both forced into these transnational spaces after they were excluded from the United States (125-126). In an interesting vignette, he portrays Emil (Emilio) Kosterlitzky as a man who can transcend both nations and be of value to both Americans and Mexicans (139-140). From this he offers complexity to the question: what does it mean to be a person living in a fugitive landscape and how does one identify in these spaces? He highlights how this can be complicated by your ethnicity, country of origin, religion and gender, as well as nationality.

Research Paper Topic

In my paper, “She Works Hard(er) for the Money: Investigating Intersectionality within the Female American Workforce, 1814-1848,” I aim to explore methodological and theoretical shifts in the historical analysis of women’s work during the Industrial Revolution. Specifically, my paper will focus on their employment in mills during the first half of the nineteenth century, starting with the Lowell mills, leading up to the 1848 meeting at Seneca Falls and the mid-nineteenth century suffrage movement. My paper will discuss how historians approached working women who started to emerge into public and male dominated spaces by leaving their families and the home to work in the textile mills. Some historians I am currently researching are Thomas Dublin, author of Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860 (1993) and Julie Husband who wrote “The White Slave of the North”: Lowell Mill Women and the Reproduction of “Free” Labor” (1999).

First, I will need to pose several questions which will guide my research. In my analysis of the historical frameworks, I want to focus on historians that employ a bottom-up approach and make use of female voices. I will need to know what methodologies or theoretical frameworks historians used to interpret these female sources. In other words, how have historians’ perception of women’s work changed over time and why? In addition, I want to explore how historians have treated other dimensions that intersect with women and make their place in the public sphere even more contentious. Are historians looking beyond other categories that define women such as class, race, sexuality, marital status and age, all which add additional layers of domination? Have historians changed their approach to discussing women since intersectionality has been conceptualized? Which categories are emphasized and which are ignored by scholarship? Finally, does the historical analysis frame the Industrial Revolution as empowering women or does this movement into the public arena continue to make them inferior with issues such as unequal wages, poor working conditions, or trying to balance the dual role of mother and worker.

This last question will propel me into my own critical interpretation of female mill workers. In terms of my own analysis of texts, I will need analyze a mix of personal sources, including diaries and letters, as well as impersonal work logs or managerial accounts. Upon starting my research, I found an interesting set of newspapers written by female mill workers of Lowell and Lawrence. This set of documents would be ideal, as they contain the perspectives of these female workers. These collections, maintained by Harvard University, can provide insight on the the various ways that women were marginalized in the workplace. Yet, they also can reveal the means in which they established a voice and became empowered. In sum, I aspire to show the possibility of new conversations and interpretations by dissecting the many layers of female textile workers in the United States.

Supplementary Article to A Union Forever

The International Irish Revolution

According to Alvin Jackson, a research professor at the University of Edinburgh, “political violence in Ireland, particularly militant resistance to the Union, it no neglected theme” and yet, in his own analysis of the field he proposes that novel arguments regarding the Irish revolution in the nineteenth century are emerging (Jackson 95).  Moreover, these works were not manifesting in an isolated manner but as a collective turn towards something new. Jackson’s 2011 article, “Widening the Fight for Ireland’s Freedom: Revolutionary Nationalism in Its Global Contexts,” argued that a clear trend in this scholarship is materializing departing from a traditional discourse on the topic. Beginning in 2009, Irish historians approached the topic of revolution from a fresh perspective. Jackson analyzed four major texts to reveal the change in approach. Jackson’s article demonstrated how each author adds to the debate concerning Irish militancy. Overall, they painted a much more radical picture of the Irish rebels, such as the Irish Republican Brotherhood or the “Fenian” movement.

However, Jackson also argued that there existed another theme running through these interpretations with more modern roots. Jackson declared that these books were composed with certain “seismic political events” in the backdrop. The major global events, such as the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London, the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements in Northern Ireland, and the one-hundred and fifty year anniversary of the IRB, shape the way historians advanced their chosen field (95).  For example, authors, such as Jonathan Gantt, drew parallels between the militancy of the Irish and twenty-first century terrorism.

