Berkshire Conference of Women, Genders and Sexualities


In response to concerns related to COVID-19, the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women has announced the cancellation of the 2020 Big Berks conference.

In lieu of our booth exhibit, please enjoy this Virtual Book Exhibit and receive a 30% discount and free shipping on the books listed below using the discount code S20XBERKS-FM.


Before Trans
Three Gender Stories from Nineteenth-Century France
Rachel Mesch
2020

A fascinating exploration of three individuals in fin-de-siècle France who pushed the boundaries of gender identity. Before the term "transgender" existed, there were those who experienced their gender in complex ways. Before Trans examines the lives and writings of Jane Dieulafoy (1850–1916), Rachilde (1860–1953), and Marc de Montifaud (1845–1912), three French writers whose gender expression did not conform to nineteenth-century notions of femininity. Dieulafoy fought alongside her husband in the Franco-Prussian War and traveled with him to the Middle East; later she wrote novels about girls becoming boys and enjoyed being photographed in her signature men's suits. Rachilde became famous in the 1880s for her controversial gender-bending novel Monsieur Vénus, published around the same time that she started using a calling card that read "Rachilde, Man of Letters." Montifaud began her career as an art critic before turning to erotic writings, for which she was repeatedly charged with "offense to public decency"; she wore tailored men's suits and a short haircut for much of her life and went by masculine pronouns among certain friends. Dieulafoy, Rachilde, and Montifaud established themselves as fixtures in the literary world of fin-de-siècle Paris at the same time as French writers, scientists, and doctors were becoming increasingly fascinated with sexuality and sexual difference. Even so, the concept of gender identity as separate from sexual identity did not yet exist. Before Trans explores these three figures' lifelong efforts to articulate a sense of selfhood that did not precisely align with the conventional gender roles of their day. Their intricate, personal stories provide vital historical context for our own efforts to understand the nature of gender identity and the ways in which it might be expressed.

A Miscarriage of Justice
Women’s Reproductive Lives and the Law in Early Twentieth-Century Brazil
Cassia Roth
2020

A Miscarriage of Justice examines women's reproductive health in relation to legal and medical policy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After the abolition of slavery in 1888 and the onset of republicanism in 1889, women's reproductive capabilities—their ability to conceive and raise future citizens and laborers—became critical to the expansion of the new Brazilian state. Analyzing court cases, law, medical writings, and health data, Cassia Roth argues that the state's approach to women's health in the early twentieth century focused on criminalizing fertility control without improving services or outcomes for women. Ultimately, the increasingly interventionist state fostered a culture of condemnation around poor women's reproduction that extended beyond elite discourses into the popular imagination. By tracing how legal thought and medical knowledge became cemented into law and clinical practice, how obstetricians, public health officials, and legal practitioners approached fertility control, and how women experienced and negotiated their reproductive lives, A Miscarriage of Justice provides a new way of interpreting the intertwined histories of gender, race, reproduction, and the state—and shows how these questions continue to reverberate in debates over reproductive rights and women's health in Brazil today.

Faithful Fighters
Identity and Power in the British Indian Army
Kate Imy
2019

During the first four decades of the twentieth century, the British Indian Army possessed an illusion of racial and religious inclusivity. The army recruited diverse soldiers, known as the "Martial Races," including British Christians, Hindustani Muslims, Punjabi Sikhs, Hindu Rajputs, Pathans from northwestern India, and "Gurkhas" from Nepal. As anti-colonial activism intensified, military officials incorporated some soldiers' religious traditions into the army to keep them disciplined and loyal. They facilitated acts such as the fast of Ramadan for Muslim soldiers and allowed religious swords among Sikhs to recruit men from communities where anti-colonial sentiment grew stronger. Consequently, Indian nationalists and anti-colonial activists charged the army with fomenting racial and religious divisions. In Faithful Fighters, Kate Imy explores how military culture created unintended dialogues between soldiers and civilians, including Hindu nationalists, Sikh revivalists, and pan-Islamic activists. By the 1920s and '30s, the army constructed military schools and academies to isolate soldiers from anti-colonial activism. While this carefully managed military segregation crumbled under the pressure of the Second World War, Imy argues that the army militarized racial and religious difference, creating lasting legacies for the violent partition and independence of India, and the endemic warfare and violence of the post-colonial world.

