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.
- Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (Basic, 2000)
- Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equality: Women, Men, and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (University of Oxford Press, 2001)
- Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
- Barbara Young Welke, Recasting American Liberty: Gender, Race, Law, and the Railroad Revolution, 1865-1920 (Cambridge University Press, 2001)
- Linda Gordon, Pitied but Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare (The Free Press, 1994)
- Linda Kerber, No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship (Hill & Wang, 1999)
- Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (Vintage, 2003)
- Margot Canaday, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth Century America (Princeton University Press, 2009)
- Meg Jacobs, Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton University Press, 2004)
- Nancy Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation (Harvard University Press, 2000)
- Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (Yale University Press, 1989)
- Sharon E. Wood, The Freedom of the Streets: Work, Citizenship, and Sexuality in a Gilded Age City (University of North Carolina Press, 2005)
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…