Jackson utilized the major works as sources themselves, analyzing how each contributed to the global understanding of Irish revolutionary efforts, but also how they reflect the current political climate. He contended that recent events in the world led to “a set of relatively new thematic, geographical, and historical concepts” used to address nineteenth century Irish rebellion (97). While written in 2013 and therefore outside the scope of Jackson’s analysis, David Sim’s book, A Union Forever: The Irish Question and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Victorian Age, brings in the larger Atlantic world and utilizes a transnational approach as a foundation for discussing the Irish nationalism in the United States, proving Jackson’s thesis to be quite valid.  

The first text considered by Jackson is called Irish Terrorism in the Atlantic Community, 1865-1922, written by Jonathan Gantt. This work explored the way previous scholars downplayed the Fenian violence and that the “terrorist features”of the IRB have not been elucidated enough (97). His scholarship aimed to contextualize the violence undertaken by the Irish in a transatlantic setting. In his text, he reviewed American journalists’ response to Fenian violence, analyzing the vocabulary that discussed the force in terms of terrorism. He claimed that it was American officials, stationed abroad, that framed Irish action as acts of terror, even if they were against “an oppressive undemocratic social system” perpetuated by England (99). Jackson presented this text not as one universally accepted, but as a position that other historians challenged. His argument presented problems as it downplays prior scholarship and tries to situate Irish response in too modern of a setting. However, his text highlighted the need for a broader context of rebellion, as it did not occur in isolation.

In a similar strain, Christine Kinealy, in her book Repeal and Revolution: 1848 in Ireland, showed the international context of the transition from Old to Young Ireland and placing this rebellion in a pattern that surfaced across Europe (103). Kinealy’s text demonstrated “the significance of the British, French and transatlantic connections with Irish nationalism in 1848” (103). While she ignores some earlier biographical accounts and failed to concreting outline how 1848 is an exceptional year, she effectively shows the international relationship between Ireland and continental Europe such as a critical visit of the Irish Confederates to Alphonse de Lamartine in Paris and showed evidence of American support of Irish independence in 1848 (103).

Internationalism also appeared in The Black Hand of Republicanism: Fenianism in Modern Ireland edited by Fearghal McGarry and James McConnel. This text, based on the anniversary of the IRB, analyzed the legacy of Fenianism between 1858 and 1922 (105). Even the title, as Jackson pointed out, drew parallels to the secret Serbian society highlighting the transnational ties of this association (105). One of the essays, written by Martin O Cathain, also discussed Irish terrorism but as problematic, as it would “enshrine rather than challenge the mythologizing of Irish history” (106).  In spite of some discord, Jackson shows that these historians are all participants in furthering this global discourse by creating a conversation. The compilation, as Jackson surmised, shows that while the IRB played a critical role in the Irish revolution, they were quite small in comparison to a larger Fenian international culture (108). Finally, Jackson examined Michael Davitt: New Perspectives, edited by Fintan Lane and Andrew Newby. This text focused on Michael Davitt, who was a Fenian but renounced this movement due to the overt force exterted, although he never fully abandoned using violence methods in order to accomplish independence (108). Yet, since he was part of the Irish diaspora, his commentary on Irish nationalism was essentially internationalist, as it was based in “an English rather than an Irish pool of thought” (108).

Jackson commented that all four texts focus upon tradition themes of Fenianism and separatist insurgency.  Yet, they works are motivated, at least in part, by national anniversaries and major world events that transformed attitudes towards militant actions and revolutionary history (111).  Furthermore, there existed something else to tie in these seemingly “disparate works” together (111). These texts were all “international in their ambition” and contribute to our understanding of this era in Irish history (111). He stated that Gantt used global Fenianism to show the international roots of terrorism, Kinealy used the “cabbage patch” revolution to show how the British reacted to the uprising, McGarry and McConnel dedicated a whole section to the Fenian diaspora, and finally, Lane and Newby constructed a hero of the Irish movement as being internationalist (111). All participating in the same framework, Jackson argued that these works are more than just a reaction to “a narrow and relatively constricted national historiography” but instead illustrates a “theme of internationalization” used with different means to different ends (112). He remarked even more interesting and compelling it the broader circumstances they were written in, referencing the various political events of the twenty-first century. Yet, he concluded by stating that this scholarship “transcended some of its local intellectual antagonisms, only to find them replaced with a much more bracing set of international challenges” (112). As he discussed with individual authors, the entire global framework comes with its own series of challenges.