Paper $28.00 9781503610743
Cloth $90.00 9781503610026
Skimmed
Breastfeeding, Race, and Injustice
Andrea Freeman
2019

Born into a tenant farming family in North Carolina in 1946, Mary Louise, Mary Ann, Mary Alice, and Mary Catherine were medical miracles. Annie Mae Fultz, a Black-Cherokee woman who lost her ability to hear and speak in childhood, became the mother of America's first surviving set of identical quadruplets. They were instant celebrities. Their White doctor named them after his own family members. He sold the rights to use the sisters for marketing purposes to the highest-bidding formula company. The girls lived in poverty, while Pet Milk's profits from a previously untapped market of Black families skyrocketed. Over half a century later, baby formula is a seventy-billion-dollar industry and Black mothers have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. Since slavery, legal, political, and societal factors have routinely denied Black women the ability to choose how to feed their babies. In Skimmed, Andrea Freeman tells the riveting story of the Fultz quadruplets while uncovering how feeding America's youngest citizens is awash in social, legal, and cultural inequalities. This book highlights the making of a modern public health crisis, the four extraordinary girls whose stories encapsulate a nationwide injustice, and how we can fight for a healthier future.

Categorically Famous
Literary Celebrity and Sexual Liberation in 1960s America
Guy Davidson
2019

The first sustained study of the relations between literary celebrity and queer sexuality, Categorically Famous looks at the careers of three celebrity writers—James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, and Gore Vidal—in relation to the gay and lesbian liberation movement of the 1960s. While none of these writers "came out" in our current sense, all contributed, through their public images and their writing, to a greater openness toward homosexuality that was an important precondition of liberation. Their fame was crucial, for instance, to the growing conception of homosexuals as an oppressed minority rather than as individuals with a psychological problem. Challenging scholarly orthodoxies, Guy Davidson urges us to rethink the usual opposition to liberation and to gay and lesbian visibility within queer studies as well as standard definitions of celebrity. The conventional ban on openly discussing the homosexuality of public figures meant that media reporting at the time did not focus on his protagonists' private lives. At the same time, the careers of these "semi-visible" gay celebrities should be understood as a crucial halfway point between the era of the open secret and the present-day post-liberation era in which queer people, celebrities very much included, are enjoined to come out.

Paper $30.00 9781503609198
Cloth $90.00 9781503602359
City of Black Gold
Oil, Ethnicity, and the Making of Modern Kirkuk
Arbella Bet-Shlimon
2019

Kirkuk is Iraq's most multilingual city, for millennia home to a diverse population. It was also where, in 1927, a foreign company first struck oil in Iraq. Over the following decades, Kirkuk became the heart of Iraq's booming petroleum industry. City of Black Gold tells a story of oil, urbanization, and colonialism in Kirkuk—and how these factors shaped the identities of Kirkuk's citizens, forming the foundation of an ethnic conflict. Arbella Bet-Shlimon reconstructs the twentieth-century history of Kirkuk to question the assumptions about the past underpinning today's ethnic divisions. In the early 1920s, when the Iraqi state was formed under British administration, group identities in Kirkuk were fluid. But as the oil industry fostered colonial power and Baghdad's influence over Kirkuk, intercommunal violence and competing claims to the city's history took hold. The ethnicities of Kurds, Turkmens, and Arabs in Kirkuk were formed throughout a century of urban development, interactions between communities, and political mobilization. Ultimately, this book shows how contentious politics in disputed areas are not primordial traits of those regions, but are a modern phenomenon tightly bound to the society and economics of urban life.

