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Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920…
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Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920 (Working Class in American… (1983 original; edició 1983)

de Mari Jo Buhle

MembresRessenyesPopularitatValoració mitjanaConverses
391520,764No n'hi ha capNo n'hi ha cap
"This splendid book should demonstrate to the still unconvinced that the new scholarship of the past decade on women has, by enriching our understanding of the place of women, deepened our understanding of the historical process in general. . . . The exhaustive and imaginative research in this study creates a texture of rich detail about a variety of little-known aspects of women's history, labor history, and radical history and begins the rewriting of the history of American socialism." -- Journal of American History ". . . a brilliantly comprehensive, analytical, and perceptive work on an important movement in US history. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal  … (més)
Membre:ConcordiaWGS
Títol:Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920 (Working Class in American History)
Autors:Mari Jo Buhle
Informació:University of Illinois Press (1983), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 384 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
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Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920 de Mari Jo Buhle (1983)

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Journal entry from October 18, 1993

Mari Jo Buhle has claimed that she was inspired to study the relationship between women and American socialism by "the uneasy relationship of the New Left and the Women's Movement circa 1970" which she observed as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Since that time she has sought to combine "Questions of 'class' and 'gender' in movements for, and in theories of, social change." Women and American .Socialism, 1870-1920 is concerned with exactly this relationship between gender and class as categories of analysis. Building on the work of Herbert Gutman and E. P. Thompson, Buhle examines women's struggles as an integral part of American socialism. As she explains in her introduction, she seeks to render the narrative of proletairianization more complete by studying the "other side of the battle lines," that is by telling the women's story.

(For biographical info on Mari Jo Buhle see Contemporary Authors 108: 80-18. Ann J. Lane's brief review of Women and American Socialism in Journal of American History 69 (September 1982): 471-2 introduces the book by saying that this book is an example of how "the new scholarship of the past decade on women has, by enriching our understanding of the place of women, 8deepened our understanding of the historical process in general." )

As a way of addressing the tensions between gender and class in the workers' movement in America, Buhle talks about the different conceptions which native-born and German-American women had of the role of women in the socialist movement. German-American socialist women placed the concerns of their class ahead of the demands of their gender. They were workers first, women second. Native-born American socialist women considered the betterment of women's lot to be inextricably linked to the triumph of socialism, for them class and gender formed an indissoluble unity. The tension between these visions was present at the creation of the American socialist movement .in post-Civil War America. It is Buhle's contention that American socialism has never reconciled these two visions of socialism. It may even be that the New Left-Women's Movement tensions "circa 1970" echo these themes as well.

In Chapter 1, "German-American Socialists and the Women Question," Buhle presents the German-American Hausfrau as the inheritor of a peculiar German legacy of romanticism, which meant that even Socialists "apotheosized the worker and his family, the microcosm of a universal people's culture about to realize age-old aspirations in the coming events" (p. 9). This romanticisized domesticity included a German version of the "cult of true womanhood" which relegated women to suitably domestic endeavors even within Socialism. German-American .Socialist women remained politically unsophisticated and contented themselves for the most part with helping and supporting their male counterparts (p. 17). Early Frauenvereine of the 1870s "offered busy women party loyalists extra responsibility without the compensation of real prestige or power in the movement" (p. 18). The later Frauenbunde of the 1880s were "less an extension of their familial roles and more an expression of women's own interests" such that this movement could be called the first German-American women's Socialist political organization (p. 33). Both were limited by their all pervasive German Romanticism.

(Since recent scholarship on 19th century German history has called into question this very notion of German peculiarity, there may be a way out for Buhle's women. Their "Europeanness" may be more important than their "Germanness." See the seminal work by David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Germany, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991. There is also considerable evidence that the type of German radicalism which Buhle assumes is hegemonic in Germany during the 19th century, that is a highly organized and structured movement, is not the only type of radicalism to emerge in Germany as a response to the consolidation of corporate capitalism. See in this connection Erhard Lucas' Zwei Formen von Radicalismus in der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (Two Forms of Radicalism in the German Workers' Movement), Verlag Roter Stern, 1976. Lucas contends that in addition to the tradition which Buhle refers to of a German SPD-oriented union-centered radicalism there is also a more "spontaneous" extra-party radicalism which developed particularly in such towns as Hamborn, in which the Thyssen mining concern created a great industrial center out of whole cloth in the late 19th century. Hamborn radicalism included a much greater women's component than did the type to which Buhle refers and Lucas associates with Remscheid. If Lucas is right, then perhaps Buhle has flattened her picture 8of German roots. See Davis "German History From Unification to Unification" Binder I, Week 4 for summary of Lucas' book.)

Within the contexts of this Frauenverband movement, Buhle uses Johanna Greie as an example of the possibility for a true women's movement which went beyond domesticity and the subordinate role of women. Capitalizing on August Bebel's legitimization of female wage labor, Greie cast women workers as worthy of the vote (they too had property in their own labor, p. 37). Riding high on the upsurge of labor success in the strike wave of the mid-1880s, Greie's brand of Frauenbund Socialism ended up failing in the 1880s along with the Knights of Labor. The reasons for this promising movement's demise remain troublingly unclear in Buhle's account.

In Chapter 2, "Woman's Movement and Socialism," an entirely .different tradition of women and American Socialism emerges. Native-born American women were heiresses of the tradition of radicalism embodied by temperance crusades and abolitionism in antebellum America. For example here German-American women accepted alcohol consumption as part of the pattern of life brought over from the old country, native-born women Socialists turned the temperance crusade into a battle against the corruption of a male-dominated polity (p. 53). Out of this native radical tradition (where do the Grimke sisters fit?), grew the commitment to "sisterly solidarity" which marked this vision of Socialism (p. 56). Native-born women organized across class lines and entered more easily into civil society, using .the metaphor of domesticity to, in the words of Frances Willard of the WCTU, "make the whole world HOMELIKE" (p. 65).

The native-born women who embraced socialism employed "womanly virtue against marketplace capitalism, cooperation overcoming competition, social reconstruction rather than class warfare" (p. 70) Frances Willard was drawn to Edward Bellamy's collectivist Nationalism, but had difficulty winning over other women to the cause (pp. 80-81). Activities such as those of the Women's Christian Temperance Movement (WCTU) had prepared native-born women for participation in the Grange and ultimately in Populism. Populist women chose Ignatius Donnelly (sp?) as their ideological standard bearer (p. 84), but did not realize their goals with the Alliance Party. Within the Socialist Labor Party, too, the native-born women Socialists were disappointed. There the German-American faction triumphed. Native-born radicalism was ill-suited to the class warfare approach of German-American Socialists, and the German-Americans denounced them as bourgeois (p.92).

The end of Populism (we shall not say defeat, since Hofstadter has shown that they were ultimately one of the most successful third party movements in American history) and the degeneration of the SLP into "a mere sect" in the early 20th century, did not mean the end of women's activism. The struggles of the 1880s and 90s had trained a new generation of leaders.
  mdobe | Jul 24, 2011 |
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"This splendid book should demonstrate to the still unconvinced that the new scholarship of the past decade on women has, by enriching our understanding of the place of women, deepened our understanding of the historical process in general. . . . The exhaustive and imaginative research in this study creates a texture of rich detail about a variety of little-known aspects of women's history, labor history, and radical history and begins the rewriting of the history of American socialism." -- Journal of American History ". . . a brilliantly comprehensive, analytical, and perceptive work on an important movement in US history. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal  

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