This article identified the trajectory of Irish Revolutionary scholarship and projected that it would become increasingly contextualized in a global setting. Sim’s book appears to conform to this thesis, as it explored how Irish immigrants tried to use the United States and their international relations to help further their cause for freedom (Sim 2). The Irish hoped that American sympathies would be used against England to force them to grant Irish sovereignty. Yet, it had the paradoxical effect of creating even closer ties between Americans and the British. In fact, he argued that Irish nationalism in the political and diplomatic arenas illustrated Americans’ reluctance to support the United States’ model of revolution. In his work, he used a bottom-up approach to show the historical foundation of Irish American relations that began with England’s end to slavery and then transferred into their imperialistic endeavors. For example, in Chapter 4, Sim used Irish prisoners belonging to the Brotherhood to show that the failure of the Fenians stilled shaped the legal definitions of citizenship, as they claimed part to multiple countries (Sim 125). He demonstrated how the United States’ response to Irish immigrants was largely shaped by their relationship to England, by transatlantic thinkers, and statesmen (Sim 151).

Furthermore, Jackson and Gantt appeared in Sims text. In the bibliography, Sim cited Jackson’s 1999 work, Ireland 1798-1998: Politics and War and Gantt’s featured text written in 2010 as well as his 2006 article, “Irish-American Terrorism and Anglo-American Relations.” It is clear, then, that David Sim understood this global framework proposed by Jackson and utilized it in his own analysis. Specifically, Gantt pointed out that historians have been slow to “trace the resonances of Irish insurgency and British response within the United States” (Jackson 98). Sim’s work clearly fills this void and established a pattern that continued the themes proposed in the 2009 to 2010 scholarship. Sim’s work acts as an additional piece to the puzzle that Jackson attempted to put together and one that contributes to the understanding of the Irish national movement as part of a larger, more broad, global context. As a final note, this parallels to other course texts, such as Among the Powers of the Earth and some essays in Slavery’s Capitalism that address global themes. It appears that there is a general trend in varying historical fields to address international issues and that, as Jackson has observed, is making its way into many areas of focus.


Works Cited

Jackson, Alvin. “Widening the Fight for Ireland’s Freedom: Revolutionary Nationalism in Its Global Contexts.” Victorian Studies 54, no. 1 (2011): 95-112.

Sim, David. A Union Forever: The Irish Question and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Victorian Age. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2013.


Discussion Post #3: Closer to Freedom

Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women & Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South

by Stephanie M.H. Camp

Stephanie Camp’s text, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women & Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South explores many themes regarding the ways in which bondwomen resisted both their slave owners and the institution of slavery itself. In the introduction, she outlines two major arguments that underlie her project. The first it trying to dispel to binaries created within in the history of slave resistance that tend to ignore,which tended to focus on public forms such as running away and rebellion and pass over the agency of women displaying power in their own ways (3-4). For enslaved women, they could exert some autonomy over the body and home, privately taking away absolute power from their masters (4). She also aims to show the differences between individuals and the collective whole, and everyday resistance versus mass movements (9). Additionally, Camp explores the physical spaces or the “geography of containment” that bounded slaves to the land but also the ways in which they created “rival geography,” a much more subtle type of resisting the total control of the plantation owners or overseers (7). Yet, the introduction is most compelling when she contextualizes her findings as being limited to her narrow focus, which it of the body and the home (9). She acknowledges that her sources are less than perfect and that she does not even attempt to cover all types of female slave resistance (7).