Paper $26.00 9781503609136
Cloth $85.00 9781503608122
After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism
Taking Back a Revolution
Lynn S. Chancer
2019

It is more than fifty years since Betty Friedan diagnosed malaise among suburban housewives and the National Organization of Women was founded. Across the decades, the feminist movement brought about significant progress on workplace discrimination, reproductive rights, and sexual assault. Yet, the proverbial million-dollar question remains: why is there still so much to be done? With this book, Lynn S. Chancer takes stock of the American feminist movement and engages with a new burst of feminist activism. She articulates four common causes—advancing political and economic equality, allowing intimate and sexual freedom, ending violence against women, and expanding the cultural representation of women—considering each in turn to assess what has been gained (or not). It is around these shared concerns, Chancer argues, that we can continue to build a vibrant and expansive feminist movement. After the Rise and Stall of American Feminism takes the long view of the successes and shortcomings of feminism(s). Chancer articulates a broad agenda developed through advancing intersectional concerns about class, race, and sexuality. She advocates ways to reduce the divisiveness that too frequently emphasizes points of disagreement over shared aims. And she offers a vision of individual and social life that does not separate the "personal" from the "political." Ultimately, this book is about not only redressing problems, but also reasserting a future for feminism and its enduring ability to change the world.

Familiar Futures
Time, Selfhood, and Sovereignty in Iraq
Sara Pursley
2019

Iraq was the first postcolonial state recognized as legally sovereign by the League of Nations amid the twentieth-century wave of decolonization movements. It also emerged as an early laboratory of development projects designed by Iraqi intellectuals, British colonial officials, American modernization theorists, and postwar international agencies. Familiar Futures considers how such projects—from the country's creation under British mandate rule in 1920 through the 1958 revolution to the first Ba'th coup in 1963—reshaped Iraqi everyday habits, desires, and familial relations in the name of a developed future. Sara Pursley investigates how Western and Iraqi policymakers promoted changes in schooling, land ownership, and family law to better differentiate Iraq's citizens by class, sex, and age. Peasants were resettled on isolated family farms; rural boys received education limited to training in agricultural skills; girls were required to take home economics courses; and adolescents were educated on the formation of proper families. Future-oriented discourses about the importance of sexual difference to Iraq's modernization worked paradoxically, deferring demands for political change in the present and reproducing existing capitalist relations. Ultimately, the book shows how certain goods—most obviously, democratic ideals—were repeatedly sacrificed in the name of the nation's economic development in an ever-receding future.

Elusive Lives
Gender, Autobiography, and the Self in Muslim South Asia
Siobhan Lambert-Hurley
2018

Muslim South Asia is widely characterized as a culture that idealizes female anonymity: women's bodies are veiled and their voices silenced. Challenging these perceptions, Siobhan Lambert-Hurley highlights an elusive strand of autobiographical writing dating back several centuries that offers a new lens through which to study notions of selfhood. In Elusive Lives, she locates the voices of Muslim women who rejected taboos against women speaking out, by telling their life stories in written autobiography. To chart patterns across time and space, materials dated from the sixteenth century to the present are drawn from across South Asia – including present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Lambert-Hurley uses many rare autobiographical texts in a wide array of languages, including Urdu, English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi and Malayalam to elaborate a theoretical model for gender, autobiography, and the self beyond the usual Euro-American frame. In doing so, she works toward a new, globalized history of the field. Ultimately, Elusive Lives points to the sheer diversity of Muslim women's lives and life stories, offering a unique window into a history of the everyday against a backdrop of imperialism, reformism, nationalism and feminism.

Contraceptive Diplomacy
Reproductive Politics and Imperial Ambitions in the United States and Japan
Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci
2018

A transpacific history of clashing imperial ambitions, Contraceptive Diplomacy turns to the history of the birth control movement in the United States and Japan to interpret the struggle for hegemony in the Pacific through the lens of transnational feminism. As the birth control movement spread beyond national and racial borders, it shed its radical bearings and was pressed into the service of larger ideological debates around fertility rates and overpopulation, global competitiveness, and eugenics. By the time of the Cold War, a transnational coalition for women's sexual liberation had been handed over to imperial machinations, enabling state-sponsored population control projects that effectively disempowered women and deprived them of reproductive freedom. In this book, Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci follows the relationship between two iconic birth control activists, Margaret Sanger in the United States and Ishimoto Shizue in Japan, as well as other intellectuals and policymakers in both countries who supported their campaigns, to make sense of the complex transnational exchanges occurring around contraception. The birth control movement facilitated U.S. expansionism, exceptionalism, and anti-communist policy and was welcomed in Japan as a hallmark of modernity. By telling the story of reproductive politics in a transnational context, Takeuchi-Demirci draws connections between birth control activism and the history of eugenics, racism, and imperialism.

