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Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia) 1st Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 858-0000799569
ISBN-10: 0807846236
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Meticulously researched, carefully reasoned, and gracefully written, this book should be on the reading list of every historian."American Historical Review"

Review

One of the most important and interesting books ever published about colonial Virginia history.--Virginia Libraries

|This book is . . . crucial to our understanding not only of gender but of race and power in colonial Virginia.--Journal of Southwest Georgia History

|Should be a standard purchase for all academic libraries with holdings in U.S. history.--Choice

|An ambitious work, elaborate in construction and prodigious in research. . . . It could reshape profoundly our understanding of the history of colonial Virginia. . . . This big book is intriguing, provocative, and deeply unsettling.--Journal of Southern History

|Kathleen Brown's magnificent book, Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs, places gender at the center of early Virginia history for the first time. Her interpretations are persuasive because they are informed by judicious use of feminist theories and by an insistence that early Virginia was a changing tri-racial society.--Allan Kulikoff, Northern Illinois University

|Meticulously researched, carefully reasoned, and gracefully written, this book should be on the reading list of every historian.--American Historical Review

|Kathleen Brown has written an important book that is going to revolutionize our understanding of colonial Virginia, of the origins of slavery, and of the role of gender in the evolution of early American society. . . . An admirable combination of sophisticated conceptual design and richly textured and original data . . . that will have a major intellectual impact across the fields of American history.--Drew Gilpin Faust, author of Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War

|In the early days of women's history, its practitioners promised that the study of women would one day change the way we look at history itself. Arguing that gender and sexuality were central to the development of both slavery and the eighteenth century's plantation elite, Kathleen Brown makes good on that promise.--Suzanne Lebsock, University of Washington

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Product Details

  • Series: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (November 25, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807846236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807846230
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 68 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
Kathleen Brown's examination of 17th and early 18th century Virginia is a commendable attempt to further our understanding of gender and race relations in early American history. "Gender and race," Brown finds, "became intertwined components of the social order in colonial Virginia." (1) Although this study makes significant strides in unearthing the world of free and bonded men and women in early Virginia, many of Brown's conclusions go far beyond the evidence she can muster.
This story is primarily one of definitions, structured so that one can see clearly the gradual but steady consolidation of power by elite white men. These "anxious patriarchs" delineated social relations among whites, blacks and Indians by associating Indians and Africans with field labor and slavery, and by associating women with dependency. "Good wives" were respectable, chaste and dependent members of a male-dominated society. As time went on, planters engendered field work with race, by disassociating white women from it. As the number of enslaved Africans increased, black women became "nasty wenches" who, because of their condition of servitude, could not avoid the labor and sexual exploitation that defined their status. By the 1680s, she shows, taxation of African (but not white) women became the "cornerstone of a concept of womanhood that became less class-specific and increasingly race specific," which allowed for a "more exclusive definition of English womanhood." (128) This concept was further buttressed when Virginia lawmakers in 1662 decreed that children born of unfree mothers were slaves. "The notion that enslaved women could pass their bound condition on to their children," she writes, "strengthened the appearance that slavery was a natural condition for" Africans.
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25 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Covering an impressive range of materials, Brown offers an ambitious treatment of later 17th- and 18th- century colonial Virginia from the point of view of the marxist-feminist tetrad: race, gender, sexuality, class. As the book's title tends to suggest, the work is strongest when dealing with the connections between discourses of gender and race (and to a lesser extent, sexuality). The wide scope of the book means, however, that some of the nuances and complexities of these discourses and their connections (and this is particularly true in terms of 'class') remain untraced. A second weakness is that the text lacks wider direction. Perhaps we can excuse the absence of explicit discussion of the study's theoretical assumptions. Less so the failure to engage directly with previous historiography and to 'signpost' clearly the argument being made over 375-odd pp. Subheadings help but only when descriptive; those drawn from primary sources are of little value in guiding the reader.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jenna Collins on March 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Anglo-American discourses of gender, race and power underwent major historical transformations; authority was no longer the "natural" expression of divine providence, and in the New World beliefs in fundamental sex differences acquired new meanings. As Kathleen M. Brown makes clear in her work, this was no simple transition; rather, the language of gender "became part of English efforts to define differences, communicate their own authority, and anchor their identities in Christianity and civility" in a land of unfamiliar land and peoples. Brown aims at nothing less than a revisioning of colonial Virginian society during this crucial early modern period by placing gender at the center of historical analysis of that "virgin" colony, Virginia, from the arrival of the earliest colonial settlers to the mid-eighteenth century, when the gentry elite reached the apex of their power. This work's novelty lies in Brown's insistence on gender as crucial in the demarcation of the sexual, racial, and class boundaries. However, Brown is not writing a "women's history" in the traditional sense; one of the strengths of her text is her insistence on the interconnectedness of gender, race, sex, and class. Thus some of her most provocative arguments examine the construction of white masculinity, notably during and after Bacon's rebellion. Brown ultimately succeeds in her goal to "complicate" our understanding of the initial setbacks in patriarchal social hierarchies, the "subsequent rise of the planter class and its authority,"and the ways in which race, class and gender shaped colonial society in this formidable work.
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By dnyc on May 17, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A heavy book in all senses of the word. Interesting material, not necessarily always told in an interesting manner. A good, but again not compellingly told, overview of women's rights or non-rights in the 18th C. But be sure to feel strong when reading it! It's VERY heavy, and the Kindle version does not have the maps or pictures of the printed version.
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By Old Dude on December 31, 2014
Format: Paperback
Have not read yet. Book is like new. Great buy. Thanks
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By RMendoza on August 24, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My kind of book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joey Degollado on September 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was one of the text books assigned to my senior level Colonial America class. I enjoyed reading this text and discussing it in class every week. The amount of information that it covered was amazing and gave a very clear picture of how women lived during a very important time in US history.
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