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Girlhood: A Global History

JENNIFER HELGREN
COLLEEN A. VASCONCELLOS
WITH A FOREWORD BY MIRIAM FORMAN-BRUNELL
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 440
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hj493
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  • Book Info
    Girlhood
    Book Description:

    Girlhood, interdisciplinary and global in source, scope, and methodology, examines the centrality of girlhood in shaping women's lives. Scholars study how age and gender, along with a multitude of other identities, work together to influence the historical experience.Spanning a broad time frame from 1750 to the present, essays illuminate the various continuities and differences in girls' lives across culture and region--girls on all continents except Antarctica are represented. Case studies and essays are arranged thematically to encourage comparisons between girls' experiences in diverse locales, and to assess how girls were affected by historical developments such as colonialism, political repression, war, modernization, shifts in labor markets, migrations, and the rise of consumer culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4946-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    MIRIAM FORMAN-BRUNELL

    The copious collection of girls included inGirlhood: A Global Historystirred recollections of my girlhood, especially of the exquisitely dressed costume dolls I collected in the early 1960s. That was long before we understood that the clothing sewn onto the dolls’ bodies signified female identities as immutable, uniform, and uncomplicated by gender, age, race, religion, nationality, sexuality, ethnicity, class, power, and the like. The realization that girlhood is a constructed, changing, and contested category of both experience and expectations only became apparent in the late 1980s and early 1990s as scholars began to chart the history of American girls....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)
    JENNIFER HELGREN and COLLEEN A. VASCONCELLOS

    In response to globalization and the fracturing of nation-states since the end of the Cold War, historians have increasingly turned toward international perspectives and comparisons. No longer are themes of international conflict, ethnic tension, and the migrations of peoples and ideas across borders simply the realm of international studies. In fact, over the last several years, social and cultural historians are adopting global frameworks to bring new insights and analytical methods to their research. This global study of girlhood furthers their efforts by presenting a complex study of girls within their national settings and by adding to this comparative global...

  6. Toward Political Agency for Girls: MAPPING THE DISCOURSES OF GIRLHOOD GLOBALLY
    (pp. 14-30)
    JACKIE KIRK, CLAUDIA MITCHELL and JACQUELINE REID-WALSH

    There is an increased interest around the globe in girls and girlhood. Although a tendency to refer to “womenandgirls” still pervades, blurring the specificity of girls’ experiences, there is increased attention to girls as a special group within the study of gender and gendered experiences.² This interest has multiple dimensions and multiple implications, and can be attributed to various, yet at least to some extent, interconnected tendencies. These discourses cut across and intersect with the theoretical fields and bodies of literature that address girls, girlhood, and girls’ issues, including girls’ psychological development, girls in development contexts (particularly girls’ education), girls...

  7. Part I Girls’ Cultures and Identities

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 31-32)

      The chapters in this section analyze the intersections of gender, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and youth through a variety of female subcultures that have operated in relation to, but also separate from, dominant societal and adult values. Girls’ cultures have been distinct both from boys’ cultures and from the world of adults. Although girls are influenced by socializing institutions, they have also developed their own distinct values, activities, rituals, and understandings. Sometimes these coincide with adult expectations; other times they do not. The chapters in this section explore how national identity coexists, challenges, and reflects the experiences of girls from various...

    • 1 American Jewish Girls and the Politics of Identity, 1860–1920
      (pp. 33-48)
      MELISSA R. KLAPPER

      On a typical day in New Orleans during the Civil War, sixteen-year-old Clara Solomon rose early to go to the Louisiana Normal School. She dawdled over breakfast and left the house reluctantly, complaining of poor health. She would have much preferred to stay home with her mother. After a school day spent learning lessons in deportment as well as geography, arithmetic, elocution, and literature, Clara walked slowly home with friends, their usual after-school gatherings curtailed by the exigencies of war. When she got home, she discussed her day with her mother, sewed, played the piano, and waited to see if...

