Volume 35 (Summer 2002) Issue 4
Article Abstracts

Abstract: Stephen Robertson, "Age of Consent Law and the Making of Modern Childhood in New York City, 1886-1921 "

This article offers a reconsideration of the campaigns to increase the age of consent as constituting an ultimately unsuccessful effort to extend the concept of childhood, and the protection granted to children, so as to include teenage girls, rather than simply an attempt to regulate female sexuality. Purity reformers' concern to redefine childhood in this way reflected a growing attention to physiological and psychological development in the aftermath of the Darwinian revolution. Viewed in this light, children appeared more sharply different in nature from adults, until beyond the end of puberty.

That modern understanding of childhood also shaped the enforcement of the age of consent in New York City. Reading prosecutions for statutory rape from the case files of the Manhattan County District Attorney alongside those for child rape reveals that jurors could not fit teenage girls to their older, plastic ideas about childhood, and consequently would not offer them the same protection that they provided to younger girls. Prosecutors responded by employing different charges for the two age groups of girls. Encounters between ordinary New Yorkers and prosecutors thus helped elaborate and dramatize distinctions between teenage girls and younger girls, preparing the ground for the modern notion of adolescence.

Abstract: Robert Blobaum, "The 'Woman Question' in Russian Poland, 1900-1914 "

By 1900 partitioned Poland and especially its territories under Russian rule had experienced the initial phase of fundamental economic and social transformation from the agrarian to the industrial age. The uneasy transition gave rise to a number of burning "questions" that dominated intellectual and political discourse up to the First World War. This article places the "woman question" within the context of the dynamic change then affecting Poland and in relationship to other important issues of the day. That a "woman question" was even posed indicates that women were at the center rather than periphery of Poland's transformation.

How the "woman question" was posed obviously depended on those who posed it. Consequently there were a number of woman questions and envisioned solutions to them. Since the terrain of the "woman question" was contested, this article outlines the positions staked out by a variety of actors, including that of the first generation of Polish feminists. The article concludes with a discussion of the significance of the "woman question" in the larger context of modern Polish history. In particular, it attempts to explain why the "woman question" disappeared from Polish discourse after the Great War, only to resurface at century's end.

Abstract: Owen Griffiths, "Need, Greed, and Protest in Japan's Black Market, 1938-1949 "

The image of Japan's black market as a historical marker, forged in the crucible of defeat, is powerfully persuasive, but also misleading. It did not arise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of defeat but grew steadily into a compelling structure of daily life from the late 1930s to the late 1940s. This paper analyzes its evolution and argues that the black market was in fact a structure of continuity linking war and defeat as a single historical era. As such, the black market was more than just a physical space, or collection of spaces, created by the laws of supply and demand where people engaged in various acts of illegal exchange. It was in fact a network of social practices identified by specific forms of behaviour and defined by a particular language, virtually all of which predated Japan's defeat.

As a structure of continuity, the black market also represents a world decidedly un-Japanese, at least according to perceptions of Japan on this side of the Pacific. As one of the defining structures of a world of crisis, the black market offers us a glimpse of Japan that stands in marked contrast to the commonly accepted images of the Japanese people. Despite government propaganda about the special Japanese spirit of harmony and the "one-hundred million hearts beating as one" ( ichioku isshin ) and postwar exhortations to repent and sacrifice to rebuild the nation, the individual and collective acts performed within the black market stand as reminders of how great a gap exists between rhetoric and reality. As both monopoly and monopsony, especially after 1944, the black market drew into its orbit the government official, the military office, and the corporate baron just as it did the farmer, the salaried man and woman, and the entrepreneur. Enriching some, impoverishing many, and compelling most, the black market was the very antithesis of Japan's allegedly "beautiful customs" of harmony and selflessness.

Abstract: Darlene Abreu-Ferreira, "Work and Identity in Early Modern Portugal: What Did Gender Have to Do With It? "

This paper examines the extent to which work labels can be said to identify a person's primary occupation in early modern Europe. In particular, the essay attempts to explain the motives for including and excluding particular identifiers in a number of 16th- and 17th-century archival records found in Portugal. Of special interest is the preponderance of record keepers to use the term, the wife of, to denote early modern Portuguese women. The paper proposes that historians explore the multifaced meanings of this label, for it clearly represented a lot more than a symbol of marital status.

