Women in the Crucible of Conquest: The Gendered Genesis of Spanish American Society, 1500-1600

Overview

The evidence of women in the Americas is conspicuously absent from most historical syntheses of the Spanish invasion and early colonization of the New World. Karen Powers's ethnohistoric account is the first to focus on non-military incidents during this transformative period. As she shows, native women's lives were changed dramatically.

Women in the Crucible of Conquest uncovers the activities and experiences of women, shows how the intersection of gender, race, and class ...

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Overview

The evidence of women in the Americas is conspicuously absent from most historical syntheses of the Spanish invasion and early colonization of the New World. Karen Powers's ethnohistoric account is the first to focus on non-military incidents during this transformative period. As she shows, native women's lives were changed dramatically.

Women in the Crucible of Conquest uncovers the activities and experiences of women, shows how the intersection of gender, race, and class shaped their lives, and reveals the sometimes hidden ways they were integrated into social institutions. Powers's premise is that women were demoted in status across race and class and that some women resisted this trend. She describes the ways women made spaces for themselves in colonial society, in the economy, and in convents as well as other religious arenas, such as witchcraft. She shows how violence and intimidation were used to control women and writes about the place of sexual relations, especially miscegenation, in the forging of colonial social and economic structures.

From Karen Vieira Powers's Introduction:

"During the colonization process, indigenous women suffered, perhaps, the most precipitous decline in status of any group of colonial women. For this reason, and because they were numerically superior to all other women, I have chosen to make them the heart of this book. Nevertheless, the work also treats Spanish women, racially mixed women (mestizas, mulattas, zambas, etc.), and African women."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826335197
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2005
  • Series: Dialogos Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240

Meet the Author

Karen Vieira Powers is associate professor of Latin American history at Arizona State University, Tempe.

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Table of Contents

1 Pre-Hispanic gender roles under the Aztecs and the Incas 1
2 The Spanish invasion of the Americas : a gendered collision 15
3 Colonial sexuality : of women, men, and Mestizaje 39
4 Women's domination under colonial rule 68
5 Spanish gender ideologies : prescriptions, realities, and new world constructions 93
6 Invisible workers : women's labor under Spanish rule 112
7 Women's empowerment under Spanish rule 142
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    Native American women after the Spanish Conquest

    The Spanish conquest of the southern hemisphere of the New World disrupted the 'gender parallelism and gender complementarity' in the Native American societies. Associate professor of Latin American history at Arizona State U.-Tempe, Powers describes and analyzes how native women of all classes, tribes, and varied capabilities and ingenuity adapted to the patriarchal culture imposed on them by the Spanish conquerors. Virtually all of the women were forced into certain positions resulting in a 'demotion in status.' Marriage, slavery, employment, and prostitution were among these. But in many cases--Powers's main topic of interest--women tried to varying degrees of success to keep or regain the equal, respected status they had in their Native American cultures. For example, some women became landowners. And the meztiso children from all types of relations between the women and the Spanish conquerors had a central role in modifying, though not changing the fundamental patriarchal structure, of the society. Powers moves the past couple of decades of feminist-motivated scholarship and development of perspective into this relatively untouched area of the changes the Spanish conquest forced on Native American women in particular.

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