    • 2 Growing Up in Colonial Algeria: THE CASE OF ASSIA DJEBAR
      (pp. 49-64)
      CHRISTA JONES

      The work of French francophone novelist and Algerian national Assia Djebar was recognized most recently when she was welcomed into the prestigious Académie française on June 22, 2006, filling the vacant seat of the late Georges Vedel. An accomplished novelist as well as playwright, poet, essayist, journalist, professor of French and francophone literature, literary critic, filmmaker, and university-trained historian, Assia Djebar was born Fatma Zohra Imalayène in the Algerian coastal town of Cherchell on June 30, 1936.¹ Her narratives focus on her native Algeria and its complex colonial and war-ridden history, and in particular on the lives of girls and...

    • 3 Immigrant Girls in Multicultural Amsterdam: JUGGLING AMBIVALENT CULTURAL MESSAGES
      (pp. 65-82)
      MARION DEN UYL and LENIE BROUWER

      These are the words of Davinya, a teenage girl from the Bijlmer, a disadvantaged, culturally diverse neighborhood in the district of Amsterdam South-East. At the time of the interview, Davinya was seventeen and living with her Surinamese mother; her Antillean father had moved back to the Caribbean and started a new family there. Davinya continued, “When one of my friends calls, I say: ‘Bitch! Whore! Cunt! Cow!’ When my mother hears that, she really stares at me, disapprovingly, but I say to her that it’s just the way we say hallo to each other, we’re not calling each other names.”...

    • 4 Feminist Girls, Lesbian Comrades: PERFORMANCES OF CRITICAL GIRLHOOD IN TAIWAN POP MUSIC
      (pp. 83-102)
      FRAN MARTIN

      During the 1990s, the popular concept of the girl—as in girl power, girl bands, girl rock, the Spice Girls, Riot Grrrl, cybergirls, and others—became increasingly prominent not only in Euro-American commercial music cultures but also outside the West. How does the category of girlhood function in non-Western contexts, and in languages other than English? Through which channels were 1990s commercial and popular movements such as the “girl power” of the Spice Girls translated into local contexts outside the West, and what effects did they produce there for local girls and women? In this chapter I tackle these questions...

  8. Part II The Politics of Girlhood

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 103-104)

      The chapters in this section explore how girls have responded to global developments such as war and political unrest, as well as how girls operate as global actors and agents. How has girlhood been imagined within the context of the nation-state and international politics? Do girls have unique roles to play as citizens of their nation and of the world? The authors in this section seek to answer these questions, revealing how institutions reflect ideologies of the state and how girls react in various ways to those messages.

      Both Jesse Hingson and E. Thomas Ewing examine girls in autocratic political...

    • 5 Girlhood Memories and the Politics of Justice in Post-Rosas Argentina: THE RESTITUTION SUIT OF OLALLA ALVAREZ
      (pp. 105-123)
      JESSE HINGSON

      In 1853, a young woman named Olalla Alvarez returned to the province of Córdoba, Argentina, after a twelve-year forced exile in Chile, demanding to see a judge. She sought to initiate a lawsuit against Pedro Sueldo, who was a provincial judge during the reign of Juan Manuel de Rosas, the Federalist dictator who had ruled most of Argentina between 1829 and 1852. In an affidavit, Olalla recalled what happened to her and her family. One night in October 1841, when she was only twelve years old, she awoke to the sounds of horses and wagons riding up the path to...

    • 6 “A Case of Peculiar and Unusual Interest”: THE EGG INSPECTORS UNION, THE AFL, AND THE BRITISH MINISTRY OF FOOD CONFRONT “NEGRO GIRL” EGG CANDLERS
      (pp. 124-141)
      JAN VOOGD

      In autumn of 1918 , because of the food shortages brought on by the First World War, the British Food Ministry contracted with the Davies Company, an American company in Chicago, to supply shipments of eggs for hospitals in France. This agreement led to what the U.S. Department of Labor’s annual report eventually referred to as “a case of peculiar and unusual interest.” The Egg Inspectors Union, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), objected to the Davies Company using nonunion egg candlers, most of whom were “Negro girls” who were paid wages at “decidedly less than union scale.”¹...

