Mysteries of Sex: Tracing Women and Men through American History / Edition 1

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In a sweeping synthesis of American history, Mary Ryan demonstrates how the meaning of male and female has evolved, changed, and varied over a span of 500 years and across major social and ethnic boundaries. She traces how, at select moments in history, perceptions of sex difference were translated into complex and mutable patterns for differentiating women and men. How those distinctions were drawn and redrawn affected the course of American history more generally.

Ryan recounts the construction of a modern gender regime that sharply divided male from female and created modes of exclusion and inequity. The divide between male and female blurred in the twentieth century, as women entered the public domain, massed in the labor force, and revolutionized private life. This transformation in gender history serves as a backdrop for seven chronological chapters, each of which presents a different problem in American history as a quandary of sex. Ryan's bold analysis raises the possibility that perhaps, if understood in their variety and mutability, the differences of sex might lose the sting of inequality.

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Editorial Reviews

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Ryan has . . . written a history of the oppression of women. It's a solid review of how 'gender asymmetry' evolved.—BUST
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Mary P. Ryan is John Martin Vincent Professor of history at Johns Hopkins University. Mysteries of Sex returns to—and fundamentally reinterprets—the theme of her first book, Womanhood in America (1975). Ryan's other books include Civic Wars: Democracy and Public Life in Nineteenth Century America; Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880; and Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865.

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Table of Contents

Introduction I

Part I Making Sex in America: 1500-1900

Chapter 1 Where Have the Corn Mothers Gone?: Americans Encounter the Europeans 21

The Coordinates of Gender: Asymmetry, the Relations of the Sexes, and Hierarchy 25

The Sexual Frontier 42

Warriors and Farmers on the Gender Frontier 49

Chapter 2 Who Baked That Apple Pie and When?: How Domesticity Conquered American Culture 61

The Prehistory of Feminine Domesticity: 1620-1692 64

Between Patriarchy and Domesticity: 1750-1840 80

Homemaking in Antebellum and Victorian America 88

Chapter 3 How Did Race Get Colored?: Gender and Sexuality in the American South 103

How Slavery Became Colored African American 105

The Gendering of Slave Society 116

Civil War and the Reconstruction of Race and Gender 124

The Sexual Politics of Jim Crow 137

Part II Dividing the Public Realm

Chapter 4 What Is the Sex of Citizenship?: Engendering the American Political Tradition from the Revolution to the New Deal 147

When Citizenship Was Male: 1776-1865 149

The Mother as Citizen: Segregated and Secondary 162

The Woman Citizen Goes to Washington 174

Second-Class Citizenship: Male and Female 188

Part III Women remake Gender in the Twentieth Century

Chapter 5 How Do You Get from Home to Work to Equity?: 1900-1960 201

Who Made the Woman Worker?: An Overview 203

The New Woman Goes to Work: 1890-1940 207

A Private Detour through the 1920s 214

The Next Generation Combines Work and Family: The 1940s and 1950s 227

The Mystery of the Feminine Mystique 238

Chapter 6 Where Does Sex Divide?: Feminism, Sexuality, and the Structures of Gender since 1960245

The Second Wave of Feminism: 1960-1970 248

Sexual Revolution and Gay Rights 265

Restructuring Gender Differences: 1980-2000 276

Chapter 7 Where in the World Is the Border between Male and Female?: Immigration and Generation in the Twentieth Century 291

The Generations of Gender 295

New Immigrants Meet Postmodernity: 1965-2000 302

Joining Together to Remake Male, Female, and America 314

Notes 325

Bibliography 361

Acknowledgments 409

Index 411

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