Beyond Nature's Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History

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From pre-Columbian times to the environmental justice movements of the present, women and men frequently responded to the environment and environmental issues in profoundly different ways. Although both environmental history and women's history are flourishing fields, explorations of the synergy produced by the interplay between environment and sex, sexuality, and gender are just beginning. Offering more than biographies of great women in environmental history, Beyond Nature's Housekeepers examines the intersections that shaped women's unique environmental concerns and activism and that framed the way the larger culture responded. Women featured include Native Americans, colonists, enslaved field workers, pioneers, homemakers, municipal housekeepers, immigrants, hunters, nature writers, soil conservationists, scientists, migrant laborers, nuclear protestors, and environmental justice activists. As women, they fared, thought, and acted in ways complicated by social, political, and economic norms, as well as issues of sexuality and childbearing. Nancy C. Unger reveals how women have played a unique role, for better and sometimes for worse, in the shaping of the American environment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Nancy Unger's Beyond Nature's Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History chronicles women's interactions with nonhuman nature throughout American history. It is an ambitious and important work that combines American environmental and women's and gender history into an accessible synthesis that would be useful not only in women's and environmental history survey courses, but also in both halves of the US history survey. Unger's book would also appeal to readers with a general interest in American women's or environmental history.... Unger weaves together a highly engaging narrative of women's and environmental history that incorporates a multitude of fresh voices into the master narrative of American history."— Peggy Macdonald, Environmental History

"In Beyond Nature's Housekeepers, Nancy Unger brings together a breadth of scholarship that touches on American women's experience and impact on the environment in a short, well-written book. The relatively brief chapters with vivid anecdotes are perfect for an undergraduate audience." —Pacific Historical Review

"With this book, Unger has undertaken a formidable task that could have failed in the hands of a less-accomplished historian. She persuasively demonstrates that there is a distinct women-centered understanding of environmentalism and the people's relationship to the environment that transcends time and place and that this perspective must be incorporated into any analysis of environmental history." —American Historical Review

"Unger's narrative is a go-to reference for anyone interested in the socially constructed and physical ways both sex and gender intersect with nature in the United States. It is an important work that will be a reference in the field for quite some time." —Environment and History

"In this rich, learned, and lively synthesis, Nancy C. Unger reveals the astoundingly varied, crucial roles women have played throughout American environmental history. Where we have heretofore seen glimpses and snippets of this immense and still evolving story, Unger gives us a sweeping narrative to savor and ponder. A marvelous achievement!" —Virginia Scharff, University of New Mexico and Autry National Center

"In the United States sex, sexuality, and gender have mattered in the way that women's concerns and activism in regard to environmental issues have been framed and received by the larger culture. Beyond Nature's Housekeepers provides a comprehensive overview of the subject." —Vera Norwood, author of Made From This Earth: American Women and Nature

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199735075
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,523,081
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy C. Unger is Professor of History at Santa Clara University. She is the author of the prize-winning biography Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer, and book review editor of The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Sex, Sexuality, and Gender as Useful Category of Analysis in Environmental History
1. Gendered Changes to the Land in Pre-Columbian and Colonial America
2. The North and the South from Revolution to Civil War
3. The Frontier Environment as Test of Prescribed Gender Spheres
4. "Nature's Housekeepers": Progressive-Era Women as Midwives to the Conservation Movement and Environmental Consciousness
5. Reasserting Female Authority: Women and the Environment from the 1920s through World War II
6. Middle Class White Women in the Cold War
7. Women's Alternative Environments: Fostering Gender Identity by Striving to Remake the World
8. The Modern Environmental Justice Movement
Epilogue: Women, Gender, and the Environment in the 21st Century

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