    • 7 “Life Is a Succession of Disappointments”: A SOVIET GIRL CONTENDS WITH THE STALINIST DICTATORSHIP
      (pp. 142-161)
      E. THOMAS EWING

      In the spring of 1934, a Soviet teenager, Nina Lugovskaya, recorded the following entry in her diary:

      The last few days I’ve sometimes wanted so much to tell someone everything, to open up completely, to shout: “I want to live! Why do you torment me, force me to go to school, teach me manners? I don’t need anything! I want to live, laugh, sing, and be happy. I’m only fifteen years old, you know, that’s the best time of life. I want to live! Teach me to live!” But I won’t tell anyone this truth. They wouldn’t understand, they’d only...

    • 8 Fragilities and Failures, Promises and Patriotism: ELEMENTS OF SECOND WORLD WAR ENGLISH AND AMERICAN GIRLHOOD, 1939–1945
      (pp. 162-178)
      LISA L. OSSIAN

      “How you expect to get married and keep house is beyond me, Alicia,” the cartoon-character mother began her lecture, “you can’t cook and you wouldn’t know the first thing to do about an incendiary bomb on the roof!” In another wartime illustration, a little girl in a pinafore played tea party with a doll dressed smartly in a military uniform. In England and the United States, girls received an interesting and mixed set of messages during World War II: dolls and bombs, tea parties and battles, dresses and uniforms, domesticity and tenacity, femininity and bravery.

      Trying to be a good...

    • 9 Holy Girl Power Locally and Globally: THE MARIAN VISIONS OF GARABANDAL, SPAIN
      (pp. 179-194)
      JESSAMY HARVEY

      In a journalistic article on the importance of the 1917 Marian apparitions in Fatima (Portugal) for understanding the history of the Cold War, Joseph Bottum recasts the part of the cold warrior. Bottum speculates that the real shaper of the Cold War is not, in fact, an adult political leader but a young peasant girl:

      Here’s a curious thought. Maybe the single most important person in the 20th century’s long struggle against communism wasn’t Ronald Reagan. Maybe it wasn’t Karol Wojtyla or Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa or Vaclav Havel, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Mikhail Gorbachev. Maybe it wasn’t anyone whose name...

    • 10 Rebels, Robots, and All-American Girls: THE IDEOLOGICAL USE OF IMAGES OF GIRL GYMNASTS DURING THE COLD WAR
      (pp. 195-214)
      ANN KORDAS

      Gymnastics, a sport that cultivates and rewards agility, grace, and elegance in young women, would, on the face of it, seem unlikely to generate controversy in the international arena. Women’s gymnastics, however, has long had a political dimension to it. Although women’s gymnastics has been an Olympic sport since 1928, its political import first became apparent at the 1952 Helsinki Games, when the young female gymnasts from the Soviet Union dominated the competition, garnering hundreds of points for the USSR and enraging the American media.

      The newly politically charged nature of gymnastics, and of the gymnasts themselves, was the result...

  9. Part III The Education of Girls

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 215-216)

      “The Education of Girls” brings together six case studies that assess the role of education in girls’ lives and the reasons why education was offered. The authors in this section demonstrate how education can be an agent of the state or a tool of colonialism, while at the same time a way of empowering girls to shape their own worlds, identity, and destiny. Together, these chapters suggest that girls are educated (at home, in school, and in other institutions) for aims that not only further nationalism and empire but also promote family and individual status. Girls have found education empowering...

