The Little Rock Central High School integration crisis did not end in1957 when President Eisenhower sent a portion of the first Airborne Division to protect nine black students. The turmoil was entering its second year in 1958 when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus invoked a hastily passed state law to close the high schools rather than obey the federal court orders that would integrate them.
A group of respectable, middle-class white women, faced with the prospect of no schools as well as the further loss of their city’s good name, turned militant. Led by Adolphine Fletcher Teny, a prominent, “old family” civic leader in her seventies, the wome n quickly put together the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC), a highly effective organization that bombarded the city with ads, fliers, and statements challenging Faubus’s action. At peak membership, the WEC mustered two thousand
to their cause. Largely inexperienced in politics when they joined the WEC, these women became articulate, confident promoters of public schools and helped others to understand that those schools must be fully integrated.
Forty years later, Sara Murphy, a key member of the WEC, recounts the rarely told sto1y of these courageous women who formed a resistance movement. With passion and sensitivity, she reconstructs the challenges and triumphs of that battle, which issued from the mutual link Southern white women shared with disfranchised African Americans in their common goal for full citizenship.
On an unusually cold January night in 1943, Martha James was murdered on a train in rural Oregon, near the Willamette Valley town of Albany. She was White, Southern, and newly-married to a Navy pilot. Despite inconsistent and contradictory eyewitness accounts, a young Black cook by the name of Robert Folkes, a trainman from South Central Los Angeles, was charged with the crime. The ensuing investigation and sensational murder trial captured national attention during a period of intense wartime fervor and extensive Black domestic migration. Folkes’ trial and controversial conviction—resulting in his execution by the state of Oregon—reshaped how Oregonians and others in the West thought about race, class, and privilege.
In this deeply researched and detailed account, Geier explores how race, gender, and class affected the attitudes of local town-folk, law officers, and courtroom jurors toward Black trainmen on the West Coast, at a time when militarization skewed perceptions of virtue, status, and authority. He delves into the working conditions and experiences of unionized Black trainmen in their “home and away” lives in Los Angeles and Portland, while illuminating the different ways that they, and other residents of Oregon and southern California, responded to news of “Oregon’s murdered war bride.” Reporters, civil rights activists, and curiosity seekers transformed the trial and appeals process into a public melodrama.
The investigation, trial, and conviction of Robert Folkes galvanized civil rights activists, labor organizers, and community leaders into challenging the flawed judicial process and ultimately the death penalty in Oregon, serving as a catalyst for civil rights activism that bridged rural and urban divides. The Color of Night will appeal to “true crime” aficionados, and to anyone interested in the history of race and labor relations, working conditions, community priorities, and attitudes toward the death penalty in the first half of the 20th century.
The Confederate Belle
Giselle Roberts University of Missouri Press, 2003 Library of Congress E628.R63 2003 | Dewey Decimal 973.70820975
While historians have examined the struggles and challenges that confronted the Southern plantation mistress during the American Civil War, until now no one has considered the ways in which the conflict shaped the lives of elite young women, otherwise known as belles. In The Confederate Belle, Giselle Roberts uses diaries, letters, and memoirs to uncover the unique wartime experiences of young ladies in Mississippi and Louisiana. In the plantation culture of the antebellum South, belles enhanced their family’s status through their appearance and accomplishments and, later, by marrying well.
During the American Civil War, a new patriotic womanhood superseded the antebellum feminine ideal. It demanded that Confederate women sacrifice everything for their beloved cause, including their men, homes, fine dresses, and social occasions, to ensure the establishment of a new nation and the preservation of elite ideas about race, class, and gender. As menfolk answered the call to arms, southern matrons had to redefine their roles as mistresses and wives. Southern belles faced a different, yet equally daunting, task. After being prepared for a delightful “bellehood,” young ladies were forced to reassess their traditional rite of passage into womanhood, to compromise their understanding of femininity at a pivotal time in their lives. They found themselves caught between antebellum traditions of honor and of gentility, a binary patriotic feminine ideal and wartime reality.
Rather than simply sacrificing their socialization for patriotic womanhood, belles drew upon southern honor to strengthen their understanding of themselves as young Confederate women. They used honor to shape and legitimize their obligations to the wartime household. They used honor to fashion their role as patriotic women. They even used honor to frame their relationship to the cause. By drawing upon this powerful concept, young ladies ensured the basic preservation of an ideology of privilege. Their unique Confederate bellehoods would ultimately shape the ways in which they viewed themselves and the changed social landscape during the conflict—and after it.
Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War explores gender, age, and Confederate identity by examining the lives of teenage daughters of Southern slaveholding, secessionist families. These young women clung tenaciously to the gender ideals that upheld marriage and motherhood as the fulfillment of female duty and to the racial order of the slaveholding South, an institution that defined their status and afforded them material privileges. Author Victoria E. Ott discusses how the loyalty of young Southern women to the fledgling nation, born out of a conservative movement to preserve the status quo, brought them into new areas of work, new types of civic activism, and new rituals of courtship during the Civil War.
Social norms for daughters of the elite, their preparation for their roles as Southern women, and their material and emotional connections to the slaveholding class changed drastically during the Civil War. When differences between the North and South proved irreconcilable, Southern daughters demonstrated extraordinary agency in seeking to protect their futures as wives, mothers, and slaveholders.
From a position of young womanhood and privilege, they threw their support behind the movement to create a Confederate identity, which was in turn shaped by their participation in the secession movement and the war effort. Their political engagement is evident from their knowledge of military battles, and was expressed through their clothing, social activities, relationships with peers, and interactions with Union soldiers.
Confederate Daughters also reveals how these young women, in an effort to sustain their families throughout the war, adjusted to new domestic duties, confronting the loss of slaves and other financial hardships by seeking paid work outside their homes.
Drawing on their personal and published recollections of the war, slavery, and the Old South, Ott argues that young women created a unique female identity different from that of older Southern women, the Confederate bellehood. This transformative female identity was an important aspect of the Lost Cause mythology—the version of the conflict that focused on Southern nationalism—and bridged the cultural gap between the antebellum and postbellum periods.
Augmented by twelve illustrations, this book offers a generational understanding of the transitional nature of wartime and its effects on women’s self-perceptions. Confederate Daughters identifies the experiences of these teenage daughters as making a significant contribution to the new woman in the New South.
The death of Princess Diana unleashed an international outpouring of grief, love, and press attention virtually unprecedented in history. Yet the exhaustive effort to link an upper class white British woman with "the people" raises questions. What narrative of white femininity transformed Diana into a simultaneous signifier of a national and global popular? What ideologies did the narrative tap into to transform her into an idealized woman of the millennium? Why would a similar idealization not have appeared around a non-white, non-Western, or immigrant woman?
Raka Shome investigates the factors that led to this defining cultural/political moment and unravels just what the Diana phenomenon represented for comprehending the relation between white femininity and the nation in postcolonial Britain and its connection to other white female celebrity figures in the millennium. Digging into the media and cultural artifacts that circulated in the wake of Diana's death, Shome investigates a range of theoretical issues surrounding motherhood and the production of national masculinities, global humanitarianism, transnational masculinities, the intersection of fashion and white femininity, and spirituality and national modernity. Her analysis explores how images of white femininity in popular culture intersect with issues of race, gender, class, sexuality, and transnationality in the performance of Anglo national modernities.
Moving from ideas on the positioning of privileged white women in global neoliberalism to the emergence of new formations of white femininity in the millennium , Diana and Beyond fearlessly explains the late princess's never-ending renaissance and ongoing cultural relevance.
In Earline’s Pink Party Elizabeth Findley Shores sifts through her family’s scattered artifacts to understand her grandmother’s life in relation to the troubled racial history of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
A compelling, genre-bending page-turner, Earline’s Pink Party: The Social Rituals and Domestic Relics of a Southern Woman analyzes the life of a small-city matron in the Deep South. A combination of biography, material culture analysis, social history, and memoir, this volume offers a new way of thinking about white racism through Shores’s conclusion that Earline’s earliest childhood experiences determined her worldview.
Set against a fully drawn background of geography and culture and studded with detailed investigations of social rituals (such as women’s parties) and objects (such as books, handwritten recipes, and fabric scraps), Earline’s Pink Party tells the story of an ordinary woman, the grandmother Shores never knew. Looking for more than the details and drama of bourgeois Southern life, however, the author digs into generations of family history to understand how Earline viewed the racial terror that surrounded her during the Jim Crow years in this fairly typical southern town.