Alone at the Altar
Single Women and Devotion in Guatemala, 1670-1870
Brianna Leavitt-Alcántara
2018

By 1700, Guatemala's capital was a mixed-race "city of women." As in many other cities across colonial Spanish America, labor and migration patterns in Guatemala produced an urban female majority and high numbers of single women, widows, and female household heads. In this history of religious and spiritual life in the Guatemalan capital, Brianna Leavitt-Alcántara focuses on the sizeable population of ordinary, non-elite women living outside of both marriage and convent. Although officials often expressed outright hostility towards poor unmarried women, many of these women managed to position themselves at the forefront of religious life in the city. Through an analysis of over 500 wills, hagiographies, religious chronicles, and ecclesiastical records, Alone at the Altar examines how laboring women forged complex alliances with Catholic priests and missionaries and how those alliances significantly shaped local religion, the spiritual economy, and late colonial reform efforts. It considers the local circumstances and global Catholic missionary movements that fueled official collaboration with poor single women and support for diverse models of feminine piety. Extending its analysis past Guatemalan Independence to 1870, this book also illuminates how women's alliances with the Catholic Church became politicized in the Independence era and influenced the rise of popular conservatism in Guatemala.

Khartoum at Night
Fashion and Body Politics in Imperial Sudan
Marie Grace Brown
2017

In the first half of the twentieth century, a pioneering generation of young women exited their homes and entered public space, marking a new era for women's civic participation in northern Sudan. A provocative new public presence, women's civic engagement was at its core a bodily experience. Amid the socio-political upheavals of imperial rule, female students, medical workers, and activists used a careful choreography of body movements and fashion to adapt to imperial mores, claim opportunities for political agency, and shape a new standard of modern, mobile womanhood. Khartoum at Night is the first English-language history of these women's lives, examining how their experiences of the British Empire from 1900–1956 were expressed on and through their bodies. Central to this story is the tobe: a popular, modest form of dress that wrapped around a woman's head and body. Marie Grace Brown shows how northern Sudanese women manipulated the tucks, folds, and social messages of the tobe to deftly negotiate the competing pulls of modernization and cultural authenticity that defined much of the imperial experience. Her analysis weaves together the threads of women's education and activism, medical midwifery, urban life, consumption, and new behaviors of dress and beauty to reconstruct the worlds of politics and pleasure in which early-twentieth-century Sudanese women lived.

The Woman Who Turned Into a Jaguar, and Other Narratives of Native Women in Archives of Colonial Mexico
Lisa Sousa
2017

This book is an ambitious and wide-ranging social and cultural history of gender relations among indigenous peoples of New Spain, from the Spanish conquest through the first half of the eighteenth century. In this expansive account, Lisa Sousa focuses on four native groups in highland Mexico—the Nahua, Mixtec, Zapotec, and Mixe—and traces cross-cultural similarities and differences in the roles and status attributed to women in prehispanic and colonial Mesoamerica. Sousa intricately renders the full complexity of women's life experiences in the household and community, from the significance of their names, age, and social standing, to their identities, ethnicities, family, dress, work, roles, sexuality, acts of resistance, and relationships with men and other women. Drawing on a rich collection of archival, textual, and pictorial sources, she traces the shifts in women's economic, political, and social standing to evaluate the influence of Spanish ideologies on native attitudes and practices around sex and gender in the first several generations after contact. Though catastrophic depopulation, economic pressures, and the imposition of Christianity slowly eroded indigenous women's status following the Spanish conquest, Sousa argues that gender relations nevertheless remained more complementary than patriarchal, with women maintaining a unique position across the first two centuries of colonial rule.

Paper $30.00 9781503613621
Cloth $65.00 9780804756402