Abstract: Sean T. Moore, "'Justifiable Provocation': Violence Against Women in Essex County, New York, 1799-1860 "

In the years between the ratification of the federal Constitution and the beginning of the Civil War, American society experienced fundamental changes in family relations, the criminal law, and public attitudes towards violence. Male heads of households found their authority challenged by evangelical religion, the emergent industrial order, reformers, and judicial intervention in family matters. By the mid-nineteenth century, the ideologies of separate spheres and the affectionate family displaced the traditional authoritarian, patriarchal family. In New York State, these familial changes were paralleled by revision of the criminal laws in 1829, the rapid development of reform campaigns against capital and corporal punishment, and the emergence of the women's rights movement. These progressive changes masked the reality of increasing violence against women in Essex County, New York as murder, rape, and assault rates rose dramatically. As wife murder, sexual assault, and unprosecuted cases of violence increased women continued to meet with limited success in prosecuting their assailants. These crime trends were rooted in both the new cultural sensibility, that idealized family harmony, female sexual purity, and individual reformation and in the emergence of an aggressive form of patriarchy based on control, access, and regulation of women's sexuality.

Abstract: Jerrold Hirsch, Karen Hirsch,"Disability in the Family?: New Questions About the Southern Mill Village "

This article reexamines two classic social history texts, These Are Our Lives (1939) and Like A Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (1987), and the oral history interviews on which the books where based, in order to explore the potential value for historians of including questions about disability experiences in their work. Although disability experiences are discussed in the personal narratives of mill workers, historians have not discovered how to use these stories in their analysis of the past. This article suggests ways of using disability stories in order to enrich our understanding of textile mill history, while also helping to lay the foundation for a new field of historical inquiry, disability history. It argues that it is time for historians to review the work they have done and the sources they have used, and to reconsider what they have lost by not including disability issues in their work; that it is time to revisit many of the primary written and oral sources social historians have used and discover what historians have missed about what people have been saying concerning disability; that it is time to try to imagine disability as a socially constructed phenomenon having a history.

Abstract: Parnel Wickham, "Conceptions of Idiocy in Colonial Massachusetts "

Little has been written about the history of mental retardation in colonial America. This is partly because there is a paucity of information about the condition in that period, and partly because the topic has not aroused the interest of scholars. This particular study focuses on mental retardation, or idiocy, its analogous condition, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Although there is not much evidence of idiocy in the colony's written records, it is possible to construct an interpretation of the ways that colonists probably thought about the condition. The distinctive beliefs and practices of Puritanism in colonial Massachusetts influenced the colonists' conceptions of idiocy. Their laws and the records of the courts indicate that idiocy was experienced by certain individuals who were thought to be vulnerable, incompetent, and pitiable but worthy recipients of public relief. Ordinary colonists adopted images of idiocy as figures of speech to deprecate others, and Puritan ministers included metaphors of idiocy in their sermons to depict the contradictory situations of holy innocence and spiritual deprivation. Two Puritan intellectuals, Charles Morton and Cotton Mather, included idiocy in scientific treatises, although they offered no new interpretations. The ways Americans think about and behave toward persons with mental retardation in the twenty-first century can be traced to the multiple meanings of idiocy in colonial Massachusetts.

Abstract: Edward Watts Morton Bever, "Witchcraft, Female Aggression, and Power in the Early Modern Community "

While a strong consensus has emerged in the last generation about many sociocultural aspects of witchcraft, the role of gender--why witchcraft was particularly but not exclusively associated with women--has remained problematic. This article asserts that women in early modern Europe were thought more likely to be witches because, the evidence suggests, they were in fact more likely to act like witches. Hostility and violence figured prominently in early modern village and small town life, and women resorted to witch-like behaviors ranging from premeditated poisoning and surreptitious assault through ritual malefic magic to spontaneous displays of intense anger because these were effective means of engaging in conflicts that played to their learned and innate strengths while avoiding forms of struggle they were less well equipped for. The article concludes by suggesting that the intervention of the state in the form of widespread and protracted witch prosecutions played a role in inhibiting witch-like practices and behaviors, and since these were utilized far more often by women than men, helped change the perceived "nature" of women from the Medieval notion that they were particularly violent and lustful to the modern image of women as gentle and asexual.

 

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