Freedwomen and the Freedmen's Bureau: Race, Gender, and Public Policy in the Age of Emancipation

Freedwomen and the Freedmen's Bureau: Race, Gender, and Public Policy in the Age of Emancipation

by Mary J. Farmer-Kaiser


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Established by congress in early 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands—more commonly known as “the Freedmen’s Bureau”—assumed the Herculean task of overseeing the transition from slavery to freedom in the post–Civil War South. Although it was called the Freedmen’s Bureau, the agency profoundly affected African-American women. Until now remarkably little has been written about the relationship between black women and this federal government agency.

As Mary Farmer-Kaiser clearly demonstrates in this revealing work, by failing to recognize freedwomen as active agents of change and overlooking the gendered assumptions at work in Bureau efforts, scholars have ultimately failed to understand fully the Bureau’s relationships with freedwomen, freedmen, and black communities in this pivotal era of American history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823232123
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 05/29/2010
Series: Reconstructing America
Edition description: 4
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Mary Farmer-Kaiser is Associate Professor of History as well as the James D. Wilson/BORSF Memorial Professor in Southern Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: "a long time in want of a bureau" 1

1 "that the freed-women ... may rise to the dignity and glory of true womanhood": The Men, Purpose, and Gendered Freedom of the Freedmen's Bureau 14

2 "a weight of circumstances like millstones about their necks to drag and keep them down": Freedwomen, Federal Relief, and the Freedmen's Bureau 35

3 "The women are the controlling spirits": Freedwomen, Free Labor, and the Freedmen's Bureau 64

4 "to put forth almost superhuman efforts to regain their children": Freedwomen, Parental Rights, and the Freedmen's Bureau 96

5 "strict justice for every man, woman, and child": Gender, Justice, and the Freedmen's Bureau 141

Conclusion: "the unpardonable sin" 167

Notes 173

Bibliography 239

Index 269

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