Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City / Edition 1

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Before the Civil War, the public lives of American men and women intersected most frequently in the arena of religious activism. Bruce Dorsey broadens the field of gender studies, incorporating an analysis of masculinity into the history of early American religion and reform. His is a holistic account that reveals the contested meanings of manhood and womanhood among antebellum Americans, both black and white, middle class and working class.Urban poverty, drink, slavery, and Irish Catholic immigration—for each of these social problems that engrossed Northern reformers, Dorsey examines the often competing views held by male and female activists and shows how their perspectives were further complicated by differences in class, race, and generation. His primary focus is Philadelphia, birthplace of nearly every kind of benevolent and reform society and emblematic of changes occurring throughout the North. With an especially rich history of African-American activism, the city is ideal for Dorsey's exploration of race and reform.Combining stories of both ordinary individuals and major reformers with an insightful analysis of contemporary songs, plays, fiction, and polemics, Dorsey exposes the ways race, class, and ethnicity influenced the meanings of manhood and womanhood in nineteenth-century America. By linking his gendered history of religious activism with the transformations characterizing antebellum society, he contributes to a larger quest: to engender all of American history.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Dorsey is a student of masculine gender history whose book solidifies into something both unique and useful when he moves to the primary source material on Philadelphia. His work with the nature of benevolence, temperance, and abolitionism across gender is particularly interesting. . . . Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice, April 2003, Vol. 40, No. 8

"As Dorsey moves methodically from topic to topic, examining the thoughts and actions of people in various social categories, historians will be impressed by the breadth of his research in primary and secondary sources. . . . a solid synthesis, and application, of insights from recent gender and racial history."—Peter C. Baldwin (University of Connecticut), Common-Place: The Interactive Journal of Early American Life, vol. 3, no. 4, July 2003

"Bruce Dorsey's Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City is an exciting and creative examination of reform activity in the early nineteenth century. . . . Dorsey brilliantly demonstrates the tremendous impact of gender on social issues such as slavery, temperance, poverty, and immigration, and just how deeply it affected the lives of men and women in the antebellum city."—Erica A. Armstrong, University of Delaware, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, April 2003

"What Dorsey has attempted here, and essentially accomplished, is nothing less than a history of gender in antebellum urban America through the lens of reform. It is also the most thorough and convincing account of the development of male gender ideology in the early republic yet published. The publication of Reforming Men and Women marks an important advance in the historiography of American gender history. . . . The arguments here are complex, subtle, and ultimately convincing. . . . To top it all off, Dorsey weaves close readings of popular fiction into each chapter. The result is to present the reader with a variety of different kinds of evidence and to show how the theoretical observations of literary scholars can be used to buttress traditional historical arguments. What makes all this work so well is Dorsey's fine prose."—Amy S. Greenberg, The Pennsylvania State University, Journal of the Early Republic 22:4

"At the heart of the book are examinations of four topics: poverty, drink, slavery, and immigration. In each chapter, Dorsey begins by identifying the gendered ideologies of male and female reform groups, and then shows how their reform activities interacted with different racial and class positions. . . . Because of the novelty of fully developed 'holistic' gender analysis (Dorsey's term) and his even-handed treatment of race and class as well as gender, the book is full of surprises. Familiar relationships between well-known episodes in reform shift, and new perspectives emerge."—Susan Armitage, Washington State University, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 34:4, Spring 2004

"Here is truly gendered history, one that takes women and men equally seriously as subjects.Reforming Men and Women will raise the bar for all future studies of social activism, whether in the antebellum or any other era. This is a truly magnificent book, one that provides a leap forward not only in the history of the antebellum era but also in the analysis of gender relations and conventions."—Nancy A. Hewitt, Professor of History, Rutgers University

"This impressive and deeply researched study gives intellectual ambition a decidedly good name. Grounded in Philadelphia, but ramifying widely, it places the major antebellum reform movements, including colonizationism and nativism, in telling dialogue with each other. Using gender as a category of analysis as it considers both reformers and reformed, Dorsey generates stunning insights into faith, class and race before the Civil War."—David Roediger, author of Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past

"Reforming Men and Women provides an original and highly readable reinterpretation of a variety of antebellum reform movements—antipoverty, temperance, abolition, and anti-immigration. This is one of the best discussions of men's history—or more properly men's and women's history—available for the antebellum period. Eminently teachable, Reforming Men and Women is an indispensable contribution to the histories of gender, reform, and antebellum America."—Gail Bederman, University of Notre Dame

"With startling breadth of vision and depth of insight, Bruce Dorsey has given us a powerful new interpretation of antebellum reform. Dorsey's discussion of gender and race widens our understanding of early American manhood."—E. Anthony Rotundo, author of American Manhood

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801472886
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,094,516
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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