    • 11 Palestinian Girls and the British Missionary Enterprise, 1847–1948
      (pp. 217-233)
      NANCY L. STOCKDALE

      In the nineteenth century, imperial-minded Britons became increasingly fascinated with the fate of Palestinians, the residents of the “Holy Land,” who came to figure prominently in Orientalist imaginations. Alternately viewed as living examples of biblical characters, decadent “Orientals” who did not deserve to reside in the sacred space of Christianity’s origin, and pitiful Others oppressed by Islam and Ottoman despotism, Palestinians were targeted by British missionaries for religious and cultural conversion. Children figured large in missionary plans because they were viewed as pliable and more easily swayed than adults. Missionaries hoped to bring children under their religious and cultural influence,...

    • 12 “The Right Kind of Ambition”: DISCOURSES OF FEMININITY AT THE HUGUENOT SEMINARY AND COLLEGE, 1895–1910
      (pp. 234-249)
      S. E. DUFF

      The period 1895 to 1910 is a particularly useful window through which to analyze the production of white femininities in the Cape Colony.¹ The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries represent a major turning point in South African history, as the country shifted from being a collection of British colonies and Boer republics to becoming a unified and semi independent state in 1910. This process entailed major social upheaval as people defined themselves in relation to the massive changes under way. Whites were more sharply differentiated between English- and Afrikaans-speaking groups, whereas both communities distanced themselves from the waves of...

    • 13 Stolen Girlhood: AUSTRALIA’S ASSIMILATION POLICIES AND ABORIGINAL GIRLS
      (pp. 250-267)
      CHRISTINE CHEATER

      In Darlene Johnson’s short filmTwo Bob Mermaid,¹ an Australian Aboriginal mother peers through a wire fence watching her daughter, the two-bob mermaid, as she swims in the whites-only pool in Moree in northern New South Wales. The two-bob mermaid is pale skinned: she can pass as a white girl. As she leaves the pool with her white friends, a group of Aboriginal girls call out “Tidda” (or sister), a reminder of her hidden identity.² Like most of the creative works produced by Australia’s Aboriginal people,Two Bob Mermaidis semiautobiographical. The Aboriginal mother is Darlene Johnson’s grandmother, and the...

    • 14 Fathers, Daughters, and Institutions: COMING OF AGE IN MOMBASA’S COLONIAL SCHOOLS
      (pp. 268-288)
      CORRIE DECKER

      The two women quoted here, both of whom attended primary school in Mombasa, Kenya, during the British colonial period (1895–1963), criticize mothers for not promoting the education of their daughters. They see marriage as an interruption of the complete education they believe all girls should receive. When they attended school in the 1940s and 1950s, their own mothers and grandmothers argued that schooling got in the way of initiation and marriage, traditional markers of entry into womanhood in Mombasa. Indigenous education was gender-specific; girls learned from older women about womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, while boys learned the work of...

    • 15 Mothers of Warriors: GIRLS IN A YOUTH DEBATE OF INTERWAR IRAQ
      (pp. 289-303)
      PETER WIEN

      As I argue inIraqi Arab Nationalism: Authoritarian, Totalitarian and Pro-Fascist Inclinations,1932–1941, which examines authoritarian, totalitarian, and pro-Fascist trends in Iraq during the 1930s and early 1940s, the Iraqi nationalist press cast youth in the role of reviving the strength of the Arab nation. Most of this debate on youth took place in Baghdad-based Arab nationalist newspapers during the second half of the 1930s. The debate was predominantly about masculinity under threat by effeminization through the temptations of a Western lifestyle. The debate reflected a broad generational conflict inside the growing politicized middle class of Iraqi urban society....

    • 16 “‘Homemaker’ Can Include the World”: FEMALE CITIZENSHIP AND INTERNATIONALISM IN THE POSTWAR CAMP FIRE GIRLS
      (pp. 304-322)
      JENNIFER HELGREN

      Representing the Camp Fire Girls of America, one of the United States’ most popular youth organizations, Eleanore Korman of the national programming department declared in the mid-1950s, “Our girls need to increase their understanding of the word ‘homemaker’ in order to accept positively their future careers. ‘Homemaker’ can include the world, and a little more, if we only let it.”¹ The statement represented a vision of girl citizenship, emerging in the post–World War II era, that both expanded and constrained girls’ roles. As the war drew to a close, youth organizations in the United States reevaluated their programs and...

