Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Sunday Book List: Women's Citizenship

[This is the third in a series of special book roundups. The first in the series can be found here.]

A favorite set of readings from my “major field” of American history focused on women’s citizenship. So, in this third post, I’ve gathered those into a short list. 

Most of these books will be familiar to readers, but fewer readers may recognize Sharon Wood’s The Freedom of the Streets. Let me fix that. 

By no means a work of traditional legal history, Wood writes an intimate narrative history of a small Midwestern city in the late nineteenth century. The "book examines how women who embraced the free-labor promise took up the tools of public and political life to assert the respectability of paid employment and to confront the demon of prostitution. It also examines how the policies these women championed were transformed in the hands of men who held very different views of male sexuality and political necessity—and far greater power.” (p. 8) What I like most about the book is Wood's meticulous source work: court dockets, newspapers, tax lists, census schedules, city directories, maps, records of women’s organizations and city council records are used imaginatively and scrupulously to construct not just her argument, but also an almost palpable world for the reader to inhabit alongside the book’s actors. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Wood’s book demonstrates that “great questions can be asked in small places.” (p. 13) Here’s a review from the Journal of the History of Sexuality via JSTOR.

What other great books on women's citizenship are missing?  What would other themed reading lists on citizenship look like? For example, here’s Charles Zelden’s essential reading list on the history of election law and voting rights. I’m especially curious if anyone has a reading list on American Indian citizenship…