As Taylor stated, I also found this to be different perspective from what I have learned (although my knowledge of this era is also quite limited). However, from reading other histories focused on gender, Camp successfully explores the differences in the expression of resistance between men and women. She discussed how women were perceived to be less of a threat, so they were not allowed to leave the plantation (31). I thought this example was particularly interesting, as it was a female slaveholder that granted permission to only her male bondsmen (31-32). Although males were strictly overseed, women’s physical bodies were more heavily contained to the boundaries of the plantation. Camp also highlights the extra burden placed on women in the home. They were not only policed by the plantation owners and supervisors, but also by their gender roles and were required to provide even after their long and backbreaking hours on the field (32). Camp, referring to this as the “second shift,” demonstrates how women constantly being demanded of by their obligation to the plantation and the home.

Another form of resistance Camp emphasized was partaking in leisure activities. As mentioned above, women were limited in their ability to separate from the plantation even temporarily. Thus, in order to participate, they would have to sneak away (75). The parties themselves were illicit, making the women’s presence even more dangerous and daring (75). At these parties, they would use their bodies, such as dancing, to express their freedom, even if it was short-term (75). In particular, I found the evidence about female violence very interesting. She recounts an example about Jane and Lucy getting into a fight, and how these spaces allowed for women to express their frustrations that they could not on the planation (77-78). Camps’ analysis of more subversive and subtle forms of resistance works to restore power and humanity to people who were thought of as commodities in a way that does not make me pity them (although their conditions were deplorable and nothing I have ever or wish to experience) but identify with them.

Paper Topic Ideas

  1. I would like to explore the history of public education, perhaps in the west around the mid-nineteenth century, and how themes of race, gender, and/or class intersect with its development.
  2. I think Irish immigration and settlement would be interesting to examine, especially with a focus on Catholicism and how the perception of Irish immigrants has changed over time.
  3. Finally, I also believe that an analysis on women’s work on the frontiers during the first half of the nineteenth century, particularly focusing on the ways women carved out spaces of power in male-dominated industries.

Discussion Post #2: Slavery’s Capitalism Edited By Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman

Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development

Edited by Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman

In this collection of essays, Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman re-framed the development of American capitalism as being predominantly founded on slavery, not just in the United States but in the world (1). In the introduction, the editors argue that there has been much scholarship done concerning the political ramifications of slavery, but little about the economic traditions that were rooted in enslavement (1). In contrast, many historians have sought to explain the evolution of the market economy elsewhere, believing that slavery was actually an inefficient method of labor and that capitalism could have developed without slavery (3, 32). Yet, these chapters show that slavery was not only a factor in the development of the American market economy, but the absolute foundation, without which, the United States would not have had enough capital to expand. Moreover, this book challenges that slavery was regional, limited to the South, and demonstrates that slavery was a national issue, that has led to present day ramifications even resulting in talks of reparations (6-9).

One interesting facet to this book was the focus on science and technology in regards to slavery. One would think slavery and the process of enslavement to be quite antiquated and backwards, but in fact, the plantation owners were progressive in their methods. Plantations appeared to have much more in common with big business and modern corporations, keeping records and statistics, such as depreciation, insurance, and credit (17, 27, 63). Much like dshanebeck, I also found that Edward Baptist’s article, “Toward a Political Economy of Slave Labor,” highlighted the various calculations that went into producing cotton, such as setting quotas in order to force the slaves to work harder in order to avoid punishments (35). He also emphasizes the direct connection between the fields and the textile industries highlighting a more mechanized and organized view of slavery (32). In Caitlin Rosenthal’s chapter, “Slavery’s Scientific Management,” she gives a very systematic view of this process, and shows how slavery was not the antithesis of modernity but rather a propellant for it (62). In a fairly perverse meaning, she describes how slave owners would calculate the decreasing value of their slaves into figuring out their “human capital” (79-80).

