Saturday, September 15, 2007

Some Documents You Might Like

Some of you mentioned after the last class that you would be interested in reading Frederick Jackson Turner's classic essay, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History;" if so, click here for an online reprint, courtesy o fthe University of Virginia. If you are really interested in Turner, they have actually provided the entire collection of essays for your delectation. The gentleman pictured here is, of course, Turner himself.

I also thought you might be interested in this article, by Frederick Wells Williams published in 1900 in the American Historical Review. It brings together two of our themes from the first several classes: Chinese immigration and empire, by arguing that American policy must be changed to encourage Chinese immigration to the new Pacific territories because the need for labor will be so great. It also shows that professional historians imagined that they had something important to contribute to the issues of their day, and were determined to use their intellectual abilities to participate as citizens.

Finally, here is a very famous essay by Theodore Roosevelt, originally delivered to the Hamilton Club, a civic reform organization in Chicago, on April 10, 1899, in which he identified the health of the nation with the health and vigor of the American nuclear family: click here. It is called "The Strenuous Life," and it is one of the best examples of what historians mean when they say Progressive reformers spoke in "gendered" language. But it should also cause you to remember that the current conservative view that grounds the future of the nation in the future of the stable, reproductive nuclear family has a long history.


Hannah said...

Regarding our discussion of citizenship and who was excluded from it at the turn of the century: Turner emphasizes how democracy is expanded and promoted in the West and that these expansions trickle back to the eastern states. To my mind, Turner's best example of this would be women's suffrage, and by 1893 Wyoming, Utah and Colorado had given women in right to vote (Utah had already reversed its decision -- women there did not regain suffrage until 1896). Turner does not mention women's suffrage nor, in the chapters that I read, does he seem to mention women at all -- he certainly does not discuss the contributions of "frontierswomen" to creating an American national identity. I thought it was interesting to observe what political or social beliefs (that he could not include women or their participation in democracy in his essay) Turner would maintain even when they restricted his own argument.

Lauren said...

I agree with Hannah that Turner neglects to discuss the role of the frontierswoman in this essay. I am interested in discussing how the role/view of the American woman changed over the course of the 20th Century, with the goal of understanding what limitations on citizenship/ social constraits women have come to face today.

Tenured Radical said...

Well, of course, one of the reasons Turner fails to mention women is that hte frontier is gendered as a masculine enterprise, and citizenship -- the "product" of hte frontier -- is inherently gendered male.

Good for you Hannah to bring up the west anticipating women's suffrage: in part, western territories were trying to entice educated women to move west. But in the case of Utah, the hope of Congress in enfranchising women, was that they would mobilize against Mormon polygamy, which was seen as a terrible vice by Eastern reformers. omen, however, as it turned out, were not "inherently" opposed to polygamy as htese reformers had hoped: for some, it was a viable way of life on the frontier, as well as a matter of faith.

C. Potter