Her Best Shot: Women and Guns in America / Edition 1

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The gun-toting woman holds enormous symbolic significance in American culture. For over two centuries, women who pick up guns have disrupted the popular association of guns and masculinity, spurring debates about women's capabilities for violence as well as their capacity for full citizenship. In Her Best Shot, Laura Browder examines the relationship between women and guns and the ways in which the figure of the armed woman has served as a lightning rod for cultural issues.

Utilizing autobiographies, advertising, journalism, novels, and political tracts, among other sources, Browder traces appearances of the armed woman across a chronological spectrum from the American Revolution to the present and an ideological spectrum ranging from the Black Panthers to right-wing militias. Among the colorful characters presented here are Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the American Revolution; Pauline Cushman, who posed as a Confederate to spy for Union forces during the Civil War; Wild West sure-shot Annie Oakley; African explorer Osa Johnson; 1930s gangsters Ma Barker and Bonnie Parker; and Patty Hearst, the hostage-turned-revolutionary-turned-victim. With her entertaining and provocative analysis, Browder demonstrates that armed women both challenge and reinforce the easy equation that links guns, manhood, and American identity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
[An] engaging and readable history. . . . Browder adeptly weaves the complex and multilayered viewpoints that plague both the status of women and of guns in this country.--BUST

There is a lot of fascinating historical information in Her Best Shot, but its most attractive feature is the well-written narrative. . . . It deserves to . . . make the best seller list and would add to both the understanding of, and the continuing debate about, women gunowners.--Women & Guns

An enjoyable book. A well-written, thought-provoking history of images of women with guns. . . . A fascinating tour through American history.-- Winterthur Portfolio

Publishers Weekly
The "thriving gun culture" of the South took Browder by surprise when the New Englander moved to Virginia. Now Browder (Rousing the Nation: Radical Culture in Depression America), an associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, explores the social meanings of armed womanhood in a culture where violence is associated with masculinity. Browder traces the phenomenon from Civil War cross-dressing spies to the present-day National Rifle Association's female-oriented marketing strategies, demonstrating how public discussions of gun-toting women find each successive era revealing its particular anxieties about women's sexuality and role as citizens. Browder discusses a series of " armed celebrities"-from Wild West stars like Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane to outlaws such as Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) and Patty Hearst-and examines the contradictory views about women soldiers, the gun-slinging pioneer mother "lioness" protecting her family, women at the turn of the 20th century who wielded their weapons to uphold white rights and the women radical activists, both black and white, of the 1960s and 1970s who "used the gun as a bid for equal power within their often sexist movements." Browder packs her dense yet jargon-free study with salient examples drawn from contemporary print and visual sources. 34 illus. (Oct. 16) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807858899
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 3/10/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 524,613
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Browder is professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she teaches in the creative writing program. She is author of Rousing the Nation: Radical Culture in Depression America and Slippery Characters: Ethnic Impersonators and American Identities (from the University of North Carolina Press).
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Table of Contents

Introduction : The news about women and guns 1
1 Military heroines : narratives of female soldiers and spies in the Civil War 22
2 Little miss sure shot and friends, or how armed women tamed the West 57
3 Maid Marians and bad mothers : from the gungirls of the 1920s to the gangsters of the 1930s 100
4 Radical women of the 1960s and 1970s 136
5 Armed women of the far right : race mothers, warriors, and the surprising case of Carolyn Chute 186
6 Armed Feminism or family values? : women and guns today 212
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