Finally, I also found John Majewski’s piece compelling, probably due to my place in the public education system. Again, like other authors, he emphasized the technological sophistication of the south and how slavery was beneficial for all parts of the United States, as dshanebeck already stated (278). However, he contrasts the flourishing public education system in the north and the weaker system in the south, which provided concern for the spread of intellectual ideas (279). In actuality, there was nothing stopping slavery from spreading to places like Ohio that had similar climates to the Limestone South (282). If slavery would have spread, it would have undone the progress of education by allowing the slave holders to choose the pace for public education (298). I found Majewski’s article particularly interesting for his use of sources and evidence types. He used soil comparisons to show the similarities of Southern soil to other parts of the United States but also used records of school funds and school reports. Moreover, I have heard many different reasons for northern aversion to the institution of slavery but the desire to keep public education out of the hands of southerners is definitely a new one.

Overall, I think this text successfully looks at the many different ways slavery bolstered the United States market economy and pushed America into being an industrialized nation. This scholarship adds another dimension to a subject that has already has had much review.


Discussion Post #1: Among the Powers of the Earth by Eliga H. Gould

Among the Powers of the Earth by Eliga H. Gould

      In his book, Eliga Gould presented the American Revolution and the beginning of the United States through a world view, a depiction that strays from the traditional narrative portraying the United States to be a fully sovereign and independent nation from its founding. As Victoria already asserted, this text shows the “global context” surrounding the creation of the United States, which reveals a more complex construction of how the United States came to be. Instead of looking at the U.S. from the states outward like most American history books that I have read, he analyzed its development as a nation from its interactions with more established powers, particularly the ones that it had to break from in order to become a nation. While still maintaining an American-focused subject, he utilized many international and global sources, particularly emphasizing treaties and letters showing the interactions between countries that emphasized the laws of nations. This book highlighted the dependency of the emerging country on England and European countries to legitimize it and give it power and standing within the world. Rather than the United States’ gaining acceptance as an equal for transforming from colony to nation, this country had to conform to laws and customs between nations to gradually be seen as worthy of being interacted with.  

     In previous American history classes, I have heard the American Revolution referred to as a “conservative” revolution, as the power simply shifted from one privileged class to the next.  Unlike other and more transformative revolutions, like the French, Haitian or Russian Revolutions, this nation did not stray too far from its origins. Yet, I believe that Gould takes his analysis a step further when he portrays America as conflicted right after the separation, desperate to be a power and accepted as an equal, but also needing to appease European nations who held the power to approve. In this book, Gould stated that America’s independence could not be achieved “unilaterally”  due to its initial branding as a rebellion (114). They relied on the world to define them as an actual and legitimate nation. Gould stated that, “Today, no matter where within the United States they happen to live, Americans mark July 4, 1776, as the moment their history as an independent nation began. What we sometimes forget- though people at the time knew it- it that United States could not become the nation that Americans imagined without the consent of other nations and people” (2). This book challenged the notion that America was exceptional from the absolute beginning and instead show it as a weaker and needy country.

     Gould continues this depiction of the American Revolution as conservative by discussing the continuity of policies between the English and American possession. One way the U.S. accomplished this was by trying to make themselves into a “treaty-worthy” nation or one that would be peaceful with other countries in order to be accepted (12).  In order to do this, they had to sustain peaceful borders and at which point, Europe could see them as possessing “internal tranquility” and finally view them as alike (140). Like Victoria, I also found the theme or feature of being a treaty worthy country quite prevalent. In one instance, England used treaties to create moral codes between nations (22). In another, they used it to justify slavery, as it was taken a treaty between the West and Africa (67, 71). Moreover, Gould also referred to the early union as a treaty between states, demonstrating that this concept permeated from Europe to the America (133). While I had never heard of this point of view before, it makes sense in a broader scope of European history that contains numerous treaties and formalized agreements between nations. It would, then, make sense that the United States would follow in the same footsteps and continue to define itself like its predecessor. Although Gould’s argument that their existed continuity between Europe and the United States did not surprise me, I found his use of international documents and his “outside in” perspective to be a fresh take on the revolution and founding of the United States.