Shores seeks to narrow a gap in the scholarship of the American South, which has tended to marginalize and stereotype well-to-do white women who lived after Emancipation. Exploring her grandmother’s home and its contents within the context of Tuscaloosa society and historical events, Shores evaluates the belief that women like Earline consciously engaged in performative rituals in order to sustain the “fantastical” view of the white nobility and the contented black underclass. With its engaging narrative, illustrations, and structure, this fascinating book should interest scholars of memory, class identity, and regional history, as well as sophisticated lay readers who enjoy Southern history, foodways, genealogy, and material culture.
This first-hand account tells the story of turbulent civil rights era Atlanta through the eyes of a white upper-class woman who became an outspoken advocate for integration and racial equality
As a privileged white woman who grew up in segregated Atlanta, Sara Mitchell Parsons was an unlikely candidate to become a civil rights agitator. After all, her only contacts with blacks were with those who helped raise her and those who later helped raise her children. As a young woman, she followed the conventional path expected of her, becoming the dutiful wife of a conservative husband, going to the country club, and playing bridge. But unlike many of her peers, Parsons harbored an increasing uneasiness about racial segregation.
In a memoir that includes candid diary excerpts, Parsons chronicles her moral awakening. With little support from her husband, she runs for the Atlanta Board of Education on a quietly integrationist platform and, once elected, becomes increasingly outspoken about inequitable school conditions and the slow pace of integration. Her activities bring her into contact with such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife, Coretta Scott King. For a time, she leads a dual existence, sometimes traveling the great psychic distance from an NAACP meeting on Auburn Avenue to an all-white party in upscale Buckhead. She eventually drops her ladies' clubs, and her deepening involvement in the civil rights movement costs Parsons many friends as well as her first marriage.
The Grasinski Girls were working-class Americans of Polish descent, born in the 1920s and 1930s, who created lives typical of women in their day. They went to high school, married, and had children. For the most part, they stayed home to raise their children. And they were happy doing that. They took care of their appearance and their husbands, who took care of them. Like most women of their generation, they did not join the women’s movement, and today they either reject or shy away from feminism.
Basing her account on interviews with her mother and aunts, Mary Erdmans explores the private lives of these white, Christian women in the post-World War II generation. She compares them, at times, to her own postfeminist generation. Situating these women within the religious routines that shaped their lives, Professor Erdmans explores how gender, class, ethnicity, and religion shaped the choices the Grasinski sisters were given as well as the choices they made. These women are both acted upon and actors; they are privileged and disadvantaged; they resist and surrender; they petition the Lord and accept His will.
The Grasinski Girls examines the complexity of ordinary lives, exposing privileges taken for granted as well as nuances of oppression often overlooked. Erdmans brings rigorous scholarship and familial insight to bear on the realities of twentieth-century working-class white women in America.
In this book, one of modernism's most insightful critics, Jane Marcus, examines the writings of novelists such as Virginia Woolf, Nancy Cunard, Mulk Raj Anand, and Djuna Barnes-artists whose work coincided with the end of empire and the rise of fascism before the Second World War. All these writers delved into the "dark hearts" of imperialism and totalitarianism, thus tackling some of the most complex cultural issues of the day. Marcus investigates previously unrecognized ways in which social and political tensions are embodied by their works.
The centerpiece of the book is Marcus's dialogue with one of her best-known essays, "Britannia Rules The Waves." In that piece, she argues that The Waves makes a strong anti-imperialist statement. Although many already support that argument, she now goes further in order to question the moral value of such a buried critique on Woolf's part. In "A Very Fine Negress" she analyzes the painful subject of Virginia Woolf's racism in A Room of One's Own. Other chapters traverse the connected issues of modernism, race, and imperialism. In two of them, we follow Nancy Cunard through the making of the Negro anthology and her appearance in a popular novel of the freewheeling Jazz Age. Elsewhere, Marcus delivers a complex analysis of A Passage to India, in a reading that interrogates E. M. Forster's displacement of his fear of white Englishwomen struggling for the vote.
Marcus, as always, brings considerable gifts as both researcher and writer to this collection of new and reprinted essays, a combination resulting in a powerful interpretation of many of modernism's most cherished figures.
