Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 2014 JAH

The March 2014 issue of the Journal of American History is out. Articles of interest include:

Privileges of Locomotion: Expatriation and the Politics of Southwestern Border Crossing

By the early 1830s, nearly twenty thousand U.S. citizens had quit their country for lives as colonists in Mexican Texas. Eric R. Schlereth asks readers to consider this migration without presupposing the inevitable rise of a U.S. empire in North America. To gain this perspective, he explores the history of Anglo colonization in Texas as an expression of expatriation, or a personal right under international law to change political allegiance at will. This right proved deeply resonant to Mexican officials in Texas and Anglo colonists alike. Tracing how the principle of expatriation influenced life in Mexican Texas during the 1820s and the 1830s reveals individuals from both groups creating a legal order at the U.S.-Mexico border determined by agreement that free individuals possessed natural rights to move throughout world.

Suffragettes and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia

That the U.S. woman suffrage amendment passed within a few years of the Russian Revolution was no mere coincidence. Many know that antisuffragists (the “antis”) used charges of socialism and “bolshevism” to discredit American suffragists. Some know that proponents of woman suffrage taunted their opponents with reminders that women in “darkest Russia” had obtained the vote before their American sisters. But historians have been so loathe to validate red baiters’ accusations that they have ignored U.S. feminists’ abiding attention to revolutionary Russia. In her essay, Julia L. Mickenberg argues that the Russian revolutionary agenda–in theory if not in practice–provided a framework for reimagining the terms of women’s citizenship, and as such, was of vital interest to U.S. feminists. It also reveals historical continuities between abolitionists, feminists, and “friends of Russian freedom.”

A Higher “Standard of Life” for the World: U.S. Labor Women’s Reform Internationalism and the Legacies of 1919

Worker and democracy movements surged around the world in 1919, as did hope for a more just international world order. Dorothy Sue Cobble recovers the surprisingly robust traditions of social justice internationalism among U.S. labor women in the aftermath of World War I. She chronicles the internationalist initiatives of the Women’s Trade Union League of America, the largest U.S. working women’s organization in this era, and uses U.S. and non-U.S. sources to compare the class and gender politics of U.S. and European women trade unionists. Her study challenges reigning scholarly tropes of American exceptionalism, expands understandings of U.S. internationalism in the World War I era, and reveals the significance of the 1919 moment for later transformations in global gender and economic policy.

“Don’t Agonize, Organize!”: The Displaced Homemakers Campaign and the Contested Goals of Postwar Feminism

In an article that challenges portrayals of 1970s feminism as a movement that demeaned and neglected middle-class housewives, Lisa Levenstein examines a major feminist campaign on behalf of “displaced homemakers”–middle-aged housewives who had lost men’s financial support after divorce or widowhood. The leaders of this campaign participated in national feminist efforts to secure social policies that recognized the economic value of middle-class women’s household labor. Fearing that these policies would attract broad popular support, conservatives misrepresented the displaced homemakers campaign and claimed that feminists sought to penalize full-time mothers. At the same time, left-wing activists condemned displaced homemaker advocates for neglecting the struggles of welfare recipients. Such criticisms contributed to the reorientation of modern feminism away from advocacy on behalf of housewives and agitation that emphasized the economic value of women’s unpaid labor in the home.
A full list of the book reviews is available here.