  10. Part IV Girls to Women:: Work, Marriage, and Sexuality

    • [PART IV Introduction]
      (pp. 323-324)

      The chapters in the final section of this volume explore a variety of “coming of age” experiences around the world, focusing specifically on challenges to the definition of girlhood. By probing this definition of girlhood in light of the seemingly adult experiences of labor, sexual activity, rape, and marriage, these chapters show how work roles have often been conflated with sexual coercion and stigmatization.

      Colleen Vasconcellos, for example, examines how girlhood and slavery influenced and changed each other from 1750 to 1838. Specifically, she examines how the threat of abolition and Jamaican planters’ response to that threat jointly affected the...

    • 17 From Chattel to “Breeding Wenches”: ABOLITIONISM, GIRLHOOD, AND JAMAICAN SLAVERY
      (pp. 325-343)
      COLLEEN A. VASCONCELLOS

      In 1745, Governor Edward Trelawney of Jamaica published a controversial pamphlet titledAn Essay concerning Slavery. Much to the consternation of his constituents, he wrote, “I cou’d wish with all my Heart, that Slavery was abolish’d entirely, and I hope in time it may be so.” Unlike those who depended on a constant supply of Africans to the island, Governor Trelawney believed that Jamaican planters already owned far too many slaves. Furthermore, Jamaica’s planters neglected and mismanaged these slaves. Still, Trelawney realized that ending slavery in the colony would bring ruin not only to an economy dependent on slave-produced sugar...

    • 18 Girls, Labor, and Sex in Precolonial Egypt, 1850–1882
      (pp. 344-362)
      LIAT KOZMA

      On the night of October 8, 1864, a girl named Sariyya was crushed to death in a cotton press factory in Alexandria. The accident took place after dark, in the female section of the factory. The division of labor in the factory was gendered: while the men were responsible for pressing the cotton on the upper level, the women dealt with the cotton that came out of the shafts of the pressing machine on the lower level. The woman in charge of the female workers, a woman named Imbaraka, sat outside of the factory at the time of the accident....

    • 19 Defiant Daughters and the Emancipation of Minors in Nineteenth-Century Mexico
      (pp. 363-381)
      KATHRYN A. SLOAN

      Sixteen-year-old Juana Silva ran off with her sweetheart, Melquiadez Barzalobre, a nineteen-year-old shoemaker, in 1871. Her single mother, María, citing God as her only witness, complained to the court that the young man had seduced her daughter. Court officials initiated an investigation and complaint ofrapto de seducción,or abduction by seduction, an offense punishable by four years in prison. Police apprehended the star-crossed couple, and court officials lined up participants and witnesses to tell their version of events. Juana testified first. She swore that she packed her meager possessions and voluntarily fled to Melquiadez’s house because she loved him...

    • 20 The Shifting Status of Middle-Class Malay Girlhood: FROM “SISTERS” TO “SINNERS” IN ONE GENERATION
      (pp. 382-402)
      PATRICIA SLOANE-WHITE

      Twenty-first-century middle-class Malay Muslim girls are often portrayed as “seducers,” “sinners,” and “material girls,” sexualized symbols of global modernity’s dystopia, a place where mothers are working and absent, family is dissolving, and children no longer obey. But a generation ago, their mothers—twentieth-century middle-class Malay Muslim girls—were valorized as “sisters to modernity” for contributing to national development, andtheirmothers were valorized for shaping that modernity. In this chapter I hypothesize that the valuing of girls in modern middle-class Malay Muslim society since Independence in 1957 is contingent upon the cultural authority granted to or denied their mothers; in the...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 403-406)
  12. Index
    (pp. 407-422)