Skip to main content

Boston, Day Two

Boston, AHA Annual Meeting, Day Two
                I spent the morning at a great panel on motherhood and violence in America before the Civil War.  Three presentations, chaired by University of Washington’s Stephanie Camp and commented on by University of Mississipp’s Deirdre Cooper Owens.  The first and second papers centered on the use of violence by mothers.  Katy Simpson Smith (ABD, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill) provided a series of case studies looking at a proletarian white mother, a Catawba Native American mother, and a series of enslaved African American mothers.  Smith persuasively warded off any instinct to generalize or universalize about any “essential” maternal behavior by looking at several different uses of violence by women of different cultural traditions; the paper raised uncomfortable questions about the use of violence in a loving way to instill discipline on the more mild end all the way to the use of infanticide to resist slavery and tribal desperation.  Felicity Turner (University of Sydney) focused on Southern court inquests, largely in North Carolina, specifically related to infanticide by white and black m others and the legal systems response to child murder.  The third and frankly most impressive work of the panel was Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers (ABD at Rutgers-New Brunswick) on the cross-racial use by elite southern white women of enslaved black wet nurses to care for white infants.  Although Jones-Rogers’ assertion that white appropriation and commoditization of black women’s nursing capacities disrupted enslaved families and was, therefore, violent this seemed a thin enough connection to the other papers on maternal acts of violence, especially considering that here, white women were using violence and the threat of violence toward black women’s families to provide for their own white children. 
                At lunch I had a nice walk through Boston Commons with a friend.  And of course, back to the book exhibit where I availed myself of as many desk copy and course adoption samples as possible.  I should have brought another suitcase!  At the end of the evening a reception for Graduate Students and Early Career Professors gave me the opportunity to eat, drink, and chat with some wonderful people from Brandeis and Washington University-St. Louis.  Tomorrow:  Panels with Daina Berry, Richard Bushman, Gordon Wood, Joel Sibley, Harry Watson. 
Titian, Europa, 1560-62, Venetian

     I’m also planning a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to see her Matisse, Whistler, and Sargent collections.  The Gardner also has a large collection of Italian Renaissance paintings including works by Michelangelo, Fra Angelico, Bellini, Botticelli, Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Titian, and more matched only by the NYC Met and DC National Gallery, including two Raphael paintings, two of only six or seven in the United States.  One in NYC and two in DC I have seen, but one is in private hands, and one in California I have not had the chance to see. 
John Singer Sargent, El Jaleo, 1882
                And of course snow!  It’s pretty light and messy, but maybe 3 to 4 inches tomorrow.


Popular posts from this blog

Weekend Reading? Trump as Jackson Think Pieces Galore

14th Amendment

Today is the anniversary of the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868 which guarantees birthright citizenship in the United States.

Passed in both houses of Congress by June 1866 it took more than two years to be ratified by the states.  Every former Confederate state opposed its ratification until Congress made it a condition for readmission to the Union and the seating of southern Congressmen.  Citizenship for freedmen and women in the South opened the possibility of African American men voting and holding office, something anticipated eagerly by the Republican party, depicted here on the cover of Harper's Weekly as the amendment gained support throughout 1867.

Not everyone, of course, welcomed African American votes, particularly California Democrats who would soon push for the closure of Asian immigration to the state out of fear that the 14th Amendment would make citizens of the children of immigrants.  Below is a typical anti-Republican cartoon trading on anxieties about the 1…

The Countess, Clara Bow, and Women Boxers of the 1920s

I've long admired the Depression era reporting of Joseph Mitchell, as well as his later essays for the New Yorker.  The book to read, I suppose, is his Up in the Old Hotel.  I have been working my way through a late 1930s collection of pieces entitled My Ears Are Bent which collects his various- probably many unprinted- reports on Prohibition era NYC's underworld.

In a section on sports, Mitchell's clear admiration and affection for the plucky 1920s women boxers is matched only perhaps by his discussion of the performance pushed into burlesque as vaudeville audiences declined during the depression.

In an endearing profile he describes the 1930s career of The Countess, Jeanne Vina La Marr, the first woman in America licensed to fight in New Jersey in the mid1920s.  Unable to fight contests without a license in NYC, she instead did exhibition in the city, often fighting other women and men, usually in some vaguely legal connection with the burlesque shows and speakeasies.