Secondary level female education played a foundational role in reshaping women's identity in the New South. Sarah H. Case examines the transformative processes involved at two Georgia schools--one in Atlanta for African-American girls and young women, the other in Athens and attended by young white women with elite backgrounds. Focusing on the period between 1880 and 1925, Case's analysis shows how race, gender, sexuality, and region worked within these institutions to shape education. Her comparative approach shines a particular light on how female education embodied the complex ways racial and gender identity functioned at the time. As she shows, the schools cultivated modesty and self-restraint to protect the students. Indeed, concerns about female sexuality and respectability united the schools despite their different student populations. Case also follows the lives of the women as adult teachers, alumnae, and activists who drew on their education to negotiate the New South's economic and social upheavals.
In 1843, the Louisiana Supreme Court heard the case of a slave named Sally Miller, who claimed to have been born a free white person in Germany. Sally, a very light-skinned slave girl working in a New Orleans caf, might not have known she had a case were it not for a woman who recognized her as Salom Muller, with whom she had emigrated from Germany over twenty years earlier. Sally decided to sue for her freedom, and was ultimately freed, despite strong evidence contrary to her claim.
In The Two Lives of Sally Miller, Carol Wilson explores this fascinating legal case and its reflection on broader questions about race, society, and law in the antebellum South. Why did a court system known for its extreme bias against African Americans help to free a woman who was believed by many to be a black slave? Wilson explains that while the notion of white enslavement was shocking, it was easier for society to acknowledge that possibility than the alternative-an African slave who deceived whites and triumphed over the system.
"This book begins the innovative and necessary analysis of how whiteness--as a racial category, a 'standpoint' for thinking about race, a terrain of 'unmarked' cultural practices which include material and discursive dimensions, and a collective and individual identity--was socially constructed. Frankenberg's thesis is that race shapes white women's lives through a system of racial privilege, and analyzes racism and challenges to it in white women's experiences. Her analysis is smart, insightful, and convincing. This book is compelling, engagingly written, and should prove very useful in the classroom, as well as a model for further qualitative research for those interested in social stratification, multiculturalism, American society, or social change." --Contemporary Sociology
"Ruth Frankenberg's study of white women makes a major contribution to our understanding of the complex intertwining of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Drawing on recent writing which views 'race' as a fluid social, political, and historical construct, Frankenberg explores white women's lived experience of 'race,' and specifically 'whiteness.' White Women, Race Matters is an engaging, well-written text which should be invaluable for advanced undergraduate courses or graduate courses in race, women's studies, or qualitative methodology. Should be read by everyone interested in contemporary racial politics." --Race, Sex, and Class
"Although other scholars and journalists have lately focused on 'whiteness,' Frankenberg's project is unique because she sees white women's lives 'as the sites both for the reproduction of racism and for challenges to it.' White Woman, Race Matters provides a webbed explanation of the position of white women in American culture, rooted in the failings and blindness of the feminist movement around race." --Afterimage
"Frankenberg seeks a way out of the dilemma of seeing whites and non-whites as 'different' or as 'similar' under the skin, an approach that ignores the history of racism. Frankenberg's project is to reveal White constructions of race. She analyzes life history interviews with thirty White, California women to discern how each one's 'articulation of whiteness' results in seeing White beliefs and behavior as normative and 'American.' With few recommendations about how to change contemporary racial discourse, Frankenberg nevertheless enlarges our understanding of its persistent perniciousness." --American Studies International
"A valuable contribution to understanding the effect of race and racism in white women's lives." --Race Traitor
"She wants to understand how racial identity is socially constructed for white Americans, and how their understanding of that identity is both a given and changeable. This reflects her desire to help construct a feminism that will be effectively antiracist. Through her interviews with and analysis of white woman who are widely diverse in age, class, family situation, sexual orientation, political values and experiences, Frankenberg's study forms a complex treatment of a subject neglected by social scientists, and only recently addressed by white novelists, poets, and cultural critics. The epilogue, 'Racism, Antiracism, and the Meaning of Whiteness', is the most compressed, intense, and useful discussion of race that I have seen written by a white woman." --Canadian Review of American Studies
"Frankenberg's books offers its readers not only definitions of whiteness, but unceasingly intelligent and thought-provoking analyses of how those definitions are derived, maintained and articulated." --Minnesota Review
"This book makes a major contribution to the scholarship on race, class, and gender. Frankenberg's exploration of the ways whiteness is lived, experienced and discussed confirms the importance of race in U.S. society and demonstrates how all kinds of social relations, even those that appear neutral, are, in fact, racialized." --Bonnie Thornton Dill, University of Maryland
Winner of a 1995 Jessie Bernard Book Award
Named an Outstanding Book by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights