"Domestic" Life in the Diggings:
The Southern Mines in the California Gold Rush
Susan Lee Johnson
In 1853, Helen Nye wrote from California to her mother in Massachusetts: "I have heard of Miners at some diggins subsisting for days on Acorns of which we have a very fine kind in this Country." Nye was a white woman whose husband was a merchant at Don Pedro's Bar, in the area known during the Gold Rush as the Southern Mines. She explained to her mother how newcomers learned to make use of the oak tree's bounty by watching native people during their autumn harvest. In general, though, Gold Rush immigrants saw the food that Indians most valued as something to be eaten only in dire circumstances. As Charles Davis explained to his daughter in Massachusetts, while acorns, grass, and wild oats abounded in the Sierra Nevada foothills, these were suitable only for "Wild Indians and Wild Animals." Davis's disdain for native sustenance suggests that cooking and eating became sites of contestation in the diggings. In fact, this was the case all over the gold region, given the relative absence of women there. But it was especially true in the Southern Mines, which was both the homeland of Miwok Indians and the destination for a majority of non-Anglo American immigrants to Gold Rush California, including Mexicans, Chileans, French, Chinese, and some African Americans. In the Southern Mines, culinary practices fit into a larger constellation of activities that signaled for many a world of confusion—men mending trousers and caring for the sick, Anglos dining on acorns and frijoles. As Edmund Booth complained to his wife back in Iowa, "Cal. is a world upside down—nothing like home comforts and home joys."
To understand why California seemed like a world standing on its head, one must ponder the multiple meanings of such everyday practices as eating acorns, digging gold, and inhabiting a race or a gender. Even in so short a time as the Gold Rush years and even in so small a place as the Southern
Mines, meanings proliferated, evolved, collided. While native people there lived in communities with roughly equal numbers of women and men, among immigrant peoples skewed sex ratios meant drastically altered divisions of labor in which men took on tasks that their womenfolk would have performed back home. Analyzing how men parceled out such work and how they thought about what they were doing tells us much about the content of gender in the Gold Rush. Crucial too are the meanings of the domestic and personal service work that the small number of non-native women did in California, and the perceptions native and immigrant peoples held of one another's ways of manufacturing material life.
Skewed sex ratios in the diggings were accompanied by an extraordinary demographic diversity: people came to California from all over the world, producing and reproducing ideas about color, culture, and nation that, on U.S. soil, often coalesced into conversations about race. Race, like gender, is a set of changing ideas about human difference and hierarchy, and a relation in which those ideas are put into practice. In a time and place like Gold Rush California, its meanings pulsed through everyday life like an erratic heartbeat. For instance, the way that certain tasks, such as cooking or laundry, came to be associated with certain non-Anglo men demonstrates how constructions of race could be mapped onto constructions of gender in the diggings.
Indeed, in the boom years of the Gold Rush, relations of class were often obscured or even subsumed by the day-to-day salience of gender and race. This was in part because the means of getting gold during the initial boom was by "placer" (surface, individualized) mining rather than "quartz" (underground, industrialized) mining. Placer mining required almost no capital and did not necessarily entail a hierarchy among workers—claims could be staked for free, the necessary tools were simple and easily built or acquired, and the work could be done (though it was not always done) by a small group of people who rotated tasks. Later, entrepreneurs developed "hydraulic" mining, a more capital-intensive means of exploiting surface deposits, whereby men shot powerful streams of water against hills assumed rich in "deep gravels." When hydraulic and quartz mining took hold, they were accompanied by an elaboration of class hierarchies. Class relations followed a different course in areas—like much of the Southern Mines—where insufficient water and underground deposits thwarted development of hydraulic and quartz mining. In such areas, class-making was often signaled by the growth of local water companies, whereby capitalists bought up rights to scarce water and then sold use of the water to placer miners who needed it to wash gold-bearing dirt. But all of these developments—water monopolies and hydraulic and quartz operations—came about as the initial boom, which was predicated on rich surface diggings, began to give way to a bust. In the early years of the Gold Rush—roughly 1848 to 1853—class contests and sol-
idarities often had as much to do with immigrants' memories of class in their homelands as with actual social relations structured through divisions of labor in the mines. Gold Rush California was an unusual time and place.
This, though, is not news; historians have long noted the social peculiarities of the Gold Rush. Indeed, while not all histories of the event and its context have been self-consciously social histories, all have attended to key social dimensions of the demographic cataclysm that followed the 1848 discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Most have noted that "society" in the diggings was, first, mostly male and, second, significantly multiracial and multiethnic. These two demographic realities, along with the initial absence of state power in the foothills, the social implications of that absence, and the suspension of some class distinctions, are among the most oft-mentioned aspects of Gold Rush California. Yet with one exception—an important new cultural history that compares arguments about the meanings of gold in both American California and Australian Victoria—twentieth-century scholarship has stressed questions of social structure over those of social meaning. Newer work, then, must build on these earlier accounts, employing interrelated modes of analysis developed in ethnic studies, feminist studies, and cultural studies. That is, to the concern with demography we must add a concern for the content of social categories such as gender or race.
In this essay, I explore some social meanings and cultural consequences of two of the peculiarities that have interested Gold Rush historians—that is, the relative absence of women and the overwhelming presence of polyglot peoples. I do so by concentrating on what might be thought of as "domestic" life in the diggings—and especially on practices relating to cooking, serving, and eating meals. Not everyone in the Southern Mines dug gold, but everyone did perform, or relied on others to perform, life-sustaining and life-enhancing tasks such as procuring provisions and preparing food. Since few could reproduce the divisions of labor that made performance of these tasks seem more or less predictable and culturally coherent back home, Gold Rush participants devised new ways to provide for their needs and wants. But all the while they wondered about what it meant that Anglo American men were down on their knees scrubbing their shirts in a stream, that Mexican women were making money hand over fist selling tortillas in the gold town of Sonora, or that French men seemed so good at creating homey cabins in the diggings.
Distinguishing between two kinds of work—domestic and personal service work, on the one hand, and work in the mines, on the other—may seem to reify categories of labor. In making such distinctions, one invokes the discursive division between home and the workplace that accompanied the growth of industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century. One also echoes more recent Marxist-feminist delineations of productive and reproductive
labor, which have placed "reproductive" chores (often women's work) on a par with those "productive" chores (often men's work) assumed to constitute true economic activity.
But impulses similar to those that split home life off from labor in the nineteenth century—impulses scrutinized by twentieth-century feminists—also led most Gold Rush participants to view mining as qualitatively different from and more important than their other daily tasks. This makes intuitive sense, since immigrants traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to dig gold or to profit from those who did. Yet performing this privileged economic activity required that miners pay attention to the exigencies of everyday life. Then, too, for one group in the Southern Mines—Miwok Indians—gold digging rarely became the most important, community-defining kind of labor performed. So the dichotomy drawn here between mining labor and domestic and personal service work is at once heuristic and grounded in some, but not all, relevant historical circumstances.
In the end, though, the distinction serves another purpose. During the 1980s, historians learned to use poststructuralist analyses of language that show how binary oppositions work—oppositions such as the one between productive and reproductive labor. In the productive/reproductive labor distinction, for example, the leading term (productive or "breadwinning" work) takes primacy, while its partner (reproductive or "domestic" work) is weaker or derivative. This hierarchical relation mirrors some social relations of dominance and subordination based on gender, and also on race. So foregrounding "reproductive" or "domestic" labor in a history of a mining area, where mining labor might be assumed to take precedence, is itself a gesture toward unsettling that hierarchical relation. I begin, then, not in the mines, but in the canvas dwellings of Gold Rush participants.
Though most immigrants lived in such homes, the word "tent" actually described a wide variety of structures. Some people lived in cramped quarters, such as the Chinese men Scottish traveler J. D. Borthwick saw, who were organized "in a perfect village of small tents." But when miners stayed still for any length of time, they built more elaborate shelters. For instance, though Belgian miner Jean-Nicolas Perlot and his French companions lived at first in a small tent and a brush hut, within a year they constructed a sturdy log cabin covered with a canvas roof. In such cabins, immigrants built bedsteads and fireplaces, though some men remembered how improvised chimneys forced smoke inside instead of drawing it out. Heavy rain in the foothills could impair the draft of even a well-built fireplace, and Welsh-born Angus McIsaac noted in his diary that men living with such irritants often compared their smoky cabins to scolding wives or leaky ships.
McIsaac's observation suggests how readily Gold Rush participants saw in their material world metaphoric possibilities, how easily the frustrations of camp life took on gendered meanings. McIsaac himself thought a smoky
home was "ill compared" to a scolding spouse or a leaky vessel, noting, "were I compelled to take charge of either, I would on all [occasions] choose the former." While McIsaac considered a woman the most pleasing ward, he took for granted the gender hierarchy his words implied. Meanwhile, he and his neighbors took charge of their more immediate surroundings by christening their cabins with names that suggested, even celebrated, the absence of sharp-tongued spouses: Loafers' Retreat, Temperance Hole, and Jackass Tent. Like the white miners who called their camp Whooping-boys Hollow, McIsaac and friends took a certain pleasure in the canvas-covered world-without-women they created.
Not all shelters in the Southern Mines bespoke the ambivalent bachelorhood of men like McIsaac. Among immigrant peoples, more Mexican men than others came to California with their womenfolk. So some Mexican communities in the diggings celebrated different social possibilities than did Whooping-boys Hollow. One observer of such communities was William Perkins, a Canadian merchant in the town of Sonora, which was founded in 1848 by miners from the state of the same name in northern Mexico. Perkins was rhapsodic in his descriptions of Mexican camp life there:
I had never seen a more beautiful, a wilder or more romantic spot. The Camp . . . was literally embowered in the trees. The habitations were constructed of canvas, cotton cloth, or of upright unhewn sticks with green branches and leaves and vines interwoven, and decorated with gaudy hangings of silks, fancy cottons, flags, brilliant goods of every description; the many-tinted Mexican zarape, the rich manga, with its gold embroidery, Chinese scarves and shawls of the most costly quality.
For Perkins, the scene recalled "descriptions we have read of the brilliant bazaars of oriental countries." Whatever the orientalizing eyes of Perkins saw, there is no reason to doubt that Mexicans did indeed decorate their dwellings with bright flags and fabrics and serapes. Perkins noted that it was Mexican men who built the houses, and who, "leaving their wives and children in charge," went off during the week to dig gold. However few and far between, then, even in Gold Rush California there were eye-catching, welltended worlds-without-men.
For the most part, though, miners fended for themselves. Once they built cabins or pitched tents, inhabitants had to organize domestic labor such that all stayed well-fed and healthy. The most common type of household in the boom years of the Gold Rush was that of two to five men who constituted an economic unit: they worked together in placer claims held in common, alternating tasks and placing the gold in a fund from which they purchased provisions. This generalization holds for most white men, both North American and European, and most free African Americans during the Gold Rush. It may hold for many Mexican and Chilean and perhaps some Chinese men
as well. But for those North Americans, Latin Americans, and Chinese who went to California under conditions of slavery, debt peonage, or contract labor, other domestic arrangements probably obtained. And whenever women were present in the camps or whenever men lived in or near towns with boardinghouses and restaurants, daily subsistence was a different matter.
All Gold Rush households, save those of Miwoks, relied on tenuous market relations to supply most of their basic needs. Out in the camps, men traded in gold dust for supplies at the nearest store, generally a tent or cabin a fair hike from home stocked with freight hauled overland from the supply town of Stockton, in the San Joaquin Valley. Beef, pork, beans, flour, potatoes, and coffee ranked high on miners' lists of items purchased. In flush times they might also be able to buy onions, dried apples, or a head of cabbage, though fresh fruits and vegetables were the hardest items to find.
Limited foodstuffs spelled monotonous meals for most, but also encouraged people to exchange cooking techniques. Men from Europe and the U.S., for example, sometimes adopted Mexican practices. Perlot and his companions, en route to the mines in 1851 and low on provisions, met up with a party of Mexicans who were eating what looked to Perlot like turnips dipped in salt and pepper, fresh tortillas, and hearty beefsteaks cooked over an open flame. The Mexican men gave Perlot some raw meat, and he returned with it to his own party, proclaiming, "Messieurs . . . in this country, this is how beefsteak is cooked." Howard Gardiner, from Long Island, was less enthusiastic about the Mexican meals he learned to prepare during lean times, such as those based around pinole, recalling that he and his partners lived "more like pigs than human beings." Just as Gold Rush shelters took on gendered meanings, so too could Gold Rush food become racialized in its procurement, preparation, or consumption.
Among Latin Americans, men might try to appeal to one another's tastes, especially when commercial interests were at stake. Vicente Pérez Rosales, a small-time Chilean patrón who went to California with his brothers and five laborers, learned in mid-1849 that non-Anglos were being driven from the mines. So he turned his attention to trade, setting up a store filled with Chilean cheese and beef jerky, toasted flour, dried peaches, candied preserves, and barrels of brandy. All items sold well except the jerky, which was full of what looked like moth holes. So the Chilean merchants laid the jerky out in the sun and coated it with hot lard to fill up the apertures. Then they piled it up in a pyramid shape and doused it with Chilean hot sauce. The pungent smell caught the attention of some Mexicans, and so the traders told the customers that it was the kind of jerky "served to the aristocracy in Santiago." Pérez Rosales recalled, "We lied like experienced merchants who assure a trusting female customer that they are losing money on an item, and would not sell it at such a low price to anyone but her." Here and elsewhere Pérez Rosales turned Mexican unfamiliarity with Chilean food-
stuffs to his advantage, playing on envy of aristocratic privilege and, in his own mind, making women of Mexican men, thereby underscoring Chilean manliness. Such interethnic episodes, which were charged with taken-forgranted notions of gender and tinged with class meanings, must have occurred frequently in the Southern Mines.
Most immigrants, like these Mexican customers, preferred to purchase their provisions. But during the first few winters of the Gold Rush, floods and treacherously muddy roads between Stockton and the foothills brought severe shortages of supplies. So many miners tried to supplement store-bought food by hunting and fishing, and a few gathered greens or planted small gardens. Not all who hunted met with success. New Englander Moses Little brought down some quail just in time for Christmas dinner in 1852, but he spent most of his shot at target practice. William Miller, also from New England, had better luck. He and his white partners were camped near a group of free black miners, and in addition to joining together to dam the river and work its bed, the two parties went out deer hunting with one another and otherwise shared provisions. Heavy rains foiled the mining plans, but the African American and Anglo American residents of the camp continued to exchange gifts of fresh venison—despite harassment from white southerners who resented the presence of free blacks. By Christmas, one of the black men, Henry Garrison (born in New York but emigrated from Hawaii), had moved into Miller's tent. All parties spent the holiday together indulging in a "Splendid Dinner" of venison and the trimmings, and dancing to the music of Garrison's fine fiddle playing. Though men were not always successful hunters—given both the inexperience of immigrants from towns and cities and the decline in foothill animal populations wrought by the Gold Rush—cultural memory of hunting as a male pursuit encouraged men to give it a try.
Fewer men planted gardens or gathered greens. So visitors were astonished by Perlot's singular store of herbs and vegetables. After serving salad to an incredulous miner in the mid-1850s, Perlot took him on a stroll: "I led him a hundred paces from the house . . . where I gathered chervil; a few steps farther to a place where cress was growing well . . . ; a little farther, I found lamb's lettuce." One of Perlot's partners, the French Louvel, had planted the garden the year before. On seeing it, the newcomer exclaimed, "My God, . . . how stupid can you be! to suffer four years as I have, without having had an idea as simple as that."
Still, most immigrant men suffered from the dietary deficiencies created by their ignorance of the wild plants that Miwok women gathered and their unwillingness to grow more familiar crops. Perhaps they hesitated to plant vegetables because their campsites were temporary, or because kitchen gardens were generally women's responsibility back home. Whatever the reason, their reluctance made them sick. George Evans, for example, could not
fathom why he was too ill to work in the mines, until doctors told him he had scurvy. So he had friends gather wild cabbage and onions, and he bought some potatoes and a bottle of lime juice. His health took a turn for the better.
Evans, given his condition, was wise to eat his vegetables raw, but most miners cooked their food and had to decide among themselves how to share culinary duties. The evidence for such divisions of labor says more about Anglo men than other gold seekers, but Europeans and free blacks, at least, seem to have followed similar practices. The Belgian Perlot claimed, in fact, that most men organized cooking in like fashion: "The rule generally observed between miners in partnership . . . was to do the cooking by turns of a week." Similarly, John Doble, from rural Indiana, explained, "sometimes one does the cooking and sometimes another and one only cooks at a time and cooks for all who are in the Cabin."
A man's "cook week" began on Sunday, when he prepared for the days ahead, as Moses Little recorded: "It being my week to cook I have been somewhat busy—more so than on other Sabbath—Coffee to burn A box full of nuts to fry Bread to bake & Beef to cut up & take care of." During the week, the cook continued to make large quantities of staple foods like bread and beans, in addition to getting up three meals a day. The days around New Year's, 1850, must have been the cook week of Henry Garrison, the fiddle player who lived with William Miller and his dancing partners, because Miller's journal for that period is filled with references to Garrison cooking breakfast, making apple pudding, and stirring up a "Beautiful Stew" of squirrel meat. Miller must have looked forward to Garrison's cook weeks, because at least one of his other partners had trouble even lighting a fire, say nothing of preparing meals. Domestic competence was hardly universal in the diggings, but men valued it when they found it among their comrades.
While it is more difficult to determine from English-language and translated sources whether most gold seekers adopted similar divisions of labor, such sources do provide some evidence of Chinese domestic habits. Yet white observers were more apt to note how odd they found Chinese foods, cookware, and eating implements than to describe how Chinese men divided up domestic work. When J. D. Borthwick visited Chinese camps, the miners invited him to eat with them, but he declined, finding their dishes "clean" but "dubious" in appearance. He added that he much preferred "to be a spectator," a role chosen by many a white man in his dealings with Chinese miners. The spectacle Borthwick described was that of a Chinese camp at dinnertime, with men "squatted on the rocks in groups of eight or ten round a number of curious little black pots and dishes, from which they helped themselves with their chopsticks." Borthwick's word picture evoked white men's visions of the Chinese; there was something both delicate and animallike in the circle of men with their curious cookware. While his words said as
much about white visions as about Chinese practices, they did suggest that Chinese miners working in large parties broke into smaller groups who shared meals, and that they used cooking and eating utensils from their homeland.
Some white men were more gracious than Borthwick when invited to join Chinese circles. John Marshall Newton was camped near five hundred Chinese miners in 1852. After helping the Chinese secure their title to a claim that had been challenged by English miners, Newton fancied himself a "hero" in his neighbors' eyes. The Chinese men did give him gifts and invite him for meals; no doubt they appreciated Newton's assistance in what often proved for them an inhospitable local world. But however much they credited his actions, they also relished making him the butt of dinnertime jokes. Invariably when Newton sat down to eat someone would hand him chopsticks. "Of course I could do nothing with them," Newton recalled, and so "the whole 500 seeing my awkwardness would burst out into loud laughter."
To the Chinese miners, their neighbor must have looked a bit like an overgrown child fumbling with his food. Still, despite this momentary reversal of a dynamic in which white men disproportionately held the power and resources necessary to ensure survival in the diggings, more often Chinese men found it expedient to curry favor with whites. In a situation where white men missed more than anything "home comforts and home joys," Chinese men could turn such longings to their advantage. Howard Gardiner, for example, lived for a time by himself near a Chinese man. Sometimes Gardiner would stay late working on his claim, and when he went home, he recalled, "I found that the Celestial had preceded me and prepared supper." Gardiner's neighbor must have found some benefit in looking after the white man. Meanwhile, for Gardiner the arrangement seemed so unremarkable—so familiar—that he granted it only passing mention. In everyday events like these, where men of color performed tasks white men associated with white women, Gold Rush race relations became gender relations as well.
Among some men in the diggings, such domestic practices were institutionalized. Timothy Osborn, a white man from Martha's Vineyard, lived in 1850 near a party headed by a Mississippi planter. The white planter brought four of his thirty black slaves with him from home, whom Osborn observed were "prompt in executing the commands of their master." Osborn, who did his own domestic work, remarked that the African American men "were very useful fellows about a camp . . . in cooking and keeping everything 'decently and in order."' Northerners sometimes complained about slave labor in the mines, but, if Osborn's sentiments were at all common, the idea of having someone else prepare meals for white men and clean up around their camps had its appeal. After all, this was a culturally intelligible division of labor, even if back home it usually followed what were understood as lines of gender rather than race.
Osborn did not stop to think why his black neighbors were so "prompt" in obeying their master—after all, California was admitted to the union as a "free" state as part of the Compromise of 1850. The New Englander later learned that at least one of the men had left behind a wife and children in Mississippi; this could have provided good motivation for helping the master achieve his goals as quickly as possible. Then, too, although four black men accompanied the planter to California, by the time the group left for home, only three joined the return party. Maybe one of the men had been able to buy his way out of bondage after a few months of diligent work in the diggings. This was a common occurrence in California, where the price of freedom was generally around a thousand dollars. Whatever motivated the African American men's behavior, Osborn himself could not help but look longingly at the services they provided.
In still other camps, men who were not in hierarchical relationships with one another nevertheless chose divisions of labor that bore resemblance to the habits of home. When Perlot teamed up with Louvel, the Frenchman who gardened behind the cabin, the two came up with such an agreement. According to Perlot, Louvel had a "refined palate" and was a superb cook. So the men decided to forgo cooking in weekly rotations: "Louvel . . . consented to do it alone, on condition that I would go hunting every Sunday. He concocted the stew, I furnished the hare; each one found his satisfaction in this arrangement." In the long run, the plan had its costs. During the summer, both Louvel and Perlot spent their time digging a ditch for water to make it easier to wash gold-bearing dirt once the rains began. When they finished and found the skies still clear, Louvel grew restless. As Perlot recalled, Louvel "had nothing for distraction but his culinary occupations," while Perlot kept busy hunting. After weeks of inactivity, Louvel left to join a fellow countryman further north. Perlot was on his own for several months until he found a new partner, for whom he immediately prepared a welcoming feast. This partner was the fellow who was so taken by Perlot's succulent salads—so taken that the newcomer, like Louvel before him, agreed to take on cooking duties indefinitely. Perlot had a way with men.
No doubt similar domestic arrangements existed elsewhere in the diggings. But most who could rely on someone to make all their meals by definition either lived in or near a boardinghouse, owned a slave, or had a wife. Thomas Thorne lived in the best of all possible Gold Rush worlds. An Anglo immigrant from Texas, Thorne came to the Southern Mines with both enslaved women and men and a white wife. Together Thorne's wife Mary and the enslaved Diana Caruthers and her daughters ran a boardinghouse that was renowned for delicacies such as buttermilk and fresh eggs. A few miners lived with the Thornes, while others took their meals at the cabin for a weekly fee. Neighbors like Charles Davis ate there only on occasion, as
Davis explained to his daughter: "here in California we can get . . . a great plenty of common food of every kind. . . . But no eggs, no Turkey, no Chickens no pies no doughnuts no pastry . . . unless we take a meal at Mrs. Thornes."
Even when black labor helped to create such plenitude, white men associated domestic comfort largely with white women—in this case, with Mary Thorne. When Mary was ill, Davis acknowledged that there was "nobody except the Old darkey Woman & her two daughters to serve up for the boarders." But his preface of "nobody except" defined the presence of the Caruthers women as a sort of absence. Indeed, while white men might credit the usefulness of slaves for housework, it was white women's domestic abilities that most enthralled them. After eighteen months of cooking for himself, Lucius Fairchild, a future governor of Wisconsin, moved into a sturdy frame dwelling where one of the residents lived with a wife and child. The Vermont woman kept house for the men, and Fairchild was ecstatic: "You can't imagine," he wrote to his family, "how much more comfortable it is to have a good woman around." Or, as a similarly situated Anglo gold seeker put it, "A woman about a house produces a new order of things."
It was not only family homes that triggered gendered and racialized imaginings. Roadside houses where white women cooked for travelers also proved good sites for conflating things culinary and things female. Consider how P. V. Fox described his stop at such an establishment: "Had beef steak, Pickled Salmon, Hash, Potatoes, Bread, biscuit, Griddle cakes & Sirrup, Tea & coffee. Pies & cakes, Peach sauce, and a chat with the land lady (The rarest dish)." It was indeed the case that meals at white women's boardinghouses were more elaborate than white miners' usual fare. In particular, where an Anglo woman served food, milk and eggs were sure to be found—not surprising, since cows and chickens had long been a special province of women in rural American divisions of labor. In California, the prospect of indulging in such items could take on the urgency of romance. On one occasion, Samuel Ward—brother of soon-to-be-famous Julia Ward Howe—was traveling to Stockton from the mines and hesitated to stop at a new wayside inn rather than the one kept by a male acquaintance on the Tuolumne River. But, he recalled, "a smiling hostess in the doorway and a tethered cow hard by tempted me." Then he completed the metaphor: "This infidelity to my friend, the landlord of the Tuolumne, was recompensed by the unusual luxury of eggs and milk, for which I felt an eager longing."
As Ward's turn of phrase suggests, men's longings and men's loyalties could be confusing in California. Domestic concerns were somehow female (were they not?) and so it was only natural (was it not?) that men would prove inept at caring for themselves in the diggings. Often enough, such was the case. But for every case of scurvy, for every burnt loaf of bread, for every
man who could not cook a decent meal for his partners, there were daily domestic triumphs in the diggings. When he first arrived in the mines, for example, Pennsylvanian Enos Christman complained that his flapjacks "always came out heavy doughy things" that no one could eat. But trial and error brought good results, as Christman proudly noted: "We can now get up some fine dishes! " What were men to make of the domestic contentment they found in the diggings? What did it mean when a New Englander sat down to his journal after a sumptuous trout dinner and wrote, "French cooks we consider are totally eclipsed and for the reestablishment of their reputation we . . . recommend a visit to our camp"?
For English-speaking men to liken themselves to French cooks was no empty gesture. Anglo American and British immigrants seem to have considered exaggerated domesticity a national trait among French men. Englishman Frank Marryat was delighted to find a large French population in the town of Sonora, "for where Frenchmen are," he wrote, "a man can dine." Likewise, A. Hersey Dexter, who suffered through the hard winter of 1852–53, claimed he was saved by "the little French baker" next door who allowed neighboring miners a loaf of bread each day. Yet it was the traveler Borthwick who best elaborated this vision. Borthwick described a French dwelling in Calaveras County that bore resemblance to that of Perlot and Louvel—a "neat log cabin," behind which was a "small kitchen-garden in a high state of cultivation." Alongside stood a "diminutive fac-simile of the cabin itself," inhabited by a "knowing-looking little terrier-dog." Along with Dexter, Borthwick insisted on fashioning French men and things French as somehow dainty (small, little, diminutive)—echoing Borthwick's descriptions of Chinese men huddled around their "curious little black pots."
But in French domestic lives Borthwick found nothing exotic—the cabin was neat; the garden was cultivated; even the dog had an intelligent face. Instead, Borthwick found among the French a magic ability to create a homelike atmosphere: "without really . . . taking more trouble than other men about their domestic arrangements, they did 'fix things up' with such a degree of taste . . . as to give the idea that their life of toil was mitigated by more than a usual share of ease and comfort." The experience of Perlot and Louvel, of course, indicates that some French-speaking men were more inclined to "fix things up" than others. But the Anglo propensity for casting all French men as a sort of collective better half in the diggings is telling. More explicitly than back home, where gender could be mapped predictably onto bodies understood as male and female, gender in California chased shamelessly after racial and cultural markers of difference, heedless of bodily configurations.
California was, for many, a "world upside down." Lucius Fairchild, for example, worked for a time waiting tables and felt compelled to explain the sit-
uation to his family: "Now in the states you would think that a person . . . was broke if you saw him acting the part of hired Girl. . . . but here it is nothing, for all kinds of men do all kinds of work." Besides, he went on, "I can bob around the table, saying 'tea or Coffee Sir.' about as fast as most hombres. " Though Fairchild insisted it meant nothing in California, his explanation suggested that it meant a great deal—white men bobbing around tables waiting on other white men. If he could act the part with such enthusiasm, did gender and race have less to do with bodies and essences than with performing tasks and gestures? No doubt Fairchild thought he could tell a "natural" hired girl from a "made-up" one. But the anxiety such situations produced could be striking. Fairchild, for example, compared his own performance not to those of "real" women but to those of other "hombres"—as if the English word might not adequately insist upon his own essential manhood.
It was true that people who thought of themselves as "hombres" rather than "men" had less call to wait on or be waited on by other male gold seekers. Mexican men, as noted, arrived with their womenfolk more often than other Gold Rush immigrants. Mexican women did domestic work in California not just for husbands and brothers but often—at a price—for larger communities. Consider, for example, the party assembled in 1848 by Antonio Franco Coronel, a southern California ranchero. Coronel went to the diggings with four servants, two native men and two Sonorans, a woman and her husband, who were indebted to their patrón for the cost of the journey north. The Californio gave the woman a half-ounce of gold each day to buy provisions for the group. Of her own accord, she started preparing more food than her party could eat; the extra she sold. She charged a peso a plate for tortillas and frijoles, and eventually earned three or four ounces of gold (fifty dollars or more) per day.
Likewise, in the town of Sonora, Mexican women made a magnificent display of their culinary talents, cooking in open-air kitchens huge quantities of wheat and corn tortillas to serve along with a sopa of meat cooked in chile sauce. William Perkins recalled that both Indian and Spanish Mexican women sold their wares in this manner, while native men who had once lived in Spanish missions passed through the weekend crowds carrying buckets of iced drinks on their heads and singing out "agua fresca, agua fresca, quatro reales. " A few white women also sold food in quantity—one gold seeker met a woman from Oregon "who cooked and sold from early morn to dewy eve dried apple pies for $5.00 each." But nowhere did Anglos create the extensive commercial domestic world that Mexican women, along with Mission Indian men, set up on the streets of Sonora. It was a world that was reminiscent of Mexican cities where women supported themselves by hawking tortillas, tamales, and fresh produce. Even Hermosillo and Ures in northern
Mexico could not have produced as many willing customers for women's wares as the Gold Rush town of Sonora, however. There is no way to quantify how much gold dust passed from men's to women's hands in this domestic marketplace, but it must have been considerable.
Still, as Fairchild's waitressing suggests, this commercial sphere included men who provided goods and services as well. Fairchild was not alone in serving his fellow (white) man, but more often men who did such work were not Anglo American. Helen Nye, the woman who lived at Don Pedro's Bar, was in a good position to keep track of the demand, in particular, for non-Anglo cooks. Her home was also a boardinghouse, but she did not prepare the meals. In letters to her mother and sisters, Nye explained her absence from the kitchen in a number of ways. Once she intimated that her husband had decided to hire a French cook, seemingly over her objections. On another occasion, she wrote that although she wanted to help out, "about all who hire as Cooks prefer to do the whole and have the regular price." In yet another letter, she complained that her cook Florentino had "left in a kind of sulky fit" and that his job landed in her hands. This, she wrote, "was too much as it kept me on my feet all the day."
The shifting ground of Nye's explanation suggests that she worried about what her female relatives might think of her circumstances. Still, the male cooks kept on coming. Florentino got over his fit and returned, and he was preceded and followed by others, including an African American man. And though Nye implied that her husband made hiring decisions, she once revealed her own hand in the process by writing to her sister, "I think I shall try a Chinese cook next they are generally liked." Nye's compulsion about explaining her relationship to domestic duties and her inconsistent descriptions indicate that novel divisions of labor could unsettle notions of womanliness as well as manliness. What did it mean for a white woman to turn over cooking to a French man, a black man, a Chinese man?
It was confusing—the way that gender relations, race relations, and labor relations coursed into and out of customary channels in California, here carving gullies out of hard ground, there flowing in familiar waterways, whereby women waited on men, darker-skinned people served lighter-skinned people, and a few held control over the labor of many. Beyond food preparation, other kinds of domestic and personal service work became sites of confusion and contestation—especially laundry, sewing, and the care of convalescing men, activities that were often gendered female in immigrants' homelands. Washing clothes, for example, was generally the province of individual miners in the diggings, but in more densely populated areas, women and men of color often took in laundry for a price of twenty-five to fifty cents per piece. White men's letters and diaries indicate that Mexican women, African American men, and, most especially, Chinese men all opened wash houses in the
Southern Mines. But however often white men scrubbed their own shirts or handed them over to people of color to wash, they were haunted by memories of white women who did this work back home. A bit of Gold Rush doggerel entitled "We Miss Thee, Ladies" called white men in California "a banished race," and lamented to "ladies" left behind:
We miss thee at the washing tub,
When our sore and blistered digits,
Hath been compelled to weekly rub,
Giving us blues, hysterics, figits.
One of the more serious indications that life in the diggings did indeed give immigrant men "figits" about race and gender is the extent to which Gold Rush personal accounts, written primarily by Anglo Americans and Europeans, are filled with painstaking descriptions of native sexual divisions of labor. No other people's daily habits so interested white men, and no aspect of those habits proved so fascinating as the seemingly endless round of Miwok women's work. This was not a new fascination. For nearly three centuries, Europeans and then white Americans had commented on native divisions of labor, concluding that Indian women did most of the work while Indian men frittered away their time hunting and fishing. Historians have studied the actual differences between native and white divisions of labor that gave rise to such perceptions, as well as the ways in which such perceptions bolstered Euro-American ideologies of conquest. These elements infuse descriptions of California Indian practices as well.
But Gold Rush accounts were written in a particular historical contex—tone where men far outnumbered women, where a stunningly diverse population inhabited a relatively small area, and where most turned their attention to an economic activity that offered potential (however seldom realized) for quick accumulation of capital. In this context, where differences based on maleness and femaleness, color and culture, and access to wealth and power were so pronounced and yet so unpredictable, curiosity about the habits of native peoples took on a special urgency. In particular, men who recently had assumed responsibility for much of their own domestic work now seemed preoccupied with how differently native women maintained themselves and their communities.
White men were especially interested in how Indian women procured and prepared acorns, perhaps the single most important food Miwoks ate. In 1852, for example, John Doble watched as a nearby Miwok encampment grew from three bark huts to four hundred in preparation for what he called "a big Fandango." As he approached the camp, he found a half-dozen Miwok women at work. Suddenly he realized why he had seen in the foothills so many flat stone outcrops filled with round indentations. It was
on such surfaces that women sat pounding acorns with oblong rocks; the holes were created by the repeated impact of stone against stone. Once the acorns were hulled and ground, Doble observed, women leached the meal to remove the bitter-tasting tannic acid. Then they made it into bread or else boiled it, which involved dropping red-hot rocks into tightly woven baskets filled with water.
Other men's descriptions of this process shared Doble's obsession with detail, an obsession matched rarely in Gold Rush personal accounts save in explanations of placer mining techniques. Even miners' own culinary efforts did not receive as much attention as those of native women. It was almost as if, in their diligent representations of the seemingly reproductive work of Miwok women and the seemingly productive work of mining men, diary and letter writers tried to reinscribe ideas about gender difference that life in the diggings had so easily unsettled. But ideas about gender difference were always already ideas about race difference, and Miwok women were not the "ladies" whose absence made white men fidget. Indeed, in California, difference piled upon difference until it was hard for Gold Rush participants to insist upon any one true order of things. After all, no one could deny that white miners also performed "reproductive" tasks. Nor could anyone deny that native women's customary chores were "productive"—or that Miwok women now panned for gold as well. Besides, there were few simple parallels between Indian women's labor and the Euro-American category of "domestic" work. Try as men might to remember the comfort of customary gender relations, discomfort and disorientation were far more common in the diggings. In response, immigrant men tried to make sense of what they saw by drawing on an older discourse that opposed native women's drudgery and native men's indolence.
It was a familiar refrain. French journalist Étienne Derbec knew the tune: "It is generally believed that the Indians live from the hunt; but, mon Dieu! they are too lazy." Derbec claimed that Indian women always struggled under heavy burdens—either baskets of seeds and nuts when out gathering or family provisions when traveling—while men carried only their bows and arrows. Enos Christman, watching Miwoks pass through Sonora, noted this too: "The women appeared to do all of the drudgery, having their baskets . . . well filled with meat." A more thoughtful diarist might have noted whose work produced the animal flesh the women carried.
Friedrich Gerstäcker, a German traveler, assessed native divisions of labor differently. He acknowledged that a woman had to collect seeds, catch insects, cook meals, rear children, and bear heavy loads, while a man merely walked about "at his leisure with his light bow and arrow." But Gerstäcker thought he understood why: "though this seems unjust," he wrote, "it is necessary." He went on, "in a state of society where the lives of the family de-
pend on the success of the hunter, he must have his arms free." Still, the seemingly contradictory impulse either to castigate native men for their sloth or to elevate their economic role to a position of dominance arose from a common, culturally specific concern about the meanings of manhood.
This concern had its roots in the changing social and economic order that sent such letter, diary, and reminiscence writers off to California in the first place—one in which the transformation from a commercial to an industrial capitalism was accompanied by an increasing separation of home and workplace and by shifting distinctions between male and female spheres. White men who aspired to middle-class status were quickly caught up in this whirlwind of change, and the uncertainty of their own positions in the emerging economic system made the potential for quick riches in California all the more enticing. What most found in the diggings was no short-cut to middle-class manhood, but rather a bewildering array of humanity that confounded whatever sense of a natural order of things they could find in mid-nineteenth-century Western Europe or eastern North America. They might try to reinscribe gender difference through ritual descriptions of Miwok women's "domestic" chores and their own "breadwinning" labor. But, in the self-same gesture, that reinscription produced and reproduced race difference as well. Besides, the content of both immigrant and Indian lives in the diggings defied such easy oppositions.
Then, too, Miwok people talked back. Native women in particular looked with disbelief at how immigrant peoples organized their lives. Leonard Noyes, for example, recalled that an older Indian woman one day gave him "quite a Lecture on White Women working [too] little and Men [too] much." "She became very much excited and eloquant over it," Noyes remembered, "saying it was all wrong." In exchanges like these, Gold Rush contests over the meanings of gender and race—always close to the surface of everyday life—were articulated emphatically.
And Miwok sexual divisions of labor were not unchanging; they were dynamic constructions that shifted according to the exigencies of local economies impinged upon by market forces. At times native people resisted the changes, continuing older practices to an extent that bewildered immigrant observers. As Timothy Osborn exclaimed, "so long as a fish or a squirrel can be found . . . they will not make any exertions towards supplying themselves with any of the luxuries so indispensable to the white man!" He watched as Miwok women gathered acorns, and wondered why they did so, "while with the same labor expended in mining they could realize gold enough to keep them supplied with flour and provisions for the entire winter!"
Elsewhere, immigrants saw different strategies. Friedrich Gerstäcker noted, "the gold discovery has altered [Indians'] mode of life materially." On the one hand, he thought, "they have learned to want more necessaries," while
on the other, "the means of subsistence diminishes." More and more, Miwoks supplemented customary ways of getting food with gold mining in order to buy nourishment. Perlot recalled that in 1854 he regularly saw Indian women traveling to immigrant towns in Tuolumne and Mariposa counties to purchase flour with gold they had dug. At Belt's Ferry on the Merced River, where Samuel Ward lived, Miwoks probably spent more time mining than they did gathering and hunting. Following an Indian-immigrant conflict in 1851 known as the Mariposa War, merchant George Belt received a federal license to trade with local Miwoks as well as a contract to furnish them with flour and beef in order to keep the peace. Ward watched over Belt's ferry and store, and got to know native people who felt their best chance for survival lay in setting up camp near an Indian trader. Mining, performed by both women and men, supplied the gold they used to buy goods at the store. Still, problems multiplied in the contract for provisions, and even goods for purchase failed to appear on the shelves. So Miwok women frequently fanned out in search of seeds and nuts, and Miwok men watched for salmon runs or headed down to the San Joaquin Valley to hunt for wild horses.
The more things stayed the same, the more they changed. Miwok men watched for salmon, but found the fish had been waylaid by dams built downstream. Miwok women gathered, but just as their menfolk had added horse-raiding to hunting duties decades before, so might women now pan for gold as often as they collected acorns. White men looked for women to wash their clothes, but instead of wives or mothers, they found a mart for laundry dominated by Chinese men. White women, few in number, set up housekeeping in California, but learned that there were plenty of men for hire to help lighten the burdens of everyday life. African Americans who came to the mines enslaved worked as hard as ever, but found, too, that the Gold Rush opened up new possibilities for freedom. Mexican women sold tortillas on the street, just as they had in Sonoran towns and cities, but discovered that in California the market for their products seemed as if it could not be glutted. And Chilean, French, and Mexican men engaged in one more strategy to help themselves and their families out of precarious situations back home. Given racial and ethnic tensions in the mines and Anglo American efforts to assert dominance in California, some such men were not lucky enough to escape with their lives. If they did, though, they learned that mining the white miners—with their incomparable nostalgia for "home comforts and home joys" and their sense of entitlement to the same—was both safer and more lucrative than washing gold-bearing dirt.
Still, as often as Anglo men patronized a commercial domestic sphere peopled largely by non-Anglos, they also turned inward to create for themselves the comforts and joys of home. Some men reveled in what one man called the "fellow-feeling" that grew out of shared domestic tasks. Many more bemoaned the absence of white women—for whom household chores
increasingly were considered not only a responsibility but a natural vocation—and belittled their own, often manifest, abilities to sustain life. Indeed, in the diggings, the process of idealizing the home and woman's place in it was uncomplicated by the day-to-day tensions of actual family households. Thus, gold or no gold, newly married Moses Little could write confidently that there were "riches far richer" back home with his "companion in Domestic Happiness." Benjamin Kendrick was similarly emphatic in his recommendation: "I would not advise a single person that has a comfortable home in New England to leave its comforts and pleasures for any place such as California with all its gold mines." But New Yorker A. W. Genung went farthest in giving the gold country's missing quality—domestic comfort—an explicit gender and, implicitly, a race. Acknowledging its advantageous physiography, fine climate, and economic potential, Genung nonetheless was adamant about California's chief deficiency: "The country cannot be a great country nor the people a happy people unblessed by woman's society and woman's love." The society of Miwok or Mexican women did not figure in Genung's equation; the woman whose love California lacked was white. For men such as these, the more things changed, the more things stayed the same.
For many, then, the gold boom created what seemed an unnatural state of affairs—even so, a state of affairs to which they were ineluctably drawn. Benjamin Kendrick might not advise a single person to leave an eastern home, but he and thousands upon thousands of men did just that. While Gold Rush California was an unusual time and place, it was a time and place of its historical moment and geopolitical position. Thus New Englander Kendrick no less than Californio Antonio Franco Coronel and Belgian Jean-Nicolas Perlot felt compelled to risk the journey. The U.S. had just achieved continental breadth when gold was "discovered" in the Sierra Nevada foothills—that is, not just when someone saw it in a sawmill's tailrace, but when it took on meaning in an expanding nation and an imminent industrial capitalist world order. The representatives of this emerging order were busy sending tentacles out about the globe, linking peoples, places, and products to each other in their pursuit of wealth. In this world of commerce and now of industry, gold was money, or wealth, that could be turned with human labor and tools of manufacture into capital. Not all who rushed for gold were capitalists—far from it—but all had been touched by capitalism's dynamic tendencies. Some sought gold to create capital; others to ward off that dynamism and its habit of turning human energy into labor power.
Those who sought gold, however, discovered much more than buried treasure. They discovered a world upside down. It was not just the white men who boasted about feather-light flapjacks, or the Mexican women who managed a domestic market, or the French men who tidied their tasteful cabins, or the Miwok women who panned for gold; it was a world turned by a
spasmodic fiasco of meanings. As time went by in the Southern Mines, Anglo American men—and their womenfolk, who arrived in large numbers only after the initial boom—found more reliable ways to assert dominance in the diggings. As even more time went by, and as the Gold Rush passed into popular memory, Anglo Americans, and particularly Anglo American men, found ways to claim the event as a past that was entirely their own. In so doing, they buried a past in which paroxysms of gender and race brought daily discomfort to participants, but also glimpses of whole new worlds of possibility. If we are to find in the Gold Rush a usable past at this present time, when changing relations of race and gender so bewilder those accustomed to power, we must dig deeply in the meanings as well as the structures of the "world upside down" that Edmund Booth described to his wife in 1850. We must understand a time and place wherein white men wept when they thought about what they believed they had left behind.
Consider an episode Enos Christman recorded in his diary in 1852. One night, two Mexican women happened by a group of Anglo miners who were settling into their blankets at Cherokee Camp, near Sonora. The traveling musicians produced guitars and a tambourine, and the men set aside their bedding, listened to the serenade, and then got up to dance with each other. As the night wore on, the music's tempo slowed, until finally the women started strumming the chords of "Home, Sweet Home." They did not intone the lyrics; these women had watched Anglo miners long enough to know that the familiar tune alone would evoke the desired reaction. The men responded apace: "Suddenly a sob was heard, followed by another, and yet another, and tears flowed freely down the cheeks of the gold diggers." The musicians walked away, their tambourine filled with pieces of gold.
Making Men in the West:
The Coming of Age of Miles Cavanaugh and Martin Frank Dunham
The field of western women's history began as a response to the fact that the majority of academic and popular histories of the North American West portrayed an overwhelmingly masculine world—a world in which Anglo-American men blazed trails, fought Indians, trapped beaver, herded cattle, plowed fields, drank, gambled, and whored. Then—if they survived all that—they settled down with good women and fathered a bunch of native westerners. Susan Armitage aptly called this approach narrating the history of "Hisland." Over the past two decades, historians of women have sought to revise that portrayal, first by peopling Hisland with women, then by rewriting western history as it would have been seen through women's eyes, creating a complementary "Herland." The most recent wave of women's history uses gender as a category of analysis, rather than a topic of study, a shift beyond work that conflates the term "gender" with women. But if we truly want to employ gender as a category of analysis, then we need to examine categories of both female and male and the ways in which ideal systems of womanhood and manhood influenced the beliefs and actions of women and men. In other words, we need to begin writing the history of the West as a history of "Theirland."
We know what the gender ideal for white, middle-class, Anglo-American womanhood was in Victorian North America: the prescriptions laid down by ministers, reformers, and Godey's Lady's Book, encapsulated in the "cult of true womanhood." We also know a good deal about how women lived according to those ideals—or deviated from them—through hundreds of examinations of women's lives in every region of the country. The construction of womanhood revolved around women's relationships to men—as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers. However, we know little of what men thought manhood should be or what ordinary fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers
thought about women. As Anthony Rotundo has pointed out, "Nearly everything we know about human behavior in the past concerns men and yet it is equally—and ironically—true that we know far more about womanhood and the female role than we know about masculinity or the man's role." For instance, did men really believe in the cult of true womanhood? Did men think about women as "good" or "bad"? If so, what kinds of relationships did they want with each? And how did they reconcile them? What exactly did a man want in a wife? And what did he think a husband was supposed to be? How did a good father behave? Within the boundaries of the gender system of North America's dominant culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, how did men themselves define manliness, and what role did their relationships with women have in shaping that definition? To paraphrase Ava Baron, knowing that gender, race, and ethnicity matter tells us little about how the categories of gender, race, or ethnicity develop, change, or operate in society. What we need to do is to historicize those concepts in our particular studies.
This essay offers a preliminary exploration of these questions through the lives of two men, Miles J. Cavanaugh, Jr., and Martin Frank Dunham, one born in the West, the other an immigrant to it. Cavanaugh and Dunham left behind intriguing, sometimes frustrating documents that reveal glimpses of what they thought about women, about coming of age, about what being a man in the West meant. Martin Frank Dunham journeyed to Edmonton, Alberta, in 1908, corresponding regularly with his fiancee, Edith Sander, in Berlin, Ontario. Dunham's letters cover the news, hopes, and disappointments of three and a half years. He kept writing because he kept postponing the wedding. He hadn't yet proved himself; he hadn't made his fortune in the great western land of opportunity; he wasn't yet man enough to take a wife. He was sure Edith would understand. MilesJ. Cavanaugh, Jr., a Montana pioneer, lawyer, legislator, and poet, wrote an autobiographical essay shortly before his death in 1935, which recounts his life from childhood to his early twenties. The bulk of the document deals with three years Cavanaugh spent in a Montana mining camp. He was a naive eighteen-year-old youth when he arrived, an experienced twenty-one-year-old man when he left. His account is fondly sentimental, dominated by romantic and sexual escapades, and shaped by the conventions of western storytelling with which he was familiar. These documents present the voices of two men informing us about their coming of age, their first jobs, their first serious courtships, and, in one case, his first experience with sex.
Miles J. Cavanaugh, Jr., was born in Denver in 1865 while his father sought his fortune in Montana's first gold rush at Alder Gulch. Cavanaugh Sr. returned to Denver to claim his son and wife and brought them to Montana in 1866. A victim of wanderlust, Cavanaugh kept the family moving in search of his main chance. At one point the Cavanaughs settled in Butte
long enough for Miles to complete school in 1882 as a member of Butte High School's first graduating class of three.
The following year, at the age of eighteen, Miles accompanied his father to the Comet mine near Wickes, Montana, thirty-five miles northeast of Butte. He worked as a hoisting engineer and bookkeeper and lived with other single men in the town's boardinghouse. When the new schoolteacher, Isabelle, arrived, Miles "was immediately smitten" and sought to monopolize her company. He became Isabelle's regular escort at all dances and community social events, and took her riding and walking. Miles, however, did not spend all his free time with the schoolteacher, for he had also discovered, in back of the cluster of town residences, "a four roomed frame house, comfortably tho not elaborately furnished, with a seeming surplus of bedrooms." The house was owned by a saloonkeeper and occupied by a quiet, comely brunette of about twenty-four years known only as Nellie.
Late one summer night Miles "stealthly" paid a call on Nellie. During previous conversations in the saloon he had been struck by her intelligence. This night she told him of her past tainted by an early marriage "to a man who had abused and afterwards deserted her, of her vain struggle with life in the city, and of drifting later into her present way of life." Miles was infused with sympathy, "and somehow, tho I never sensed just how and why it happened we repaired to her bedroom and retired. For the first time in my life I became conscious of the warmth and softness of a womans body in contact with my own. This new experience with its delirious sensation and subsequent languorous relaxation left nothing to be desired, and when just before dawn, I left for my own sleeping room my mind and body were filled with wonderment at this new phase of life that had been opened to me."
Miles visited Nellie on other occasions, "but never again did I experience the wild joy, the inexplicable delight of that new and entirely strange biological experiment." During this entire period, Miles continued to court Isabelle, to take her riding and for moonlight walks, never hinting of his dalliance with Nellie, nor seemingly moved to engage in similar activity with his schoolteacher sweetheart. In fact, "never a kiss nor caress was exchanged between us to excite desire. I just adored her. I never thot of her as a woman in the sense that Nellie was."
As two other stories from the autobiography demonstrate, Miles was not as innocent as his recollections of Nellie imply. In describing the social entertainments of the camp, for example, he recalled one masqued ball, during which he had assumed "the guise of an elegantly, if scantily attired young lady," a costume he procured from a traveling prostitute who regularly visited the camp around paydays. When he left the dance intending to cross the street for a drink at the saloon, he was followed by an eager male admirer. Determined not to betray his masquerade, he tried to elude his suitor by weaving through the town, but finally, too chilled to continue, he sought
refuge in his own house, thus starting the rumor mills grinding. His pursuer returned to the dance and reported "that he had run the painted lady to cover" in Cavanaugh's sleeping apartment, and, as Miles wrote, "another scandal was started on swiftly widening waves among the prudes of the village."
A page or two later Miles related another incident of sexual pursuit, this in the genre of western tall-tale telling. A prospector returned to camp and released his three burros, including a female named Jennie. Shortly thereafter another miner arrived in camp and unloaded his weary male burro. Burro pheromones took over: although tired and hungry, the new arrival "no sooner saw Jennie loitering near, than in his mind thoughts of rest and food were displaced by visions of sexual conquest, and to effect his purpose he unsheathed a very formidable weapon for the attack." Miss Jennie was not interested, and she, too, led her suitor on a race through the camp, at one point into the kitchen of the local boardinghouse. By this time, the chase of asses had drawn quite a crowd, including "many timid housewives peer [ing] thru curtained windows to witness the deflorations of virginity." Jennie finally leapt onto the roof of a dugout, but alas was trapped, and there "in the presence of the interested spectators his fell purpose was accomplished while tears streamed from poor Jennie's eyes." The lesson to be drawn from this incident, Miles concluded, was "that ultimate success depends on ruthless persistent aggressiveness."
In yet another tale of sexual derring-do, Miles again acted as the object of desire, in a play scripted by his father. Cavanaugh Sr. had been in Bannack developing a gold mine and boarding with its owners, Mr. Sheehan, a seventy-four-year-old gentleman and his wife, a blond beauty of twenty-five. Sensing that the May-December match might not last, Cavanaugh Sr. sought to insinuate his son into Mrs. Sheehan's good graces and arranged to have Miles visit. While Cavanaugh occupied Mr. Sheehan with the mine, Mrs. Sheehan became quite taken with Miles, who "was twenty now, and strong healthy and not repulsive in looks or manners and of a very sensitive and sympathetic disposition." One morning while he was in the library, she appeared and suddenly asked, " 'Do you mind if I kiss you?' " He replied, " 'I should say not' whereupon she gave me such a kiss as almost took my breath." Miles claimed to be terrified and as soon as he could, he returned to Comet and his chaste, "adored Isabelle." Mrs. Sheehan later reappeared in the narrative as a rich divorcee, but having been rejected by Miles, she in turn scorned him.
Late in 1886 the mine at Comet began to fail and the camp to disband. Miles went on to study law. And what of Isabelle and Nellie? In one sentence Miles reported that Isabelle married a miner and moved to a distant camp. Nellie, in the fashion of hundreds of western prostitutes, simply disappeared.
The young Miles Cavanaugh was confused about women and what to do with them. His stories about himself reveal a search for the appropriate role he should play in the quest for romance and sex. Should he hunt the objects of his desire with "ruthless persistent aggressiveness"? Should he become the object of pursuit? Could he steer some middle course? When chased, he retreated in terror, and unlike poor Jennie, escaped inviolate except for one kiss. When he wooed ardently it was without eroticism; his courtship of Isabelle was on an ethereal plane. The result seemed to be that she married someone else. His liaisons with Nellie were hardly the result of an aggressive campaign. Miles wants us to believe that it was an almost unconscious, accidental course that brought him to the prostitute's bed.
Miles Cavanaugh liked all the women he wrote about. Nevertheless, he sorted them and his relationships with them into categories shaped by late Victorian sexual ideology, which limited his ability to respond to any of them as a full human being who combined the intellectual, spiritual, and erotic. Isabelle was the lady: pious, pure, educated. She came to the mining camp as the symbol and instrument of civilization. Isabelle was Molly Wood to Miles's Virginian. Nellie was the whore with the heart of gold. Mrs. Sheehan became the dramatized version of the gold digger and western divorcee, a relatively unexplored stereotype of western women. She is the woman who comes west not as a bearer of civilization and not as a prostitute, but as a person looking for her main chance. As we will see in the examination of Frank Dunham, such women made men very uncomfortable. Miles Cavanaugh's autobiography reveals his affection for women and his delight in their company, but he portrays them as virtual caricatures. None possesses the complex personality of an interesting person nor the many-hued emotional palette of fears, desires, and curiosity that Miles himself did.
Martin Frank Dunham was nearly twenty years older than Cavanaugh and an immigrant to the West, yet the two had much in common. Born in Ontario in 1882 into a family of devout farmers, Frank signed the pledge not to drink or smoke at the age of eighteen, and as a young man in Edmonton he occasionally felt hampered by his inability to dance. Nevertheless, his religious upbringing brought him comfort and imbued him with a strong sense of morality. Although he irregularly attended church in Edmonton and later Camrose, he enjoyed himself at Methodist socials which echoed his life in Ontario. In the West, however, he broke his pledge, regularly smoking cigars and occasionally taking a drink.
Frank apparently had no desire to be a farmer. He attended Normal School, for two years taught in Berlin (the town name was changed to Kitchener during World War I), and in 1904 was accepted at the University of Toronto. In order to earn money for school he spent two summers in England selling stereoscopic views. In 1904 he also met Edith Lillian Sander, daughter of Solomon Sander, a successful Berlin merchant. They began
corresponding when Frank went to England in the summer of 1904. In 1907 Frank graduated from the university and started work as a reporter for the Toronto Daily Star. A year later he headed west having accepted ajob on the Edmonton Bulletin, founded by Frank Oliver to promote regional agriculture. In route he stopped in Chicago where Edith was studying music and painting and presented her with an engagement ring.
Frank was twenty-six when he arrived in Edmonton, and ready to take advantage of any opportunities the West offered him. Edmonton was a bustling prairie city. Originating as a Hudson's Bay Company fort, Edmonton had boomed as a launching point for the Klondike gold rush in 1897–98. In 1906 Edmonton became the capital of the recently formed province of Alberta. By 1908 the city had over eighteen thousand residents and Strathcona, the community situated on the bluffs across the North Saskatchewan River, another forty-five hundred. It was a market city, with grain elevators, flour mills, lumber- and brickyards, a pork packing plant, and the commercial businesses necessary to support a regional economy of coal mining and agriculture.
Frank Dunham was an unadulterated optimist. On his first day in Edmonton he wrote to Edith that he was "simply delighted with the West. To come out here is the best move I ever made and after being here only one day I can almost say that I never want to live East again." For all the time he remained in the West he never changed that point of view. Time after time, he told Edith that the West was a land of opportunity, a great country, a place where an ambitious and hard-working man could make his fortune: "The longer I live out West the more hope I have in this country and the brighter I see my chances for success. I have some big schemes in my mind at the present time, which I must not mention further, but which will mean great things somewhere in the future if I can carry them out." When a visitor from the East reminded him of the West's lack of music, culture, and art, he momentarily regretted the possibilities of the life he had abandoned in Toronto. Nevertheless, he was ever optimistic that these amenities would soon arrive in Edmonton. He agreed with his visitor that westerners seemed to think of very little but "the race for wealth," but he was content to be one of them, "to remain in the west where a great country is being built up and where I feel that I am sort of getting in on the ground floor.
Frank chronicled with personal satisfaction the completion of a streetcar system in Edmonton, negotiations for a railroad bridge across the North Saskatchewan River, the laying of the cornerstone for the provincial legislature building, the arrival of a new steamer for outings on the river, and the performance of every visiting artist to the city—all of whom received favorable reviews from him in the pages of the Bulletin. Frank was a booster. His job required him to travel throughout Alberta reporting on the state of ag-
riculture and the growth of communities. When he took charge of the Camrose Canadian in 1910, he also readily assumed the job of publicity commissioner for the town and produced an immigration bulletin designed to lure settlers to the area.
Newspaper reporting was hardly the most lucrative of jobs; although Frank made steady improvements in his position, from reporter for the Bulletin to managing editor of the Canadian, he saw his real economic opportunity in real estate. He plowed all of his savings into city lots, first in Strathcona and then in Camrose. He eagerly took on the job of publicity commissioner in Camrose, figuring that when immigrants contacted him about opportunities, he would be able to sell them his land. Frank did turn a profit, but apparently never as much as he hoped. At one point he sold two lots in Strathcona and reported that had he waited a week he could have made considerably more. On the eve of his marriage he informed Edith that he was not doing as well as some, although he had improved his assets, and she need not worry about being provided for.
For Frank, manhood was achieved through comradeship with his male friends ("I never aspired to be popular with the ladies but I always covet the respect and good will of my own sex"), respect earned from his boss and coworkers, and ability to provide for a wife. Frank did not become part of the cult of physicality that Anthony Rotundo describes as part of the "the Masculine Primitive," the ideal of manhood that was coalescing in the last half of the nineteenth century. Quite matter-of-factly, Frank recounted riding and walking miles across the Alberta countryside in the course of his daily work and relaxing on Sunday by skating and playing hockey. Frank loved sports and admired sportsmen, but he was not enamored of competition and drew no particular attention to his physical accomplishments. Most often he would write about skating parties, amateur hockey, and organizing baseball games and contests as part of agricultural fairs designed to boost Alberta. In 1911 Frank told Edith that he had met a man whom he would like to emulate. This was the Methodist minister, Reverend Robert Pearson, whom Frank had known in Toronto and who was now evangelizing in the West. Frank felt Pearson, by example more than by his preaching, set the model for manhood: "In his college days he was a great rugby player and has continued to be a great lover of sport while preaching the gospel. His life exemplifies the manly man, the man who knows the temptations of life and yet who instead of shunning the world mingles with the world and does what he can to make it better." Frank, too, embraced his world and presented himself to Edith as a man always on the go, hard pressed to carve out time on Sunday to write to her. He was always making contacts who, he assured her, would prove useful in the future, and he kept an eye out for his golden opportunity. He seemed to relish just about everything he did.
But what did he think about women, about Edith, and about how she would fit into his life? Frank Dunham was a man who believed that a woman's place was in the home, the church choir, and the ladies' club. He disparaged a spinster he met as "single and fair fat and forty." One evening in 1910 he planned to go to a Methodist service where the advertised sermon was "the ideal wife." "No doubt," he wrote, "there will be a large gathering of the fair sex there to attempt to divine the reason why they have not as yet worked their charms on men." Noting an apparently large number of single women in Edmonton, he confessed he did not understand why they had come there: "They occupy positions as stenographers in business places and the government offices and cannot help but lose more and more their power of being home makers." Frank acknowledged women's struggle to meet the expenses of city life, and pitied them, but he seemed to have no understanding that perhaps women also hoped Edmonton would be their place of opportunity. In fact, Frank seemed to think that the women who came west were of dubious character. In a discussion of unsuccessful marriages, he noted, "I have seen several cases lately where young men have picked up with western girls whom they know very little and have been sorry for it, or at least I had better say that I have been heartily sorry for them." In his mind the problem was not with western men, but with western women: "the girls down East are far superior to the majority that can be found out here." Frank may only have been trying to reassure Edith that he was not attracted to any of the women he met in Edmonton, yet his comments betray a deeper uneasiness. What seemed to disturb Frank was not a migration of "unsuitable" women, but the fact that women who came west to find work or husbands, who independently and aggressively pursued their futures—as he was—were not behaving as he thought women should.
For Frank, women who did not choose a life of domesticity were deeply flawed. In one of the many letters to Edith anticipating their future together, he attested, "I know . . . that the instincts of home are strong in you and mean more to you than all the foolish vanities which so many girls are engaging their paltry brains in these days. You have a better conception of a true woman's career, Edith, than any girl I ever met, and I love you for that." He looked forward to the day when they could set up housekeeping for he believed "that the home life is the only life and that no man is truly happy and fortified against temptations until he is a married man." Frank respected Edith's good influence, her kindness, her sense of Christian duty, and her common sense. He treasured these qualities and, since he continued to postpone their wedding, he relied upon them to keep in her good graces.
Frank delayed their marriage because he had not yet met his standards of what he believed necessary to take a wife. Edith was at home surrounded
by friends and family, who apparently kept wondering when Frank was going to come and marry her. He did not see the public side of their engagement; he interpreted friends' interest as inappropriate inquisitiveness. Frank offered Edith sympathy, but he was not about to be rushed. In the first letter in which he addressed this issue he wrote, "I have only been out of college a year and a half and in that time I do not think I have as yet a sufficiently firm grip on this old world to launch on the sea of matrimony." He summed up, "I do not feel that as yet I have made good." Frank confessed he needed more time to convince the people of Edmonton that he had "the right stuff." Again in May 1909, after accompanying a newly married friend to look for an apartment, he told Edith that he would not consider a flat a suitable home for her. Since she had been raised in a beautiful house, he would not ask her to begin life "at the bottom of the ladder." In 1909 he canceled a trip to see her in order to take a new job as city editor for a new paper, the Daily Capital, and in 1911 he delayed his scheduled departure for his wedding several times because he wanted to take advantage of situations which he believed would advance his position. Edith was disappointed, and probably angry, but she kept her anger well hidden, perhaps because the one time she expressed it, Frank's response was so unsatisfactory.
Only once in more than three years of correspondence did Edith reveal her ire concerning Frank's behavior. She had not heard from him in several weeks and must have expressed her displeasure strongly. Frank apologized but also patronized: "I do not blame you for feeling the way you do, but are there not other ways of curing a man of a bad habit other than giving expression to your anger? Explosions of this kind do ease one's sense of injustice I know but they really do not look well on paper. Good nature in a girl is everything." Frank postponed their marriage because he believed he had not yet proved his manhood, either to Edith or to his peers. Yet, while caught up in his own efforts to construct his identity, he found time to give Edith advice on how to hone her femininity—mainly by acquiescing to his decisions.
Still, with a few exceptions—when Frank felt Edith was pressing him to come home or write more frequently—he had nothing but praise for her nature and her activities. Frank approved of Edith's participation in women's clubs and in fact hoped that when she arrived in Camrose, she would breathe some spirit into the women's clubs of that town. However, he had a limited vision of appropriate public activity and was confident she agreed: "You would make a fine militant suffragette with all your physical strength and auburn hair," he wrote in 1910, "but I know it would be useless to have anyone solicit your active interest. You know the value of the women at the fireside too well for that."
During the time that Frank was in Alberta, he often escorted young women to recitals, house parties, church socials. Yet he apparently always acted in the most platonic and brotherly fashion. According to his letters, Edith was the only woman whom he ever courted, and in some ways the only woman to whom he ever paid any real attention. On the eve of his departure to marry her he penned, "Believe me Edith there never at any time has been any thought in my mind but that you are the only girl I have ever met that I would want to marry. This has often had the effect of my being very independent towards women an attitude which I believe I have carried too far for my own good." Interestingly, he assumed marriage would change his attitude toward all women: "when we get together around our own fireside I must be taught to respect the wishes of yourself and women in general much more than I have done. It will take me some time to do it Edith but you will find me a willing student for I realize what a man loses by shunning too much the society of women." According to the record he left, Frank had shunned sexual activity as well as the companionship of women. In this same letter, which he used to allay any fears Edith might have about what kind of bargain she was making, he testified, "I know what you expect of me in the way of purity of life and conduct and I am glad to say Edith, that I do not expect to have to make any apology to you in this respect." (Of course, Miles may have said the same thing to Isabelle.)
What happened to Cavanaugh and Dunham after they completed their apprenticeships as men? Miles read law with Senator Thomas Carter, was admitted to the bar in 1891, and returned to Butte in 1894. He served two terms in the state legislature, one term as assistant city attorney, and on the city school board. Sometime in the early 1890s he married Alphonsine Milot, who bore him two daughters, and presumably died, for there is no record of divorce and Miles remarried in 1897. He was active in Butte civic clubs and in the Society of Montana Pioneers. He also wrote poetry, hundreds of verses over the course of his life, and short stories. Miles Cavanaugh's passing made the front page of both Butte newspapers. He died in 1935 at the age of seventy and was lauded as a scholar, poet, and citizen. His wish that a volume of his poetry be published was never fulfilled, although individual poems were. None of his stories or autobiographical writings ever saw print but were included in a vast collection of Montana history and memorabilia collected by his son-in-law and donated by his daughter to Montana State University.
Frank Dunham left the West much sooner than he had anticipated. He did bring Edith back to Camrose after their wedding in 1911, seven years after they began courting. She did host tea parties and join the church choir. Their first child was born the day before their first wedding anniversary, another daughter sixteen months later. When World War I broke out Frank
moved his family back to Ontario. If he was called overseas he wanted Edith close to her family. But he spent the war years working for a newspaper in Stratford, Ontario. He died in 1948 at the age of sixty-six; Edith lived for another seven years.
Dunham and Cavanaugh, one son of the East, one of the West. These are, of course, only two men, a small and perhaps unrepresentative sample. So can their voices, autobiographical and intimate, tell us anything about late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ideologies of masculinity? Miles and Frank had much in common. Although born almost twenty years apart, their life courses paralleled in many respects. Both were ambitious. Not satisfied with the work they obtained after high school, they went on to college. Both graduated at age twenty-five and then spent several years establishing themselves in their respective fields—law and journalism—before they married, Frank at age twenty-nine, Miles also in his twenties, and for the second time at age thirty-two. But what of their attitudes toward women, their ideas of marriage, their sexual behavior? Do they share anything here as well? Does Frank's eastern Methodist upbringing shape him to be a different man than Miles, son of western wanderlust?
Frank held the nineteenth-century middle-class view that a man's life was incomplete without marriage, that in fact a dwelling place only became a home when it was the locus of a wedded couple. He believed that a true woman like Edith would be a morally uplifting influence, that she would temper his overweening materialism, polish his rough edges, gently incorporate him into a social life he had shunned. And all this would be to the good. Frank had put Edith on a pedestal. He measured all women he met against her and found them wanting. Surely his words of praise and love must have pleased her. However, it was a daunting task to live up to Frank's ideal. On those few occasions when Edith got angry or expressed impatience or disappointment, Frank reacted with some sympathy, but with greater defensiveness and condescension. Frank was lonely and working hard in order to bring Edith west and make her his wife. Indeed, he saw Edith as his reward for years of work and loneliness. He seemed unaware of the inequality of their relationship or the powerlessness that Edith must have felt. Edith, in the prime of her life, was waiting at home to take up her career while Frank was busily consolidating his.
Miles shared Frank's view of marriage. In a wedding toast in 1888, he proposed, "He has not lived who never had a wife, nor she who never had a husband. The happiest phase of man's existence is born of the very ceremony we witness here tonight." Miles revealed more of his sexual behavior and attitudes about sexuality than did Frank. What he discloses are ideas also documented by Anthony Rotundo in his study of hundreds of middle-class men in the Northeast. Miles's sexual experimentation and attitudes were
not unique to western men. Miles made distinctions between "good" and "bad" women, or more accurately between asexual and sexual females. Female sexuality was alluring, comforting, dangerous, and disreputable. We do not have enough information about Miles's wives to know anything about them, but odds are they were both more like Isabelle than like Nellie or Mrs. Sheehan. Miles came of age in Comet. He lived independently of his family and had his first steady work. He fell in love, and he lost his virginity, quite significantly with different women.
Dunham and Cavanaugh's presentations of themselves suggest the strong persistence of a core of values that defined Anglo-American middle-class manhood from the early nineteenth century perhaps to the norm-shattering days of World War I. These included a commitment to work as the defining attribute of identity and a conviction that youthful work should result in a professional career; a belief that marriage was the validation of mature manhood and that an appropriate mate embodied the tenets of the cult of true womanhood; and a sexual ideology that could and did divorce love from eroticism.
One problem in assessing the stories of Dunham and Cavanaugh is that we lack a context for the examination of western-bred men. Just as women's history was born in the cradle of New England, historians' first studies of manliness, manhood, and masculinity are coming out of the Northeast and Midwest. And just as historians of western women first had to break down lingering stereotypes of gentle tamers, pioneer drudges, and whores with hearts of gold, historians of western men will have to humanize even more deeply entrenched icons of rugged mountain men, stoic braves, and romantic cowboys. Attention to the experiences of Teddy Roosevelt, Owen Wister, and Frederic Remington has created a West that served as a spa for the restoration of masculinity eroded by the pressures of industrialization, incorporation, and urbanization—a spa whose therapeutic retreat prepared men to return to the fray of eastern life. If anything, Dunham and Cavanaugh's stories show that the West was home, not way station. White, middle-class, well-educated though they were, Cavanaugh and Dunham were not caught up in the clutches of the masculine primitive ideal that apparently gripped so many eastern men of the late nineteenth century.
Pursuing this difference may be a fruitful avenue of further research in regional variations of gender ideology. Were men like Cavanaugh and Dunham, who were born in the West or who came, stayed, worked, and married there, more secure in their ability to deal with the "primitive"? Dunham and Cavanaugh accessed the western environment through daily work. Did the vigorous life become so much a part of everyday life that it negated a compulsion to impose continuous physical challenges to prove one's manhood? The stories of Miles Cavanaugh and Frank Dunham tell us that much
is yet to be learned about men's response to the West. They remind us that work and family were at the heart of men's daily lives as well as women's, and that men as well as women shaped themselves in the mirror of each other's eyes. Only by recovering and analyzing the intimate stories of men's and women's relationships with the western experience will we be able to write a truly gendered and truly human history of the region.
Maternalist Politics and "Racial Rehabilitation" in the U.S. West
As those familiar with Navajo culture realize, Changing Woman was its most revered deity, a figure whose beneficence and wisdom left an enduring cultural heritage. A symbol of cyclical change and continuity, for Navajos she represented a maternal power of great benefit to family and community. For whites, however, she and other American Indian spiritual figures represented a subversive "superstition" that sustained a dangerous communalism and a disorderly system of gender relations.
As Bettina Aptheker has observed, "cultural heritage is an instrument for holding family and community together—a task that is often seen as women's work." Because women have a major role in the socialization of the next generation and because they work to create the emotional milieu in which identity is formed and experienced, the politics of gender, culture, and identity are emotionally and politically freighted. Examining women's roles and actions in processes of cultural reproduction and their meanings for the construction of gender, race, and class relations is one goal of my study of racial ethnic women in modern America.
Dominant groups have often sought to regulate the roles and activities of women in order to reproduce or reconstruct race, class, or gender relations in a changing context. Under these circumstances, women become the object and vehicle for change—changing "woman," thus, becomes a policy concern. In the period under consideration here, the early decades of the twentieth century, the potential subversiveness of women as mothers made the regulation of maternity a critical component of the construction of race, class, and gender relations in the United States.
The relationship between maternity and the state is a topic of increasing interest to feminist scholars. Most historical studies of the politics of ma-
ternalism in the United States in this period have focused on the eastern states, emphasizing the creation of mothers' pensions and of infant and maternal health policies as the most significant expressions of state welfare and intervention for women, and examining the racial dimension of state maternalism only with reference to African Americans. Although some note the surveillance and regulation of the lives of working class and racial ethnic mothers that accompanied state provisions for them, most scholars regard the mothers' pensions and related programs as generally beneficial and empowering for women.
An important critic of that view is Gwendolyn Mink, whose article on the race and gender politics of welfare provision points to the contradictions of the welfare state and its meanings in an increasingly heterogeneous culture. Mink concludes that the formative influence on the American welfare state was "the clash between racial diversity and an idealized American citizenship." The idealized citizen was decidedly masculine; he was economically self-supporting and, thus, assumed to be invulnerable to political corruptions. The conflation of racial differences and impoverishment in the minds of middle-class white Americans heightened their "concerns about the compatibility of democracy and diversity."
For female and male reformers in this period, gender became the mechanism for mediating these tensions. Middle-class women were to model good motherhood and monitor the conditions and practices of motherhood among immigrants, racial minorities, and the poor in order to ensure the reproduction of capitalist workers and democratic citizens. This project of "racial rehabilitation" required a politics of assimilation linked to the surveillance and regulation of motherhood. According to Mink, mothers' pensions in particular "more directly and more rigidly policed and prescribed the moral qualities of motherhood."
Turning our attention to the West reveals important and overlooked dimensions to these dynamics by extending our analytic purview to policies aimed at American Indians, Mexican Americans, and others. This reveals that the gendered politics of race and citizenship were formulated and implemented as public policy prior to the mothers' pension movement of the 1910s and included various forms of exclusion and maternal dispossession as well as maternal regulation. Indeed, many Americans, then and now, have imagined the West as the locus for the enactment of an ongoing struggle between "civilization" and "savagery" whose gendered dynamics have received scant attention.
That struggle entailed the policing of a shifting system of "internal frontiers" that were simultaneously imagined and institutionalized. According to Ann Stoler, "a frontier locates both a site of enclosure and contact, of observed passage and exchange." The permeability of boundaries—whether
geographical, political, or cultural—invests their maintenance with inordinate significance. In the American West, those boundaries were supposed to contain a particularly dense tangle of intersecting and overlapping interests and identities. Indeed, as Patricia Limerick has noted, the racial/ethnic "diversity of the West put a strain on the simpler varieties of racism." When combined with highly contested notions of gender, Mink's "clash between racial diversity and an idealized American citizenship" assumed forms in the West that were complex and nationally salient.
Relations between American Indians and European Americans provide the most and least obvious case of this proposition. This is so because, until recently, these relations have occupied the center of historical scholarship on race relations in the West while their connections to gender have received scant attention. The symbolic and material roles of women in cultural reproduction provide the links between the two systems.
For many, motherhood was the most central of those roles, particularly for policy-makers. As Ann Stoler has noted regarding imperial relations, colonial officials feared that metis children would remain sentimentally bound to the cultures of their indigenous mothers. The recognition that women were critical to the assimilationist agenda contributed to whites' anxiety and vigilance regarding women's relationships to "civilization." The centrality of racial ethnic women in shaping the loyalties and competencies of their children was a source of power and danger for them—it positioned them to resist some of the impositions of whites while making them vulnerable to drastic interventions in their families.
This places women who are not from the dominant culture in ambiguous positions. As mothers, they inevitably have to mediate between two cultures, often with contradictory meanings for themselves, their children, and their husbands. Because cultural identity has frequently been defined in terms of traditional family organization and associated with activities often carried out by women, including food preparation, child socialization, and religious observance, the problem of adapting to the dominant culture and its institutions has automatically involved a challenge to gender roles and relationships. As such, it has sometimes promoted gender and intergenerational conflict as women and men define their roles in the process of adaptation and/or resistance to the dominant culture.
Despite apparent similarities in the motives of those who would reshape motherhood to white, middle-class specifications, the importance and form of maternalist interventions varied from group to group and over time. I will briefly compare their expressions regarding Mexican American and American Indian women from the 1910s through the 1930s.
Maternalist policies toward Mexican Americans were contradictory, deriving in part from the role of immigration in shaping the relationship of
all people of Mexican descent to the U.S. government. As George Sanchez has documented, gender-based assimilationist policies directed at Mexicanas were an important expression of state interest in producing compliant citizens and workers for democratic capitalism. At the same time, state support for Americanization programs waned in the 1920s, in part because officials assumed that many immigrants would remain Mexican nationals and in part because women resisted these efforts. Sanchez, however, fails to explain that resistance, adopting an implicit binary model of culture (American vs. Mexican) and taking women's defense of traditional culture for granted even though his evidence reveals a generational conflict among women over cultural meanings and gender.
The acculturative pressures of the dominant society had contradictory effects on Mexican American women's family roles and power. They diminished women's maternal power by socializing their children to new values and promoting changes which made maternal experience an inadequate guide to effective behavior in a new cultural setting. At the same time, however, they sometimes prompted women to revise the gender basis for parental authority in their families. Because they experienced the liabilities of patriarchal family structures along with their children and because they often identified with the concerns and goals of their second-generation children, Mexican women often subverted the traditional family order. They, thus, found themselves experiencing conflicts with their husbands over parental decisions and roles and over the implications of cultural adaptation for the interrelated politics of gender and ethnic identity.
At the same time, however, the circumstances of the American immigrant experience necessitated a strong familial orientation, especially for women. The social isolation of some Mexican farm households in the Southwest and the migratory nature of much Mexican work enhanced the importance of kin networks. Poverty and prejudice increased the need to maintain family ties in order to ensure economic security and to provide emotional support in the face of an often hostile Anglo society. For Mexican women, the family often served as a buffer against the vicissitudes of American life. The complicated interconnections of emotional and practical dependency, however, created particular difficulties for women as they sought a measure of self-definition and autonomy in their lives.
In an urban context, social controls loosened, particularly in relation to young women. For many Mexican mothers, the "new Woman" symbolized social license and increased women's vulnerability to various forms of sexual exploitation. One such mother complained as follows:
It is because they can run around so much and be so free, that our Mexican girls do not know how to act. So many girls run away and get married. This terrible freedom in this United States. The Mexican girls seeing American girls
with freedom, they want it too, so they go where they like. They do not mind their parents; this terrible freedom. But what can the Mexican mothers do? It is the custom, and we cannot change it, but it is bad.
The threat to motherhood as a central source of power and a mainstay of dignity for women posed by Anglo middle-class institutions and values made many Mexican women wary of the dominant culture's influence in their lives and, especially, those of their children. Some tried to take their daughters to Mexico to secure husbands and avert American social relations. Others sought to impose rules to diminish their daughters' contacts with American institutions, fearing that those contacts would pose a threat to religious values and maternal authority.
In the 1920s, the perception that the flapper represented a substantial challenge to Mexican values was quite accurate and was expressed in a large number of corridos (ballads) written about the threat she posed. In "El Enganchado," or "the hooked one," the singer laments that "the girls go about almost naked" and "even my old woman has changed on me—she wears a bob-tailed dress of silk, goes about painted like a pinata and goes at night to the dancing hall." He concludes that he is returning to Michoacan and "as a parting memory I leave the old woman to see if someone else wants to burden himself." These ballads consistently link Mexicanas' adoption of the fashionable femininity symbolized by the flapper with a neglect of domestic responsibilities and an abandonment of the language, food, and gender systems of Mexican culture. By virtue of her independent sexuality, the subversive agringada (flapper) disrupted the entire moral order and threatened a political capitulation to the dominant class/ethnic order.
The idea of woman as traitor, as old as the legends of Eve and Malinche, signifies women's anomalous position within culture—responsible for its maintenance and reproduction, but expected to acquiesce in men's control over its definitions, and thus, over its political relations. As Micaela di Leonardo has observed, "ethnicity itself is seen to belong to men: they arrogate to themselves (and identify with) those ethnic characteristics maintained by women to whom they are connected." In situations of cross-cultural contact, especially when economic, social, and political hegemony is at stake, cultural definitions themselves become contested terrain—within and outside of the group. As a result, the terms of assimilation/resistance to the dominant culture frequently created significant divisions between Mexican men and women. Moreover, as Maria Herrera Sobek concludes, the fact that Mexican women could exercise power through their cultural roles in order to claim and sometimes establish new definitions of Mexican American culture indicates the strength of their commitment to some forms of change.
In California and elsewhere, Mexican women were excluded from some of the benefits and regulations of the welfare state, but not from institutional
actions and dynamics that extended beyond those of the state. In this period, discrimination against Hispanics in public welfare laws reinforced women's dependence on their families for support in the absence of a male breadwinner. Under state and federal laws, various provisions and practices operated to exclude Hispanics from eligibility and to discriminate in the level of support provided. In Arizona, for example, the mother's pension law made assistance available only to citizen widows whose husbands had been citizens, thus excluding most Mexican women from coverage. The denial of agricultural workers and the imposition of residency and citizenship requirements under Social Security disqualified many Hispanics from later Aid to Families with Dependent Children and other programs. In Graham County, Arizona, the relief administrator reported the case of a woman (who was an American citizen married to a Mexican national) who had applied for welfare after her husband had been "repatriated" to Mexico. She, along with many others in similar circumstances, was refused assistance.
For Native Americans, maternalist interventions were much more drastic and absolutely central to fundamental policies in the early decades of the century. Acculturative pressures on Indians increased dramatically, supported by the forced education of a growing number of Indian children in institutions run by whites and by the swelling presence of missionaries, field matrons, Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, traders, and other agents of white culture on or near the reservations. Many of these officials believed that the reconstruction of Indian family and gender relations was critical to the goal of assimilation.
White policy-makers believed that assimilation required the imposition of individual property ownership, through a process of land allotment, and the construction of the gender relations they thought would ensure the integration of men into a system of private property and wage work and women into a family structure based on monogamous marriage and the nuclear family. The Dawes Act of 1887 was passed in order to secure the former goal, and numerous ad hoc policies were devised to achieve the latter. Although the Dawes Act was not applied to all Indian nations, it reflected the core assumptions driving assimilation and had devastating effects for the large numbers of Indians forced to abandon communal economies and their subsistence practices in favor of private ownership of small and often unproductive plots of land.
In order to enable the construction of the "free" Indian male citizen, white policy-makers insisted on the simultaneous creation of a dependent and subordinated Indian woman. His "independence" required her labor—domestic, reproductive, emotional, and productive. As wives, women were supposed to enact the domestic values that were normative among middleclass whites. They were to ensure the health and well-being of their families
through a frugal domesticity, maintain stable families through their emotional work, and restrict their public activities to some civic improvements.
To create such "normative" family relations, white officials intervened directly and frequently in Indian families. Their regulatory impulses focused particularly on women's sexuality, marriage practices, and childrearing. Because parental practices were critical to the socialization of children, agents of white culture believed that assimilation would only occur when the authority of Indian parents over their children had been subordinated to or replaced by that of white officials.
For women, that meant an attack on their most important social role and identity. Government-mandated boarding school policies removed their daughters and sons from them, sometimes for years at a time. Moreover, acculturative pressures were designed to create a cultural divide between mothers and children. Not surprisingly, many women resisted these assaults on their most cherished roles, values, and relationships.
No area of policy in the early twentieth century pitted Indian women's (and men's) interests against the U.S. government more systematically than the effort to promote education for "civilization." Native American resistance grew as more schools were opened and white officials made more systematic efforts to enforce mandatory school attendance policies. Indian parents routinely hid their children from reservation officials, and federal agents responded with "roundups" of truant children and attempts to coerce parents into turning over their children.
More importantly, the partial success of the schools in inculcating Native American students with contempt for traditional beliefs and practices introduced profound tensions into many families and communities. As the Meriam Report noted in 1928, the home had become "the place of conflict between the old and the new." Polingaysi Qoyawayma's return to the Hopi mesas in the 1910s after an extended boarding school stay illustrates the painful struggles that sometimes ensued when daughters' internalization of different values undermined maternal authority and roles.
Viewing her home through white eyes, Polingaysi saw only the difficulty and privations of Hopi life: "The poverty of the scene made her heartsick. This life was not for her." She demanded that her father make a bed and table for her and insisted on demonstrating the cooking skills she had learned at Riverside, however inappropriate they were for Hopi resources and traditions. Sevenka, her mother, wondered: "What shall I do with my daughter, who is now my mother?"
At the same time, Polingaysi would not grind corn with her mother, insisting that Sevenka use a grinding mill. More significantly, she refused to marry as custom dictated, rejecting the Hopi womanhood her mother symbolized and valued. Instead Polingaysi vowed that "for no man . . . would she
grind corn on her knees." Such labor for her mother, however, carried deep moral significance. She lectured her daughter:
Mother Corn has fed you, as she has fed all Hopi people since the long, long ago when she was no larger than my thumb. Mother Corn is a promise of food and life. I grind with gratitude for the richness of our harvest, not with cross feelings of working too hard. As I kneel at my grinding stone, I bow my head in prayer, thanking the great forces for provision. I have received much. I am willing to give much in return. . . . It is sad that the white man's way has caused you to forget the Hopi way.
Polingaysi Qoyawayma's wholesale adoption of white culture did not typify the response of most Native American girls to the Indian education program in this period. Most former students returned to the reservations or their communities and resumed many of their traditional activities and roles, whether out of choice, necessity, or both. The lack of fit between their training and the conditions at home made it virtually impossible for most young Native American women to enact the domestic roles their education had encouraged.
This "return to the blanket" occasioned much white criticism of educational policies, of Indian cultures, and, particularly, of Indian women. Indian women's failure to support change would endanger the whole project, undermining men's motivations and abilities to participate as responsible citizens, providers, and protectors and jeopardizing their children's progression from wards of the United States to citizens.
Those who represented white culture to Native Americans were not all of one opinion on these matters, however. Jane Gay's observations of the Nez Perce allotment process prompted her to conclude that "civilization has been built up largely upon the altruism of the woman, at the cost of her independence and is still an expensive luxury to her." Gay's feminism reveals that the politics of the dominant society were neither monolithic nor static. Among whites themselves, the meanings of "civilization" and its gender relations were also subject to dispute.
Transformations in the American economy and in social relations had intensified power conflicts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The growth and increasing militancy of the working class posed challenges to capitalist dominance. Ethnic and religious heterogeneity threatened white, Protestant control over politics, the economy, and culture. Women's increasing participation in education, employment, politics, and the "cheap amusements" of city life challenged men's authority at home and in public life.
The instability and heterogeneity of cultural values among whites of all classes threatened the identification of "whiteness" with a particular package
of beliefs and practices. This posed serious dilemmas for white officials promoting Indian assimilation. If Indians were to become like whites, precisely which whites should they be emulating? How should cross-cultural contacts between whites and Indians be institutionalized and regulated? Official insistence on rigid gender roles for American Indians heightened as conflicts among whites jeopardized the conflation of race and culture at the heart of the assimilationist enterprise.
A simple social control model that assumes a monolithic and homogeneous white culture and state imposing an always damaging program of economic and social change on equally homogeneous Indian or Mexican American cultures also distorts our understandings of the history of women from these groups. Some of the competencies and technologies offered to them by whites offered a means to improve their circumstances in a changing cultural and economic context. Moreover, Native American and Mexican American women's selective and situated appropriations and transformations of white cultural practices in the areas of family, sexuality, and economy reveal their cultural agency in historical practices.
What the histories of racial ethnic women demonstrate is that imposed subordination was often difficult to achieve, in part because women themselves are agents as well as objects of change. The actions and experiences of racial ethnic women were and are critical in forging the connections between the social relations of everyday life and the gendered construction of the public world in the United States. Because it served as a critical site for the project of gendered "racial rehabilitation" described by Mink, the U.S. West was and is especially important to an understanding of the role of women and gender in the politics of cultural reproduction and the politics of race, class, and gender.
Mobility, Women, and the West
One day in April of 1984, a historian named David Garrow awaited the arrival of a sixty-eight-year-old Los Angeles woman he had never met. She was divorced, a retired college professor, an African American. He had contacted her by telephone, offering to come to see her, but she insisted on driving to the place he was staying, picking him up, and taking him to her home. There, she showed him a typescript, more than two hundred pages long, detailing her recollections of momentous events some thirty years earlier. Her name was Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, and as president of the Montgomery, Alabama, Women's Political Council, she had, in 1955, helped to set events in motion for the public transportation struggle that sparked the black freedom movement in the American South.
I argue here that both western and women's history must begin to take seriously the significance of geographical mobility. Feminist geographers and historians have for more than a decade asked how gender is implicated in, and reconstituted by, the organization of space. Historians have also documented movement of women into, through, and around the trans Mississippi region. Numerous studies of women on the Overland Trail trace changes, and continuity, in gender patterns among westering European Americans. But there are many other examples of scholarship dealing with women on the move, including work on changes in the lives of indigenous women in groups that moved from the Midwest onto the Great Plains, or from the Great Basin of Nevada onto reservations. We also see women in motion in Mexican migration to the United States, in Asian immigration and Japanese American relocation, among migrant farmworkers and military wives, on the part of cowgirls and women in wild west shows, in the African American exodus to the Plains after the Civil War, and among middle class
women drivers. Still, spatial mobility as a category of analysis in western women's history has yet to be theorized fully or employed systematically.
I think it is time we stopped envisioning women's history as a narrative chiefly about attempts to establish geographical stability (what might be called "home on the range"), and begin to accord itineracy the historical importance in western women's lives that the record suggests is necessary. At the most mundane level, for an endless and turbulent stream of reasons, women move around more than they stay put. Geographical mobility, or limitation of such mobility is, I argue, a significant factor in all history, including women's history, western history, and western women's history. And, dialectically, gender often acts as a force structuring mobility.
In an effort to drive home (ahem) the significance of geographical mobility to history in general, and to western women's history in particular, I want to tell a story about a woman whose mobile personal history makes the whole category of "western women" suspect. I will take some analytical cues from theorists who have been interested in exploring the significance of space and time to history, from Martin Heidegger to Anthony Giddens. I see geographical mobility as one form of space-time relations in a larger set of possible reconfigurations of human presence and absence, a set of relations implicated not only in the movement of bodies in space, but also in such things as the publication of autobiographical writing, the electronic reproduction of words, sounds, and images, and variously mediated dramatic reenactments of life stories.
I want to call attention to the politics implicit in what I do. I tell this story, of course, not as an objective observer, but in order to highlight the significance of physical motion in women's lives. I recognize that, in talking about travels, impediments to mobility, and transformations of presence and absence in the life of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, I lay claim to some kind of relationship with the woman whose words I write down and interpret. I initiate a very one-sided relationship, given the fact that I am physically present, at the moment of writing, and she is physically absent—not here to answer back, retelling her own story in her own way. I am the author of this article. I'm white; she is black, and my senior by nearly four decades. Marking our differences, I insist that we have something complicated, but important, in common, as persons gendered female, moving through late twentieth-century American space. Invoking her presence by citing and interpreting her words, I tread today what Donna Haraway has called a "very fine line between the appropriation of another's (never innocent) experience and the delicate construction of the just-barely-possible affinities, the just-barely-possible connections that might actually make a difference in local and global histories." With the intent to recognize the commonalities and connections a world of humans in motion hides, but makes possible, I will tell and speculate about the story of a twentieth-century woman, an
African American, an activist, and, maybe or maybe not, a western woman. Significantly, the story begins outside the West, in the heart of the American South.
Personal mobility can be considered a hallmark of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson's life. Born to landowning black farmers in Culloden, Georgia, in 1916, the youngest of twelve children, Robinson graduated from Fort Valley State College and moved to Macon to take a teaching job. There, she was married briefly to a man named Wilbur Robinson. Five years later, she moved by herself to Atlanta to enter the graduate program in English at Atlanta University, and upon earning her M.A. took another job at Mary Allen College in Crockett, Texas. A year later, she received a better offer from Alabama State, a historically black public college, and moved to Montgomery in 1949, at the age of thirty-three.
Like many academics with out-of-town family, Robinson planned to spend Christmas break that year with relatives, in this case, in Cleveland, Ohio. Few Americans traveled by air in 1949, but Robinson was a notably mobile woman. Unlike most African Americans of the time, she owned and drove her own car. She was, moreover, willing to go to rather elaborate lengths to make sure that her automobile was safely stored while also managing to get herself and her baggage to the airport on time. "One of the men students loaded my suitcases in my car for me," she recalled, "and I drove at a leisurely pace out to the airport, checked my luggage for a trip to the East, then returned to the college campus, locked my car in a garage, made my way to the nearest bus stop, and waited for the short ride to a friend's home. We were all going to the airport together. I had never felt freer or happier."
Racism has always structured American space, although space has never imbibed race in a rational or orderly way. Most African Americans did not then, and still do not, take for granted the freedom to move unimpeded through space, let alone the right to enjoy public support of personal mobility. Still, learning the racial ways of space requires substantial local knowledge. The more African Americans moved from one place to another in the United States, the more arbitrary, esoteric, and varied the forms of racial rules that they would encounter. Segregation practices also changed over time. In Mobile, during the 1940s and 1950s, passengers were seated on a first-come, first-serve basis. In Macon, Georgia, and elsewhere, blacks were expected to seat themselves from the rear of the bus forward, while whites were to sit from the front toward the rear until all seats were taken. At one point in the Montgomery struggle, white leaders proposed that buses have "flexible" whites only sections to be designated by a moveable sign saying "white" on one side and "colored" on another, a practice abandoned in the city decades earlier.
That winter morning in 1949, Jo Ann Gibson Robinson got a rude awak-
ening. The Montgomery city bus she planned to ride had only two passengers on it as she boarded—a white woman sitting in the third row from the front, and a black man near the back. Lost in thoughts of the holiday to come, and unaware that local conventions of transit segregation in Montgomery called for the first ten rows to be reserved for whites, Robinson took a seat in the fifth row. The driver leaped to his feet and hustled back to confront Robinson. "He was standing over me saying, 'Get up from there! Get up from there!' with his hand drawn back. . . . I felt like a dog," she wrote. She stumbled off the bus in tears, and cried, she said, "all the way to Cleveland." Then she got mad. When she returned from her vacation, she called a meeting of the Montgomery Women's Political Council.
Historians have demonstrated that African American women faced down discrimination on public transportation from the moment such transit systems first appeared in the United States. Interestingly, the first reported incident of black women's resistance to unfair treatment occurred in San Francisco in 1866, when the wealthy abolitionist Mary Ellen Pleasant sued the city's trolley company after she had been denied a ride. The Montgomery Women's Political Council, an organization of black professional women, had been founded in 1946, when the local chapter of the League of Women Voters refused to integrate. The WPC was already well aware of incidents of harassment by Montgomery bus drivers against black passengers, especially women. By 1953, the WPC had collected some thirty complaints against the bus company. Between 1950 and 1955, Robinson and other WPC members met regularly with the mayor of Montgomery, persistently protesting a pattern of abusive behavior ranging from obscene language and general rudeness on drivers' part toward black patrons, to buses that stopped at every block in white neighborhoods but only every two blocks in black areas, to drivers who made blacks pay at the front, then get off the bus to re-enter at the back door, often leaving before the black passenger was back on board. Worst of all, since 70 percent of passengers were black, reserving some ten double-seats for whites often meant that black passengers were standing over empty seats. Over several years, a host of black civil rights and civic groups repeatedly brought their concerns to the mayor and city government, but got nowhere. By 1955, the mayor told a delegation from the Women's Political Council that if bus patrons "were not satisfied, they could always drive their own cars!"
Little did Mayor W. A. Gayle dream of becoming a prophet. On December 1, 1955, Montgomery civil rights activist Rosa Parks, riding home on a city bus with a full bag of groceries, defied local segregation ordinances by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. Parks was, of course, not the first African American in Montgomery to challenge either the legal or the social practice of bus segregation; she was acting on behalf of a community of civil rights activists who had for some years sought the "right" person
to test the segregation ordinance. As a middle-aged, professionally skilled, prominent African American woman, her gender, age, and class figured, alongside race, in the decision to make hers the test case. Jo Ann Robinson noted the significance of gender when she invoked Parks's right to be treated like a lady: she "was a woman, and the person waiting was a man."
On the night of Parks's arrest, Robinson and others went, about midnight, to their offices at Alabama State (a perilous move, considering the general notion that black women should not go about alone at night in southern towns). There, they drafted a letter of protest, calling for a citywide one-day boycott of the bus lines. They mimeographed tens of thousands of notices of the proposed December 5 action, invoking the notion of feminine dignity insulted, and also making themselves present where they had not before been, with the printed declaration, "Another Negro woman has been arrested and thrown in jail . . . The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or your mother."
They delivered their leaflets (by private car) all over town, to "schools, businesses, beauty parlors, beer halls, factories." On December 5, 1955, black taxi drivers charged passengers only ten cents a ride, and some two hundred private automobiles joined forces to transport Montgomery's black bus riders. In a mass action "comparable in precision to a military operation," 90 percent of Montgomery's bus riders stayed off the city line. This would prove to be only the first day in thirteen months of stalwart protest, confrontation, negotiation, and perhaps most unusual of all, independent, alternative volunteer mass transit. Operating out of forty-three dispatch and forty-two pick-up stations, 325 private automobiles arrived every ten minutes between the hours of 5 and 10 A.M. and 1 and 8 P.M., with hourly pick-ups during the rest of the day. Many Montgomery residents, black and white, also gave rides on a more haphazard basis. As contributions arrived from around the nation, the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association and local churches purchased station wagons, hired drivers, and bought gasoline.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott blasted the first hole in the wall of de jure racism in the American South. Jo Ann Robinson was there every mile of every day, editing the MIA newsletter, organizing car pools on an unprecedented scale, preparing the defense of those ride pools when segregationist officials tried to prohibit them, herself offering rides to boycotters day after day. When, a year into the boycott, the Montgomery Police Commissioner joined the White Citizens' Council, Robinson re-dedicated herself to the struggle in a highly symbolic way: "I put my car in the garage and walked. . . . I suffered with my colleagues and peers."
The car (a Chrysler) suffered too. One night, the police came by her house and threw acid on it, and Robinson experienced the automotive body
damage as a kind of combat wound, proof of valor to be displayed with pride. "I kept that car . . . until 1960, after I had resigned from Alabama State. It had become the most beautiful car in the world to me. I turned it in for a new one only when I moved to California, for I did not think the Chrysler would hold up through the deserts I had to cross."
In 1960, segregationists in the Alabama legislature launched an investigation of "subversives" and forced a dozen of Alabama State's most outspoken faculty to resign. Robinson taught briefly at Grambling, but soon decided to move to be near friends in Los Angeles. She was wise to buy a new car, since she made the journey across the Great American Desert long before the interstate highway system had made reliable roads commonplace in the South and West. And though the move to Los Angeles took her further than she had ventured before, it was certainly in character for a woman who had already made a living in four states—Georgia, Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana. Robinson had again and again seized the opportunity to move from one place to another, to get away from a bad situation, and seek a better one. But just as surely, she did not take mobility for granted. If her experience in the bus boycott had taught her the importance of contesting geographical constraints based on race, she also knew the ways in which gender, as an economic, occupational, and intellectual structure, impeded women's power to move. She avowed that her professional achievements, something women didn't generally have, gave her courage to leave. As she recalled, "I had been less afraid than most women, because I knew I could get teaching positions elsewhere." Robinson taught English in the Los Angeles public schools, where she worked until her retirement in 1976, remaining active in civic and social work. After she retired, she did what good Angelenos at least aspire to do, investing successfully in real estate.
Jo Ann Robinson started out life as a southerner, but a notably mobile citizen of that region. She became involved in the cause that, in her words, "gave me courage" as a middle-aged professional, contributing to the Montgomery Bus Boycott struggle her eloquence as well as her political savvy and energy. The story of her life, thus, can be read as a dramatic narrative that crests in the 1950s, in the southern United States. During the period of her life deemed most significant by historians, she was at the center of a conflict that, more than virtually any other in American history, demonstrated the race, class, and gender politics of the interconnected domains of public space, personal mobility, and human dignity.
But lives do not hold still, waiting for their stories to be written as dramas. Ironically, the role she played in organizing the boycott, and in seeing it through to its successful conclusion, made it impossible for her to stay in Montgomery. Neither did the significance of her participation become apparent to most students of the struggle until her memoir was published in
1987. By that time she was more than seventy years old, retired, and living quietly on the Pacific Coast, far from the place of her birth. Even after retirement, she remained active in a variety of civic organizations, including the League of Women Voters and Black Women's Alliance, gave one day a week of free service to the Los Angeles city government, worked in a child care center and in senior citizens' assistance, and played contract bridge.
For more than thirty years, Jo Ann Robinson lived at the Pacific edge of the trans-Mississippi West, and it was from the West that her voice rang across the wire to David Garrow, offering to give him a ride. Wondering how western women's history might come to terms with such a reflective, moving subject forces us to recognize, once again, that lives like Jo Ann Robinson's persist beyond the borders of political events and burst the boundaries of region, demanding respect on their own complex terms.
Can we call Robinson a "western woman"? Certainly, in some senses, we can. After all, the literature of "western women's history" is full of individuals who moved into the West from some other region, many of whom spent far less time in the West, and contributed less of consequence to any western community than Robinson has. Annie Oakley came from Ohio and never actually lived in the West. Isabella Bird, always an Englishwoman, headed into the West by coming east from Hawaii, had her Rocky Mountain adventure, and left the country. Esther Morris, the vaunted "mother of woman suffrage," was a native of New York. Jo Ann Robinson is surely as much a part of "western women's history" as are these canonical figures, and her memoirs can be read as an affirmation of the not yet entirely moribund theme that the West is the place to make a new start.
Still, to claim her entirely for the subfield of western women's history would be to appropriate her life in a cynical and even pathetic bid for scholarly legitimacy; it wouldn't be, in any responsible sense, true. What Robinson's story reminds us is that nobody is only one thing, a statement that is by now a postmodern bromide. More pertinent to my point today, Robinson's picaresque tale returns us to the insights of Chicana and Chicano scholars and others who have argued that the term "West" is itself a totalizing and value-laden example of the link between power and knowledge. Listening to Robinson's story teaches us the particular lesson that female mobility renders suspect the very category of "western women's history." When women move, region may not always be a useful way of classifying or analyzing their lives.
When people of either sex move, moreover, what seems most stable in their identities may be reconfigured. The most salient component of Jo Ann Robinson's identity in 1950s Alabama was her racial status, then termed "Negro" or "colored." I don't wish to argue the silly position that race didn't or doesn't matter in the West, but the significance of migration to African American history, and to transformations of African American identity, is certainly
well known. It is, moreover, a commonplace of western history, as currently practiced, and of United States women's history, as a consequence of the gradual acceptance of work on western women into the canon of American women's history, that conceptualizing of race relations in dualistic, black/white terms distorts the multicultural historical experience of American women. While historians have devoted the most attention to black migration from the Southeast to Northeast in the period between 1920 and 1960, Robinson's story suggests that movement to and through the West offers a fertile field of inquiry for historians of African Americans as well as western historians, as the work of Quintard Taylor, Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo, Shirley Ann Moore, Douglas Flamming, and others demonstrates.
Western history, women's history, and African American history as scholarly endeavors help us understand Jo Ann Gibson Robinson's life. But Robinson's is a story of a woman in motion, and taking mobility seriously forces us to question the stability of our most cherished historical categories of analysis. As we think about the person, Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, moving bodily through space, and about her words, reproduced and available to people who will never meet her, who may be born long after she is gone, reacting in unforeseeable ways to her disembodied presence in their lives, we must ask whether the time has come to imagine history anew. David Hollinger has responded to the radical potential of postmodern theory, and the political challenges of multiculturalism, with a call for "postethnic history." Is it perhaps time, as well, for a postwestern history? Jo Ann Gibson Robinson's story, southern and western but not exclusively or wholly either, is remarkable, but in so many ways, far from unique. People who aren't supposed to get around-African Americans, or women, who for whatever reason are supposed to know their place—somehow find room to move. Coming to terms with surprisingly mobile people like Robinson makes me, as a sometime historian of the American West, suddenly conscious of the weight of the western frame, suddenly alert, edgy, and restless.
Plague in Los Angeles, 1924:
Ethnicity and Typicality
Anglo Saxon civilization must climax in the generations to come. . . . The Los Angeles of Tomorrow will be the center of this climax.
Clarence Matson, "The Los Angeles of Tomorrow," in Southern California Business, November 1924
Turn-of-the-century booster marketing of Los Angeles rested upon simple images and symbols. Neatly tended gardens, attractive boulevards, and lovely homes: all could be represented as common, even prosaic, sights in the promised "Sunny Southland." Without doubt, regional climate occupied a special and iconic place in the creed of boosterism. Characterized especially by year-round warmth and aridity, weather proved an irresistible touristic lure. Boosters needed little convincing that climate merited a central role in their sophisticated selling of a "semi-tropic" city. Such reliance can easily be discerned in the myriad references to sunshine and health in such promotional vehicles as Land of Sunshine or the Southern Pacific's Sunset. A wider embrace of nature's beauty and good health was exhibited by the hugely successful public relations firm known as the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce which adopted the catchphrase "Los Angeles—Nature's Workshop" as one of its regional mottoes.
Inherent to this campaign which sold a new commodity (the city itself) was a particular method, that of incessant reference to typicality and "the typical" (see figs. 10.1, 10.2). Image-making relied on repetition and sameness, on typicality, and this theme exists as backdrop in nearly every organized campaign of advertising Los Angeles from the railroad era of the 1870s and 1880s forward through the 1920s. The marketing was hardly as complex as it was merely brilliantly redundant, what with lithographic or photographic reproduction of the same neighborhoods, the same homes,
the same palm trees, the same bungalows, typical street scenes, typical vegetation, typical orange groves (with those ever-present snow-capped San Gabriels in the background). Postcards—little more than mass-produced and mass-distributed images of representativeness—blanketed the nation with images of Los Angeles life and landscapes. What may seem like caricature today was critical repetition then, the visual construction of regional idioms explicitly designed to encourage capital investment, tourism, and settlement. Stock images of life in Los Angeles were designed around the simple notion of representing the representative, over and over again. But is there more to this story of wishful and pretty sameness?
Now look at these images (see figs. 10.3, 10.4), also from the mid-1920s, also from Los Angeles: disorderly, not neat, not beautiful. Yet the claim is that these views are also somehow "typical," apparently trustworthy representations of what Mexican Los Angeles looks like, what Mexican Los Angeles is like. The concern in this essay is to examine that assertion and the darker dimensions of the booster project surrounding "typicality." Behind the careful repetition of every ostensibly benign representation of the typical this and the typical that lay uglier assumptions, assumptions less about gardens, trees, or bungalows than about people, especially people of color.
A plague epidemic, like that which struck Los Angeles in the fall of 1924, is a decidedly atypical event. But the municipal response to this public health crisis was refracted through a prism of stereotype, a civic tendency to render ethnic (in this case Mexican) lives, culture, and behavior as somehow "typical." To be sure, this story of plague is also about terrifying disease and family tragedy.
On October 2, 1924, Dr. Giles Porter, of the Los Angeles City Health Department, answered a call at the home of Jesus Lajun at 700 Clara Street. A day laborer for the Los Angeles Railway, Mr. Lajun was clearly ill, but Porter suspected nothing remarkable about the flu-like symptoms or Lajun's swollen and tender groin. Like her father, Francisca Concha Lajun, aged fifteen, seemed to be suffering from a bad case of the flu. She complained of a headache and a sore throat, and she had a temperature. Francisca did not get any better the next day, and a neighbor, Luciana Samarano, dropped by to help care for her. On October 4, now desperately ill, Francisca was taken to the hospital, but she died on the way there. Cause of death was listed as "double pneumonia."
Weeks passed. Meantime, infection careened virtually unseen through neighborhoods, homes, and bodies. At the end of October, physician George Stevens called Los Angeles General Hospital to report his suspicion that some highly contagious disease was whipping through the same neighborhood
where the Lajun family lived. He and another doctor, Elmer Anderson, had recently seen patients over there, all of whom complained of similar symptoms: chest pain, backache, fever. Stevens requested that a quarantine ward be set up to receive patients.
On October 29, an ambulance accompanied by Dr. Emil Bogen, resident physician of Los Angeles General Hospital, was sent over to the predominantly Mexican (and overwhelmingly poor) district. Bogen and the attendants found a group of people clustered around the front porch of a little house. In the house's only room, an old Mexican woman lay crying on a large double bed. Her cries were regularly broken by hacking coughs. A young Mexican man of about thirty lay on a couch against the wall; he did not cry, but he was clearly "restless and feverish." Several other people were in the room; one man agreed to translate discussion. Bogen found out that the man had gotten sick the day before, that he had a pain down his spine, and that he was running a dangerously high fever of about 104 degrees. He had red spots on his chest. The old woman had been coughing for two full days. She spit up blood. The ambulance took these two people away, to General Hospital.
At another house nearby, a man, his wife, and their young daughter complained of the same aches and pains. They, too, exhibited disturbing symptoms. They appeared extremely anxious, their corneas were cloudy, and their faces had a sickly blue tinge. Four boys, brothers, were sick at yet a third house. Bogen learned that their mother and father had already died of what was thought to be pneumonia. Others were sick nearby, the interpreter said. Authorities took the boys to the hospital.
This house at 742 Clara Street, where the boys had gotten sick, would become the death house. Before it was all over it must have seemed as if the house was possessed by evil, which, in a way, it was. In addition to the boys, others at 742 Clara complained of lingering sickness that day. Physicians took cultures from two of the sick adults, and they inoculated a guinea pig with the cell samples. The animal would soon die, as would the two people. Health investigators at General Hospital began piecing together information about those who had already died, including the parents of the sick, now-orphaned, boys. Original diagnoses of the sick people, which ran the gamut from meningitis, influenza, pneumonia, and typhus, began to be reconsidered.
"Lucena [it seems likely that her name was actually Luciana] Samarano, age 39, female, Mexican, 742 Clara Street," is how the medical inspection began which described the boys' mother. Luciana had fallen ill in the middle of October, just at the time she began to care for Francisca Lajun, and died within five days at the tiny house where she, her family, and a handful of roomers lived. Six months pregnant when she first fell ill, Luciana de-
livered a stillborn infant shortly before dying. Doctors first ascribed her death to heart disease. Family members held a wake at the Clara Street house which was attended by many family members and friends. Burial followed at the Municipal Cemetery.
Luciana's husband, Guadalupe, had gotten sick a few days after his wife died. So had Jessie Flores, a family friend and next-door neighbor who had nursed Luciana during her illness. Guadalupe went downhill very fast, and a Spanish priest, Father Medardo Brualla from Our Lady, Queen of the Angels Church in the nearby plaza, had been summoned. The situation looked hopeless, but it was decided to send Jessie and Guadalupe to the hospital anyway. Father Brualla administered last rites. Jessie Flores and Guadalupe Samarano were dead within days. So, too, was Father Brualla.
Unsuspecting health officials released Guadalupe Samarano's body to remaining family members so that they might hold funeral services at 742 Clara Street, just as they had been held for his wife, Luciana. Horace Gutierrez, Luciana's young cousin, was the next to get sick, and it was his illness and eventual death that really confirmed the presence of an epidemic. As Horace lay dying in the hospital, Dr. George Maner, the hospital pathologist, happened to engage in a conversation with several of the younger physicians who expressed confusion over the symptoms of several critically ill patients, Gutierrez and Guadalupe's brother Victor among them. At first facetiously, Dr. Maner suggested that perhaps the patients were suffering from plague; he had just finished reading about plague in Manchuria. But when he found evidence of just that beneath his microscope after performing an autopsy on Horace's body, the physician no longer joked. He sought the advice of a colleague, who, upon seeing the distinctive, unmistakable microscopic representation of Yersinia pestis, supposedly exclaimed, "Beautiful but damned." An ancient disease, the Black Death, had arrived in the city of tomorrow.
The four Samarano brothers tried to fight off the intruder trying to kill them. Ten-year-old Roberto had gotten sick the same day as his mother's cousin. And like Horace Gutierrez, he died on October 30. Soon all the boys were deathly ill in the general hospital. Gilberto died next, then Victor. Little Raul hung on (see fig. 10.5). Horace Gutierrez's sixteen-year-old brother Arthur died. Fred Ortega, a boarder at 742 Clara Street, died. Joe Bagnola, another boarder, died. Alfredo Burnett, Luciana Samarano's son from an earlier marriage, was admitted to the hospital at the end of October along with all the others, exhibiting "weakness, fever, irritability, and stupor." He died on November.11
Many more people would sicken and die, especially those who harbored the plague infection in their chests (where it could easily migrate, person to person). People who had visited 742 Clara Street to help with chores got sick and died. Luciana Samarano's sixty-three-year-old mother, who lived at
342 Carmelita Street, developed a cough and a fever and died in a matter of days. Samarano relatives at 741 Clara Street died. Guadalupe Valenzuela, fifty-two years old, from Marianna Street in Belvedere Gardens, just across the city line, could not fight off the disease. Neither did her son, Jesus, and her daughter, Maria. Jesus and Maria were cousins of Guadalupe Samarano. At least one of them had been to Luciana Samarano's funeral in the middle of October. Jesus died first, at home, on October 31. Health officials learned from Maria that relatives were expected from New Mexico; guards rushed to meet them on the train station platform and prevent them from coming to the house.
Throughout the first week of November, now a month after the first
victim had died, the body count rose. Fear and rumor spread through the neighborhood. The Jimenez brothers had lived at 742 Clara Street, but when everyone in the house started getting sick and dying, they had quickly moved to nearby Date Street. But they did not move quick enough. One day after moving, Mike Jimenez got sick. Then his brother Jose fell ill with fever, aches and pains; both brothers died within days. Eulogio Peralta, twenty-two, from Bauchet Street, died. A credit slip found among his effects was from the Fox Outfitting Company on South Broadway in downtown where Eulogio worked. It showed Peralta's address as 742 Clara Street. Like the Jimenez brothers, Eulogio Peralta had tried to outwit and outrun the plague by moving away when people started getting sick and dying. Like the Jimenez brothers, it was too little, too late, and the disease caught him and killed him.
Thomas Vera, a young man who lived in a shack out back of 712½ Clara Street with three other adults and two children, died. He had been a friend of the Jimenez brothers, Mike and Jose. Hanging out with them probably killed him. Emmett McLauthlin died. With his brother Frank, Emmett ran an ambulance service from where he lived on Hope Street. He had helped move Guadalupe Samarano from 742 Clara Street to the county hospital at the end of October.
Thirty-two-year-old Mary Costello almost died. She had been the attending nurse to Guadalupe Samarano in late October. Complaining of headache, backache, chills, pains in her chest, and exhibiting "marked general malaise," Costello was hospitalized in an isolation ward at the end of the month. By Halloween she was spitting up blood. Doctors hooked her up to an intravenous injection of a Mercurochrome solution, a combination germicide and herbicide. This did not kill nurse Costello; neither did the plague. After a week, she had improved slightly; by month's end, still exhibiting the symptoms and characteristic weariness of a bout with pneumonic plague, Mary Costello had seemingly beaten the disease. Little Raul Samarano also fought off the pneumonia consistent with this strain of plague bacillus. As such, he was the only member of his family to escape death.
The 1924 plague outbreak in Los Angeles was the last major outbreak of the disease in the United States. More than thirty people died, most all of whom had been connected by networks of kin or neighborhood. Ninety percent of those killed by the disease were of Mexican descent.
The situation calls for drastic action.
DR. WALTER DICKIE TO WILLIAM LACY, PRESIDENT
OF THE LOS ANGELES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE,
NOVEMBER 15, 1924
Plague is a mysterious and especially frightening disease. Its arrival in Los Angeles in the mid-twenties, in a poor neighborhood within sight of downtown, elicited a powerful response from the city's leaders. In an era (and
city) rife with Americanization programs, many of which were explicitly concerned with "purity" and "hygiene," there can be little doubt that plague represented an apex of "uncleanliness" and demanded sometimes desperate cleansing measures. The intravenous injections of Mercurochrome which Mary Costello endured, for instance, were thought to be a way of sterilizing the body's infected blood and other fluids.
A similar activity took place in particular Los Angeles neighborhoods, where authorities attempted cleansings as well, often with agents no less fierce than Mercurochrome. Not unlike an isolation ward at the county hospital, these neighborhoods underwent physical isolation, quarantined by force and heavy rope. Ironically enough, many had already been virtually quarantined by the restrictions imposed upon populations socially and politically ostracized due to ethnicity and class. Plague simply presented another method by which to enforce isolation of Mexican neighborhoods and Mexican people. And in ordering and describing this work, city authorities let suggestions of ethnocentric blame creep into their reasoning and their documents, not to mention assertions of white supremacy over and above supposed Mexican typicality. To turn our view in that direction, we must follow the city's response to the plague, in facets medical, political, and military.
Dr. Walter Dickie, Los Angeles resident, secretary of the California Board of Health, and the man who would take charge of medical affairs surrounding the outbreak, apparently first read about the epidemic in his morning newspaper at the end of October or beginning of November. The as-yet-unnamed disease had taken nine lives, the paper said, and seemed to be a kind of especially virulent pneumonia. Dickie wired an official of the city health department, inquiring as to the cause of death of Luciana Samarano. The reply read simply: "Death L. S. caused by Bacillus pestis."
Word began to spread, in both official circles and the infected neighborhood. Benjamin Brown, a surgeon attached to the United States Public Health Service, wired the U.S. Surgeon General of the gravity of the situation in early November. His telegram was encoded for secrecy. "Eighteen cases ekkil [pneumonic plague]. Three suspects. Ten begos [deaths]. Ethos [situation bad]. Recommend federal aid." The Surgeon General responded by immediately sending a senior surgeon to Los Angeles to monitor the situation and make regular reports.
Acting on the basis of their own diagnosis, the city health department ordered a quarantine of the so-called "Mexican district," a downtown section of small homes and industrial sites around Macy Street. The quarantine was to begin at midnight on October 31. Patrol of the roped-off area, which housed an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 people, was left to the Los Angeles Police Department and guards employed by the health department.
With rope supplied by the Los Angeles Fire Department, the authorities shut down the Macy Street neighborhood. In-and-out traffic was forbidden; guards were placed at both the front and back of any home known to house (or have housed) a plague victim. Health authorities urged residents to clean their homes inside and out; people were also told to wear thick clothing (especially underwear) at all times. The everyday activities of people ceased, and "gatherings of all nature" were prevented. Children were to stay home from school and keep away from movie houses. Pacific Electric trolley conductors, running their cars down Macy Street, shouted to riders that no one was to get on or off the cars at any of the regular stops.
Los Angeles city government also responded. Mayor George Cryer called an emergency meeting for Monday afternoon, November 3. Present were various medical personnel representing federal, state, and local agencies, as well as others less versed in the particulars of infectious disease transmission or prevention: "members of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce, the local publishers and the business and financial interests of the city." These civic and commercial leaders understood that the plague outbreak might make the city a victim as well. The hastily convened committee of "experts," which constituted nothing less than the ruling oligarchy of the city, would meet more than once during the scary weeks of the epidemic's virulent phase.
All medical and preventive work in connection with the epidemic was placed under the direction of Dickie of the Board of Health. He suggested that the city adopt or continue various emergency procedures. All cases of possible plague were to be sent to the county hospital, and a laboratory was to be set up immediately; "all undertakers [were] instructed not to embalm any bodies of Mexicans or others dying suddenly or of undetermined causes until the bodies [could] be examined by a representative of the State or City Health Department"; and rodent trappings would begin immediately in order to establish the boundaries of the epidemic.
The quarantine continued and grew to include other neighborhoods. Rumors spread that a hundred, two hundred, Mexicans were dead and dying. Between residents and the police powers stepped the Los Angeles County Charities, trying to ensure "cubicle isolation" of homes. Parents were told to prepare a mixture of hot water, salt, and lime juice for their children to gargle several times a day. Charities' staff made a card index of every member of every home, and they delivered packages of food and bottles of milk to each house. The Catholic Board of Charities sent into the field a priest and a social worker who spoke Spanish. Physicians and nurses began daily house-to-house tours, hailing occupants (who by public health standards of the day were called "inmates") from streets and sidewalks to determine if anyone within had fallen sick. People caught outside their homes
or neighborhoods had to sleep in the Baptist Mission Church at the corner of Bauchet and Avila streets because the authorities would not let them pass through the ropes.
The quarantine, which lasted two weeks, would eventually stretch to include five urban districts. And there can be little doubt, given the way in which these neighborhoods were described (by language and perimeter), that there existed a perceived overlap between ethnicity and disease. The aim was to ensure that both large and small congregations of Mexican people be snared within the net. The quarantine included: the Macy Street district, largest of the five and including the Clara Street address; South Hill Street district, which included "one large apartment house, occupied by Mexicans"; the Marengo Street district, "including several isolated Mexican homes;" the Pomeroy Street district, including "two isolated Mexican homes"; and the Belvedere Gardens district, just outside city boundaries, where an unknown, though considerable, number of Mexicans lived.
Records from the Belvedere Gardens describe the perimeter established by Carmelita Street, Brooklyn Avenue, a ravine just off Marianna Street, and Grandview Street. Like the city's efforts, the county quarantine was highly militarized. Health authorities later boasted that the epidemic ended so quickly precisely because the county's eventual four hundred quarantine guards and support personnel "were placed on a military basis and the organization was perfected." Some quarantine guards, most of whom were paid five dollars a day (except those working in closest proximity to the plague contagion, who were paid more), had been soldiers in the First World War; some even had wartime quarantine experience.
Although they were dealing with an extraordinary situation, county officials gave the quarantine careful thought. The plans reveal ethnic as well as epidemiological attitudes. The Belvedere quarantine operation was placed in the hands of county health chief J. L. Pomeroy, a man with significant quarantine experience who believed that special guard details were "the only effective method of quarantining Mexicans." Pomeroy worried that Belevedere residents might disrupt quarantine procedures: he and his men "worked quietly" throughout the day of November 1 "so as not to unduly alarm the Mexicans." Pomeroy wondered about "a general stampede" and admitted that "we feared [the Mexicans] would scatter." The quarantine went up and around the neighborhood with stealth. "We waited until mid-night so as to give them all a chance to get in . . . then the quarantine was absolute."
Guards, sworn in and issued badges, took up patrol "in the field" on one of three eight-hour shifts. Shifts had captains as well as quartermasters, guards "walked post," and surplus military and armory equipment provided the materiel of guard camps. Guards complained of run-of-the-mill
soldiers' ailments: one burned himself when a coffee pot blew its top, another rushed to get a dose of "lockjaw preventive serum" when he stomped on a nail.
Guards did more than prevent the daily comings and goings of people in the neighborhood. Despite "general orders" which listed rule number one as "No Shooting," guards spent a good deal of time killing stray cats and dogs, a handful of chickens, a donkey or two, even a goat. They also damaged or destroyed a considerable amount of property within the militarized perimeter. Mrs. Pasquale Moreno, for instance, seems to have had her sewing machine requisitioned by quarantine guards, who broke it. Firewood, at least in the early days of the quarantine, proved scarce, and quarantine guards, trying to stay warm under chilly November skies, looted the neighborhood. Mr. L. S. Camacho, who lived on Brooklyn Avenue, later sought damages from health authorities for the destruction of a house he owned on San Pablo Court. There quarantine guards in search of combustibles ripped off plaster boards, an entire door, and even stole a stepladder—all of which they promptly burned. Neighbors swore that they had seen the guards attack the little house. In a later investigation of the claim, the County Health Department's special agent agreed that "half of the rear of the house was torn out by the guards." Mr. Camacho was granted his compensation request of fifteen dollars.
We do not know what came of Benigno Guerrero's claim for damages in the amount of sixty dollars for the Mexican food destroyed at his business (which he translated as "Quality Tamales Home") in Belvedere. But we do know that he wrote a letter to health officer Pomeroy:
My dear Dr. Pomeroy,
Enclosed you will find the bill of food that I have being forced to destroy. That food was my only capital to keep my business going and I am sorry not to possess your language to impress you with the idea, than such small amount of money was the only means to provied [sic] food for my family, wife and four children; 8, 6, 3 and 1½; years old. Bring your attention to that situation, my dear Dr. Pomeroy and you will grant than the bill be payed.
Sincerely very truly yours,
Most of the property destruction was by plague-fighting design, however, and not the result of individual action by quarantine guards. The overall plan, borrowed from San Francisco's program of plague eradication in the earlier part of the century, was a combination of slash and burn destruction and a campaign to lift structures well off the ground with blocks so that cats and dogs (those lucky enough to escape execution as strays) could run under the buildings in hunting rats. In the words of Walter Dickie: "The
quickest and cheapest [method], the one we are adopting, is to take everything off the ground in the blocks infected and raise it 18 in. above the ground and take the siding off all sides of the house except the front so dogs and cats can go under, so when you get through, you can see all under." Accordingly, various "sanitary details" in both the city and county ripped the siding from homes, especially at the foundation level, buried garbage, and burned spare lumber, old furniture, clothing and bedding, even entire shacks. Workers sprayed houses and other buildings with petroleum or sulphur, and they scattered lime and rat poison everywhere. Some squads utilized "hydrocyanic" gas, a cyanide mixture; others rigged hoses to truck exhaust pipes and pumped carbon monoxide into buildings. By the end of 1924, quarantine guards had performed well over ten thousand plague "abatements" of greater and lesser destruction.
The destruction of these homes and shacks without compensation was likewise part of the overall plan. In conversations with the City Council and Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (which had quickly established its own health and sanitation committee), Dickie had advised that the structures to be "cleansed" first be declared nuisances, which meant that no compensation would need to be paid to property owners. "I wouldn't advise any compensation at all," said Dickie. Council members wondered aloud about the legality of such a move, but once assured by Dickie that "no compensation" was the way to go, they assented. Nor were destroyed houses or buildings replaced. An official report, issued less than a year after the plague outbreak, stated that over a thousand shacks and old houses, "housing Mexican wage earners mostly," had been destroyed and that, all told, roughly 2,500 buildings had been destroyed in the months from November 1924 toJune 1925.
Not only would buildings have to be destroyed. Rats would have to be killed, thousands and thousands and thousands of them. The Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee of its own to explore, in conjunction with the City Council and medical personnel, ways to raise money to kill plague-carrying rats and squirrels. The City Council would eventually grant the extraordinary sum of $250,000 for November 1924 through July 1925 (and twice that for the next twelve months) to be used primarily in rodent eradication programs. An entirely new city department arose sui generis to wrestle with the rat problem. Like some sort of latter-day Hudson's Bay Company, the department hired hunters and placed one dollar bounties on dead rats and ground squirrels. The staccato "pop" "pop" "pop" of small caliber weapons could be heard throughout the city day and night, and rodent poison appeared everywhere. The poison, a thick syrup containing phosphorous or arsenic, was spread on little squares of bread and cast about throughout entire neighborhoods, both quarantined and not. Its resemblance to molasses apparently caused rat killers some concern that the poi-
son atop "dainty poison croutons" would find its way into the mouths of children (later, the officials of the federal Public Health Service would discontinue the practice for just this reason). Once the city began killing rats, Mexicans in the infected neighborhoods (who had been kept in the dark about what was killing them) knew that the epidemic had a name: plague.
The rat-proofing work took on the appearance of a desperate fire-fighting operation as the city tried to extinguish both Yersinia pestis and the urban rat. Squads worked their way (and their spray) through entire neighborhoods in lock-step formation, attacking rats and structures (and unfortunate stray animals) house by house, block by block. The effort was not entirely limited to ethnic neighborhoods: "It is important to remember," this same report noted, "that the danger from infected rats exists . . . even in residence districts occupied by native Americans, and these must be dealt with as definitely as the foreign districts." Be that as it may (apparently inhabitants of "foreign districts" could not, by definition, be "native Americans"), rat eradication work tended toward particular confluences of ethnicity and poverty. The program would work best "in the Mexican, Russian, Chinese and Japanese quarters by the destruction of all structures not worth rat proofing."
The carcasses of countless rats stacked up at an emergency laboratory established in the Baptist Mission at Bauchet and Avila, where people rendered homeless by the quarantine sought shelter. Later moved to a more permanent location on Eighth Street, the lab (or "ratatorium") acted as headquarters for the ambitious rat-killing, rat-counting, and rat-testing operation.
Back at the county hospital, hospital personnel tried to ward off the chance of infection. Anyone suspected of either having plague or coming into contact with a plague victim had been immediately shuttled from quarantine to the county hospital. There, in isolation at the recently completed contagious disease building, they were labeled with red tickets to distinguish them from other patients. Physicians unaccustomed to wearing gloves during autopsy procedures took up the habit. Hospital workers wore gowns, rubber gloves, caps, and gauze masks. When that protection was deemed insufficient, they took to wearing a full face mask made from a pillowcase, eye holes cut out and covered over with clear celluloid. Physicians later noted that "procuring and working in these masks was a matter of considerable exertion, and also of considerable comment and divertissement."
The Perils of Bad Publicity
The thing that interests us and probably you more than this list of fatalities is what is the cause of this outbreak.
DR. WALTER DICKIE BEFORE THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, LOS ANGELES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, NOVEMBER 6, 1924
By the middle of November, although occasional plague deaths would continue through the new year, the epidemic was believed to have ended. By Thanksgiving, the Chamber of Commerce had received a signed statement from Dickie that the plague was over, a document which the organization deemed "just the thing to be good publicity." Damage control, already under way by then, accelerated. The Los Angeles Realtor in its December 1924 issue, for instance, ran a feature by Chamber President William Lacy. Entitled "The Truth About Los Angeles," the article urged readers not to believe all that they had heard about the city's recent problems. Hysterical talk about "a slight drought," a power shortage, a foot and mouth epidemic, and "a slight epidemic of pneumonic plague" ought not deter people from visiting or investing in Los Angeles. It was a credit to the people of the city, Lacy continued, that concerted and cooperative work stamped out "the few cases of pneumonic plague."
Commercial figures such as Lacy found themselves in a propaganda war with the East, mostly of their own making. For years, as eastern papers and publications pointed out, Los Angeles boosters crowed about the unique symbols of southern California living. Sunshine, fat oranges, pretty little bungalows, palm trees: boosters bombarded eastern cities and eastern folk with these ever-so-familiar images. But now, as Los Angeles found itself in a public relations tight spot, competitors and critics seized the opportunity to point out the limits of booster hubris in the City of Angels. Even typicality had its limits, if not its opponents.
For instance, in a hard-hitting piece for The Nation, former editor of the Los Angeles Daily News William Boardman Knox took the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to task for keeping the plague epidemic (as well as other health problems) under journalistic wraps. According to Knox, the plague and resulting quarantine provoked a mass exodus from the city as well as an economic collapse: "land values dropped 50 percent; bankruptcy courts were flooded with yesterday's millionaires; bank clearings were cut in half." In other words, Knox intimated, "don't believe all you hear (or see ) about Los Angeles." The "typical" might be self-serving artifice, less than what met the eye.
The city's commercial elite attempted to combat the rash of unfavorable publicity: at stake was the sheer viability of the campaign to establish the yardstick of typical Los Angeles places, diversions, scenes. Worse, winter tourism from East to West was threatened. But Chamber of Commerce stalwarts were, if anything, masters of spin. Even before the plague epidemic had become widely known, the organization had pledged to redouble its efforts at selling Los Angeles after being chastised by one of its leaders for not doing enough. "I think the Chamber is in the most dangerous moment in its career," Paul Hoffman told his fellow Chamber directors (exactly one
day before the plague epidemic became known to public health officials). "We have got to impress the people of Los Angeles with the fact that we are going on to bigger things—If we go on as we have been doing, I don't think that is enough."
Such a necessity apparently became all the more imperative in the wake of the epidemic. The Chamber's Publicity Committee, as Knox intimated in his Nation essay, was not about to let unfavorable news get in the way of advertising Los Angeles. And they had certainly kept bad news about the city's health record quiet before; already that year, the Chamber had wrestled with news about a smallpox outbreak in the city. At the beginning of the year, Chamber directors exchanged fears about what widespread knowledge of smallpox would mean. "It would be a black eye we couldn't get over for years," said one. Another added that "it is my personal feeling to suppress publicity." All through November Chamber directors reiterated the desperate need to counteract eastern news of trouble in the Southland, even to the point of agreeing to print up special postcards (what else?) which every Chamber member could then rush east.
The local press stood by ready and willing to help—help through omission as opposed to commission. George Young, managing editor of the Examiner, eased the minds of the Chamber's Board of Directors when he assured them (with specific reference to the plague) that editors all along the Hearst chain "would print nothing we didn't think was in the interest of the city." Indeed, one teenaged resident of Los Angeles, who would grow up to be a local physician, remembers the plague as "a big hush up." Even his father, who owned a suitcase factory on Los Angeles Street, within walking distance of the Macy Street quarantine, knew little if anything of the outbreak.
The Spanish-language paper El Heraldo de Mexico, which generally supported the plague suppression efforts, referred to "the hermetic silence in which authorities have locked themselves." News of the plague dominated El Heraldo's headlines for days and days in November. Examiner Editor Young, backed up by Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times, even thought that a virtue could be made of "the close squeeze we just had." Once the rat eradication program did its work, "we could then advertise Los Angeles as the ratless port."
Faced with a medieval problem like Black Death in their "Los Angeles of Tomorrow," nervous boosters from the Chamber sought out health officials for briefings throughout the month, even after the various quarantines had been lifted. For instance, at a Saturday meeting on November 15, Walter Dickie spoke at length about the plague in front of directors of the Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles City Council.
Standing before a map of greater Los Angeles, Dickie pointed out that
the black pins jabbed into the map "are pneumonic plague cases." His few yellow pins were bubonic cases. Though the assembled civic leaders certainly knew it, Dickie nonetheless pointed out that the epidemic, and the rats which helped spread it, were "not only a health problem but an economic problem." In this, Dickie made explicit reference to the port of Los Angeles. "I realize that the dream of Los Angeles and the dream of officials and the Chamber of Commerce is the harbor. Your dream will never come true as long as plague exists in Los Angeles and as long as there is any question of doubt in reference to the harbor." Unless the harbor received a clean bill of health, as soon as possible, Dickie warned, "half of the commerce of your harbor will quickly vanish. . . . No disease known," Dickie stated ominously, "has such an effect upon the business world as the plague." Chamber leaders and councilmen must have blanched.
The situation was desperate, Dickie warned. Even if the determination of plague foci (or origins of each case) looked to be complete, no one could be sure about much of anything, at the harbor or anywhere else. The proximity of the Macy Street quarter to downtown Los Angeles and important industrial sites made the problem all the more acute. Dickie did not want any rats from the Mexican quarter chased into downtown. "You are not a great way off from [the] Baker building," he pointed out, obviously gesturing to his map and the city's commercial district.
Nor did people relish the thought of Mexicans from the district coming into downtown, as they did every single day for work or shopping. Cafe, restaurant, and hotel workers who lived in the Macy Street district lost their downtown jobs, as did others characterized simply as Mexican, therefore dangerous. The Biltmore Hotel, for instance, fired its entire Mexican labor force of 150, regardless of the home addresses of these men and women. A delegation of Mexican governmental officials and journalists met with the Chamber of Commerce to protest the action; they were met by Clarence Matson, whose 1924 prophecy about the city's Anglo-Saxon future opens this essay. The Chamber promised to look into the matter.
Dr. Dickie wanted more laboratory support, more manpower for rat-killing and rat-proofing, and he wanted more medical teams for autopsy work. The latter request was "so that all Mexicans that die and all suspicious deaths that come into the Bureau of Vital Statistics shall be examined." The association of disease with ethnicity could not have been made more grimly explicit: "If it is not a general rule to autopsy all Mexicans that die of acute illness and are suspicious, many foci are going to be overlooked." In other words, this plague outbreak had become (indeed had been since the beginning) peculiarly Mexicanized.
Dickie had overseen the placing of thousands of rat traps and would need thousands more. But he admitted that the Macy Street district—where 90 percent of the plague victims had encountered the disease—had not re-
ceived as much attention, for instance, as the harbor. In a remarkable admission (and plea for help), Dickie implored his audience of elite Anglo businessmen: "I wish you gentlemen would go down to the Macy St. district. We haven't done anything because it is a question whether that area is worth the money you will have to put on it to clean it up and after you clean it, whether it will pay the property owner to put it into shape for human habitation. That is something [that] should be considered by the city."
Dr. Dickie did not mean that nothing had been done in the Macy Street quarter; after all, the houses and structures there had been attacked by the sanitary squads who sprayed, burned, knocked down, and lifted up. But he did mean to ask the Council and Chamber whether or not they would see to it that the area be, essentially, razed and rebuilt. "All [of the area's little shacks and homes have] to be gutted out and destroyed and go back to the original structures and each original structure must have the ground area all exposed so that there can be no place for harboring rats." Those assembled assured the physician that they well understood his warnings ("We are thoroughly alive to the situation") and would support cleanup efforts even if they cost a half million dollars.
Dickie ended his comments before the assemblage by arguing that the city must do more about the housing conditions of "the foreign population." "There is no reason why these Mexicans shouldn't be housed in sanitary quarters in the environment they are used to living in," he pointed out. Otherwise, the city risked epidemics (of smallpox, plague, typhus) of far greater proportion than the current crisis. Dickie chastised the city's elite: "As long as you have the foreign population, Mexicans, Russians, and various nationalities, you have to take care of them." City/county boundaries did not make any difference. The situation in Belvedere Gardens was just as bad, if not worse, than that within Los Angeles itself: "I haven't seen anything in my life to equal it," Dickie said, whereupon councilman Boyle Workman piped in that houses in Belvedere Gardens were "built out of piano boxes."
Destruction would have to take place before construction, an activity that the city and county officials apparently pursued with some enthusiasm. Furthermore, the publicity problem occupied a great deal of time as well, and this seemed to take precedence over any committed plans for renewal. Even health officials got into the act. In his report describing the city's health care response to the plague, City Health Commissioner George Parrish listed the name and address of each plague victim, hoping in some way to combat what he called "the grossly exaggerated reports published in the Eastern newspapers, with the evident intention of stopping the ceaseless migration of tourists to this wonderful city."
Officials also engaged in a congratulatory discussion of their own in explaining why this had been but a "slight epidemic." For one, it seemed
as if the plague had limited foci, with at least ten cases, including most of those in the county, traced directly to 742 Clara Street. The alacrity with which Angelenos began killing rats was also fortunate. And lastly, officials thought that they had been lucky in another respect, again couched in terms of supposed ethnic typicality. "The Mexican," read one contemporary report, "unlike the Oriental, does not attempt to hide his sick or dead. Being a Catholic people, they always, when ill, call the Priest, and generally are prompt in securing medical aid." This Catholic practice was seen in marked distinction to the Chinese and their response to the deadly plague outbreak in San Francisco's Chinatown earlier in the century.
Revelation of such cultural practices, and, more important, revelation of the concomitant tendency of the dominant culture to stereotype such practice as "characteristic" or "typical," encourages us to read the reaction to the plague epidemic of 1924 as part of the typifying project which elites participated in during the period. Knowing how those inside the various quarantines felt or acted in the face of organized, even militarized, public health or police authority is a difficult task. Outside of official pleas for reparations, there is little information or documentation in quarantine or political records. It is equally if not more difficult to know what the epidemic and fear of disease meant to these thousands of people caught behind the quarantine ropes. But if our analysis of the plague is contextualized within a broader social and cultural landscape, we may see reaction to it on the part of Anglo authority as an important part of a veritable public relations campaign to validate the booster paradigm of "typical Los Angeles."
Conventional reduction of things, events, landscape features, and individuals to archetypal representation both created and reinforced cultural tendencies toward ethnic stereotype. For instance, in attempting to determine how certain plague victims encountered the disease, officials relied upon reflexive assumptions about traditional, that is, typical, Mexican behavior and Mexican attitudes. How did teenaged Francisca Lajun, who lived down the street from 742 Clara Street, contract the plague which quickly killed her? The answer was unclear, but ethnic stereotype supposedly could explain a great deal. As such, "Mexican-ness," or simply "being Mexican," created an environment which could foster disease.
"That evidence could not be obtained to connect these two cases [Francisca Lajun and anyone at 742 Clara Street] may be explained by the reluctance of the Mexican to impart information, especially when he does not fully comprehend the reason. If the tendency of the Mexican to visit relatives and friends during their illness is recalled, the explosive nature of this outbreak, limited to friends and relatives, is partly explained."
Similarly, Chamber of Commerce leaders declared before health personnel that they knew about the living conditions of Mexicans, or at least
enough to understand the transmission of the disease (even though it is clear that most had never been into the largely Mexican Macy Street quarter before). By their reckoning, this knowledge alone could rightly be substituted for epidemiological expertise. Experience as capitalists and paternalists, and even as tourists, provided the necessary skills and reference points.
"I am not only familiar with the housing conditions of our Mexicans," Director William Lacy said, "but familiar with the Mexican peon's way of living in Mexico." There, fifteen years previous, Lacy had witnessed an outbreak of plague on the west coast in which, he said, the "Mexican population died like fleas." The only recourse had been to "blast practically half the city down and drive the people into the country in order to clean up the city." Los Angeles had better not repeat that history. On the contrary, the aim was to keep the population quarantined both in "their" and "a" place: "as we are bound to have that population, we must assume the responsibility of providing them a place to live peaceably." Lacy seemed not to realize the odd juxtaposition of "peaceableness" with health; it was as if the plague had made the "docile" Mexicans of Los Angeles unruly.
But of course that was true; the plague had rendered Mexicans unusually dangerous in the eyes of many whites, not only because Mexicans seemed to have the disease but also, I suspect, because the disease was seen to be peculiarly Mexican. Perhaps Anglo anxiety in this chicken-and-egg manner helps explain the even more interesting language of some of William Lacy's colleagues. D. F McGarry closed one discussion by pointing out that the city's Mexican population could not easily be dislodged from the poor districts. "In many instances they are there because of cheap rent contiguous to their work. They cannot afford to live in quarters that would be acceptable to us or as should be for the ordinary citizens."
The assumption that Mexicans were not somehow "ordinary" is interesting enough (i.e., they existed in some category reserved for them as Mexicans ), but McGarry followed this remark with a fascinating slip, by averring to "this particular plan of eradicating them from those districts, which is highly proper and wise." Rat-killing and potential solutions to a "Mexican problem" merged: eradication as verb, if not action, of choice. Perhaps it was just too difficult for the councilman to think about where to put them once the quarantines, be they social, economic, or medical, were lifted.
There is little doubt that the cross-over of words and concepts between rats and Mexicans occurred. Recall Dr. Pomeroy's fear that the Mexican population in Belvedere "would scatter" or "stampede" if they knew of the plague or of quarantine plans. Even the militarized response to the plague—best expressed by the quarantine and sanitary details—had as its purpose a goal of aggressive cleanliness aimed at both rats and Mexicans. Just as Mercurochrome was thought to be a cleanser for the plague's internal manifestations, so too with "petroleum spray" and chloride of lime aimed, not
surprisingly, at the lives of those people who existed at the confluence of poverty and ethnicity, effectively "quarantined" well before the epidemic hit.
This is not to suggest that, given the epidemiological history of the 1924 plague outbreak, the specifics of such associations had no validity whatsoever. Certain links of sociability, ethnicity, neighborhood, and kin obviously contributed to the pattern of plague distribution. But it is in the generality of elite Anglo comment and point of view, the instinctive, reflexive reach to such phrases as "the Mexican" that we recognize the broader implications regarding assumptions of ethnic and racial typicality.
The most obvious expressions of Anglo categorization in this regard were also the simplest and most graphic. Illustrations (reproduced in this essay) which accompanied the contemporary public health document describing the plague outbreak noted such environments as the "typical interior of [a] Mexican home" and a "typical backyard." It is as if the photographer—in this case more than likely a public health official—had merely wandered over from his Chamber of Commerce assignment of shooting "typical factories" or "typical palm trees" to taking pictures of "typical Mexicans" (although the absence of people in the photographs is interesting). So-called typical images of Mexican lives and homes, homes far removed from the stock bungalow images, no doubt served to relieve a fair amount of anxiety in the health or civic community. Reaction to such images might accomplish two related tasks. One, if the plague rendered Mexicans something other than "peaceable," photographs which repositioned them into their usual, "typical" spaces and places might serve to render them less unruly in the minds of elite Anglos. And two, "typical" images of degradation and filth could seemingly help solder the perceived connections between plague transmission and ethnicity; any of these photographs would inevitably commingle disease with poverty, poverty with ethnicity, ethnicity with disease. It was, after all, typical.
Descriptions of the districts, really nothing more than extended captions to the images, confirmed patterns of seeing and believing. Quarantined neighborhoods, bulging under an "ever increasing Mexican population," exhibited the "usual number of over-crowded rooming houses and temporary shacks on the back lots." Even the cumulative collection of typical Mexicans could create a homogeneous group: "the unobstructed and uncontrolled immigration from Mexico tends yearly to increase this class of inhabitants."
The practice of assigning ethnic Mexicans to rigid cultural containers, boxes even more rigid than those created by street or district boundaries, encouraged Anglos to look at Mexicans in certain, particular ways. And plague in 1924 offered a kind of proof to the essentialist theorem. In other words, if the dominant view tended toward an image of all ethnic Mexicans as a class of equally degraded, poverty-stricken laborers living in ratinfested congregations, what could offer greater affirmation than a nasty
outbreak of pneumonic plague which killed mostly Mexicans? It isn't difficult to discern the outlines of the ugly circular logic.
The 1924 plague epidemic in Los Angeles killed people in a few distinct neighborhoods; it killed people who came into contact with one another, and the dead were nearly all ethnic Mexicans. These were not mutually exclusive categories. But neither were they part of an essentialist triangle, where the one category (place, culture, ethnicity) naturally led to the other. Yet an examination of the reaction to the plague reveals a tendency on the part of the dominant culture to view and to explain the plague epidemic along such lines, lines of familiarity and lines of typicality.
Such a response could do little to break down conventional understandings of ethnic life and culture in Los Angeles. On the contrary, contemporary language helped reinforce ideas about "the typical Mexican" and restricted laborer space in the industrial economy. Having embarked upon a booster city-building journey which demanded iconic images and symbols, Anglo Los Angeles produced an ambitious glossary of "the typical," a project which, alongside obvious socio-economic stratification, effectively snared ethnic Mexicans and held them fast. Just as Anglos in Los Angeles felt certain that they understood the bungalow and the palm tree, so too did they self-consciously assert that they understood this Mexican, frozen in time and quarantined in space.
The Tapia-Saiki Incident:
Interethnic Conflict and Filipino Responses to the Anti-Filipino Exclusion Movement
Arleen De Vera
"I now pronounce you man and wife." With these words, Justice of the Peace H. P. Andrews, County of Sacramento, State of California, on February 3, 1930, formally declared Felisberto Suarez Tapia and Alice Chiyoko Saiki married, and set the seal on a madcap elopement. Tapia, twenty-three, a Filipino box maker employed at the Stockton Box Factory, and Saiki, eighteen, a second-generation Japanese American, had met at Alice's father's pool hall in Stockton. Immediately after the marriage, the happy couple set about making their plans. Alice would return to her parents' home in Stockton, where Felix would later join her. Just two nights apart, and then with the marriage certificate in hand, they could begin their new life together as husband and wife.
But instead of a happy ending, their joining was to lead to tragedy and conflict. The next day, when Felix appeared at the Saiki home, his in-laws flatly refused his requests to see his wife. Believing that his father-in-law had coerced Alice into leaving for Japan, an anguished Felix turned to local Filipino community leaders, who then called for a sympathy boycott and picket of Japanese-owned businesses. In retaliation, local Japanese labor contractors threatened a boycott of their own: to pass over several hundred Filipino farm laborers for work during the upcoming grape and asparagus seasons. Rather than a personal family matter between a recalcitrant father, an absent wife, and an anguished groom, the Filipino and Japanese communities were polarized, ready to come to blows, while European American residents and the police kept a wary eye on both groups.
That local European American residents viewed these developments with such concern spoke volumes about the state of race relations. During the
first month of 1930, minor tensions between Filipinos and Japanese in Stockton were overshadowed by the racial violence then engulfing California. Just days after an anti-Filipino race riot in Watsonville in which one Filipino was killed, a bomb exploded in the Stockton headquarters of the Filipino Federation of America, causing heavy damage. Shocked at the turn of events, one thousand Filipinos gathered at a Stockton mass meeting and voted to hold a major demonstration and parade for Philippine independence through Stockton on Saturday, February 8, to be held in conjunction with other public demonstrations in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and elsewhere. In response, nativists seized the opportunity to call for an end to Filipino immigration to the United States.
This essay is a preliminary exploration of one way Filipinos responded to the anti-Filipino exclusion movement: by asserting a Filipino identity, an identity which in the process was continuously questioned, modified, and reaffirmed. As Michael M. J. Fischer has noted, groups act not upon a single, undifferentiated identity, but upon multiple identities, which are situational and, at times, contradictory. As Fischer notes: "Ethnicity is not something that is simply passed on from generation to generation, taught and learned; it is something dynamic. . . . Insofar as ethnicity is a deeply rooted emotional component of identity, it is often transmitted less through cognitive language or learning . . . than through processes analogous to the dreaming and transference of psychoanalytic encounters." Most historical studies have chosen to focus on European American perceptions toward Filipinos and Japanese, often as groups with common characteristics. In this context, the Tapia-Saiki incident offers an interesting point of departure. How did Filipinos view their relationship to European Americans and Japanese? Did these perceptions change with the rise of the anti-Filipino exclusion movement? How did Filipinos assert their identity when the anti-Filipino exclusion movement lumped them together with Chinese and Japanese as "cheap Oriental labor"? In short, this essay is a preliminary exploration of a much larger question: the process by which a group comes to self-identify and create and re-create its ethnic identity in relation to other racial groups.
This essay will also draw upon two concepts, culture and projection. By "culture," I mean those ideas, views, images, norms, and values a group shares, including racial attitudes and assumptions about human behavior and society. All these elements together constitute culture, by which means order and meaning can be imparted to people's lives. But culture is not static: culture is itself shaped by material conditions, even as it influences people's responses to material conditions. As for "projection," I refer to the psychological act of transferring blame and responsibility for one's fears and condition onto another, in this case, another racial group.
Filipino Migration and Japanese Settlement
The origins of Filipino immigration to the United States date back to 1898. Following Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines became a colonial possession of the United States, and its people American "nationals"—an ambiguous legal status that meant neither citizen nor alien. Beginning in the early 1910s, several thousand young Filipino men and women came to the United States to further their college educations. Educated, Westernized, and English-speaking, these "pensionados," as they were called, made a favorable impression on the American public. Most returned home to become the Philippines' professional elite. Others also came to try their luck. Inspired by the stories of their American teachers, and by the pensionados' letters home, Filipinos arrived by the thousands in the port cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle during the 1920s. From less wealthy and educated backgrounds than the pensionados, many hoped to become self-made men and planned to attend school while working. Others hoped to earn enough to return home and purchase land or pay for their siblings' education. By 1930, more than thirty thousand Filipinos had settled in California, with most finding work in agriculture and service.
Stockton's Filipino community mirrored these general trends. Every February, just before the asparagus season was to begin, Filipino Town came alive: some two thousand Filipino laborers streamed in, joining the town's one thousand permanent Filipino residents. Among the latter were a small group of Filipino entrepreneurs, owning among themselves a grocery store, a photo studio, the lone Filipino newspaper, and a tailor shop.
These businessmen often doubled as the leaders of local Filipino community organizations. Teofilo Suarez, who owned the tailor shop, was also the president of a local fraternal organization. Damiano Marcuelo, a former pensionado and the editor and publisher of the newspaper The Three Stars, was also the head of the Filipino Workers' and Business Men's Protective Association. In all, these businessmen, along with a few labor contractors and professionals, formed a fledgling business and intellectual grouping that spoke for the Filipino community of Stockton. Their leadership would be tested in the following months during the rise of the anti-Filipino exclusion movement in 1930.
Stockton's Japanese community was centered around agriculture as well, though small business played a larger role in this community. A 1930s survey of occupations revealed that close to half of the town's 1,400 Japanese residents were farmers. Another significant occupation was labor contractors, who provided and controlled the supply of agricultural labor, labor provided mostly by Filipinos.
The beginning of 1930, though, raised new concerns about the role and place of Japanese in American society. Before 1930, the Issei, the firstgeneration Japanese immigrants, had guided their community through the difficult years of the anti-Japanese movement, which had led to racial violence and exclusionary laws barring land ownership, intermarriage with European Americans and Japanese immigration. By 1930, however, second-generation Japanese Americans, or Nisei, made up the majority of Japanese communities on the mainland. Worried that this generation would be lost to them, community leaders consciously appealed to "racial" and parental loyalty to discourage Nisei interracial dating and marriage.
Anti-Japanese/Anti-"Oriental" Sentiment and the Boycott Controversy
In January 1930, a columnist for the Manila Sunday Tribune wrote on a paradox facing Filipinos in the United States. Though Filipinos were defined as American nationals, it was Chinese and Japanese aliens who benefited politically:
Once an alien is admitted, his advantages over a Filipino are by far the greater. In case of trouble the alien has his consul to go to for assistance. He is protected by his home government. The Filipino has no consul to whom to appeal for any injustice done to him. . . . it must not be forgotten that [the Filipino] is not entitled to all the rights and privileges of an American citizen, because he is not, and cannot be one.
That their expectations of the United States could be so at odds with the realities was a painful shock. Their treatment as a second-class group violated the principles of liberty and equality and the Christian example of brotherhood they had been taught back home. Typical was the comment of the secretary of a central California Chamber of Commerce:
It must be realized that the Filipino is just the same to us as the manure that we put on the land—just the same. He is not our "little brown brother." He is no brother at all! He is not our social equal! And we don't propose to make him that or pretend that he is. Why the Filipino should be greatly appreciative of the little that we have given him. . . . We have got to have the Filipino to do that work. . . . [T]hat's his place in this society.
Thus, though Filipinos saw themselves as clearly different from both Chinese and Japanese, some European Americans saw them only as yet another wave of cheap "Oriental" labor. At King's Employment Agency in Stockton, one employer saw little social difference between the two groups, saying "[O]f all this cheap labor theJap has always been the best. The Filipino is the same kind of trash but you get worse labor for the dollar."
Another source of tension, expressed by both Filipino workers and small business owners, was economic. Filipino farm laborers filed complaints against some Japanese contractors who they claimed had swindled them out of their wages; likewise, Japanese grocers filed complaints with local authorities, alleging that Filipinos had skipped town without paying their grocery bill accounts in full. Some Filipino businessmen in Stockton also viewed the Chinese and Japanese with suspicion, as they were economic competitors for Filipino patronage. One contemporary observer wrote: "Filipino businessmen complain that their paisanos are disloyal, 'unpatriotic,' patronizing non-Filipino shops when Filipino shops are just as accessible and satisfactory. . . . Encouragement of paisanos to be loyal to their businessmen compatriots is seen in the following advertisement from a Filipino newspaper: 'When you come to town see us and patronize your people."'
For some Filipinos, this tension was at least in part due to historical factors. Under Spanish rule, Filipinos had been excluded from small business positions by law. Though these laws were later lifted in the nineteenth century, the prejudices and stereotypes persisted. That these tensions continued was confirmed by sociologist Bruno Lasker, who noted in 1931 that Filipinos had "a hostile attitude" toward Chinese, resulting from "trade competition." Just as Chinese in the Philippines had been cast in an unfavorable light, so Filipinos viewed both Chinese and Japanese in Stockton in the same way.
U.S.-Japan relations also played into Filipino attitudes toward the Japanese in the United States. Fears that Japan would challenge the United States for domination of the Pacific had worried American military experts stationed in the Philippines for years, since Japan's 1905 victory in the Russo Japanese War. So widespread was Japan's image as aggressor to both American and Philippine interests that one Filipino fruit worker in Stockton told an interviewer in February 1930 that while he favored independence, he thought it best for the Philippines to remain under some form of U.S. protection against the "threat" Japan posed. Others were simply surprised to discover Japanese living in the United States. One twenty-four-year-old Filipino going into a hotel to rent a room on his first night in Seattle was astonished to find it was owned by aJapanese family. He mused, "Now I was in America and I was discovering that not all Americans were white."
But while some disdained the Chinese and Japanese, others, like newspaper editor Damiano Marcuelo, held them up as role models of business acumen. Though acknowledging that Filipino businessmen and farmers had made relatively little progress, Marcuelo asserted that their economic future could still be prosperous, if they copied the Chinese andJapanese collective model of business enterprise:
The Chinese and Japanese people in this state ought to be admired rather than looked upon with suspicion. Laboring under a peculiar legal disadvantage,
they succeed in getting to the top of progress, so that today we see them with zealous eyes, building chains of hotels, stores, banks, grocery and other business houses. It is perseverance, thrift, and tact in them that insure their success. But the greatest of these is ORGANIZATION and CO-OPERATION.
By encouraging owners not to duplicate services and businesses, Marcuelo believed Filipino businessmen could achieve prestige and stability in the United States.
Against this backdrop of increasing tensions, racial violence, and the organized anti-Filipino exclusion movement, Felix Tapia came forward on February 6 with the news of his marriage and his bride's disappearance. Convinced that Mr. Saiki's actions were an expression of racial prejudice against Filipinos, the leaders decided on a boycott. In dramatic fashion, on Saturday, February 8, in front of two thousand Filipinos congregating for Philippine independence, Teofilo Suarez declared a "sympathy boycott" of all Japanese-owned small businesses in Stockton. Suarez explained the issues behind Felix's marriage and the reasoning behind the boycott. His remarks struck a chord, for one observer noted that subsequent speakers "vociferated in dialect at great length, casting aspersions at the Japanese and urging their compatriots to support the boycott." Though emotions ran high, Filipino leaders urged all to remain calm and reaffirmed their admiration of American "altruistic and humanitarian achievements." Left out was any mention of "calmness and order" toward the Japanese.
The increasing frustrations, anger, and fear expressed by Filipinos found a ready outlet in the boycott. That night, under Tapia's direction, "large numbers" of pickets appeared just outside all the Japanese-owned "restaurants, pool halls and shops." Amid the pickets swirled rumors that the local Japanese Association of Stockton had supported the Saikis' actions because they felt that Filipinos were "an inferior people." These rumors were repeated over and over as new picketers joined the lines and as word of the boycott spread. Though economic self-interest may have played a role in the business leaders' calls to nationalism, the allegations of "racial prejudice" struck a chord with Filipinos.
With tensions escalating between their communities Filipino and Japanese leaders quickly recognized the need to take immediate action. Alarmed at reports that the businesses were losing "thousands of dollars a day," and concerned that the Japanese labor contractors' threatened retaliation could lead to increased violence, a meeting between the local Japanese Association of Stockton and the Filipino Safety Committee was hastily arranged for Sunday night, February 9. But at that meeting, though the Japanese Association assured all present that the rumors of racial prejudice were unfounded, and though the Filipino Safety Committee added that they "deplored" the boycott and would do all they could to resolve the situation, in the end, both sides were forced to adjourn.
Without any set plans for resolution, the boycott continued. By Tuesday, February 11, several restaurants and pool halls had closed. And though disruptive, the boycott had resulted in no disturbances according to police reports; still, police patrols were increased, as "the feeling is very tense."
The next day, things heated up again. Leo Cinco, former president of the Filipino Contractors and Laborers Association, issued a statement deploring the Japanese role in agriculture, and charged that the Japanese undercut Filipino wages. The tensions, he maintained, were due to racial prejudice and unfair economic practices of long standing:
The principal cause of the whole situation was when the heads of a certain Japanese organization declared they did not like Filipinos and do not want them. This information was given us by Alice Saiki, the bride of Felix Tapia.
Secondly, the Japanese farmers and laborers make the wages lower. Americans pay 40 cents an hour, but the Japanese pay only 25 cents. Sometimes Filipinos have to accept 25 cents an hour from the Japanese when they cannot find work. American growers, when they come to know this, also reduce the wages and as a result wages in the farm regions are getting lower and lower.
Cinco also alleged that Japanese contractors coerced Filipinos to buy supplies "from the Japanese only," and cited cases of Japanese farmers failing to pay wages to Filipino laborers and contractors.
The charges elicited a strong response. Speaking on behalf of the Japanese Association of Stockton, Secretary Hikida denied reports that the marital separation was due to racial prejudice: "The bride's father acted as he did because the marriage was the outcome of an elopement and contrary to all Japanese traditions, which demand arrangements of a marriage by the parents of the bride. It was because of violation of this tradition, and not because he is a Filipino that Saiki forced separation of Tapia and his daughter."
Hikida also emphasized that dealings between Filipino workers and Japanese farmers had been fair: "The Japanese farmers have been paying good wages and have been treating their Filipino employees as members of their own families, housing and boarding them in their own homes."
By February 19, two weeks after its inception, support for the boycott began to flag as the pickets lessened, then began to subside. The conclusion to the Tapia-Saiki incident came the next month, when Tapia lost his civil lawsuit against the Saiki family in court. With no further recourse, the matter was dropped. In the end, the controversy lasted but a few weeks.
The larger significance of the boycott controversy lay in its foreshadowing of the public debate over Filipino racial classification, a debate that became supremely important with the rise of the struggle for Philippine independence and the anti-Filipino exclusion movement. Around the same time of the Tapia trial, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in a case involving Filipino and European American intermarriage that Filipinos were
"Mongolians" and thus prohibited by law from marrying European American women. The ruling immediately plunged the community into controversy again. And again, the response was a distancing from Chinese and Japanese. The Filipino Federation of America issued an editorial decrying the reclassification: "the Filipino has been classed as belonging to the Mongolian or yellow race. This ruling was made for the purpose of restricting Filipinos to the same racial laws as apply to the Japanese and Chinese. . . . We do not protest because we are denied the privilege of marrying white girls but because as a distinct race we wish to be recognized as such." While acknowledging the presence of racially mixed Filipinos, particularly ChineseFilipino mestizos, the paper insisted on the Filipino belonging to the Malay race, and not the "Oriental."
Other arguments were put forth to bolster the Filipino's place based upon his Westernization. Another Filipino Nation editorial argued that the Filipino was not an Oriental, since he was Christian, Westernized, and easily assimilable to American culture and institutions: "The Japanese, Chinese and Hindus are genuine [o]rientals in family life, religion, ideals, customs, superstitions and civilization, while the Filipino has western customs, ideals, family life, religious, government and civilization." In these contradictory ways, the place of the Filipino was thought to be enhanced.
Despite these efforts, the exclusion movement gained momentum as even those sympathetic to the Filipinos' status viewed them as indistinguishable from Chinese and Japanese. One advocate for Philippine independence, Democratic Senator Harry B. Hawes of Missouri, saw cause to remark on the "basic" differences between European Americans and Filipinos:
The people are orientals, of Malay stock. We will never be able to change their thoughts, their characteristics, their minds or their national aspirations, any more than we can change the color of their hair, the texture of their skin, or their physical characteristics. Over 300 years of Spanish rule did not bring about racial changes. We can not expect them, now or in the future, to conform their thoughts and emotions to our own, or their mental processes to operate as do ours.
Growing anti-Filipino sentiment reached its high mark with the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934. While providing for Philippine independence in ten years, the act also reclassified the legal status of Filipinos to aliens, thus excluding Filipinos from U.S. citizenship, and set the annual limit of Filipinos who could immigrate to the United States at fifty persons. But unlike previous restrictions on the Chinese and Japanese, this act had no loopholes that allowed for the immigration of merchants, or of wives and dependents of those already here. The solution to the "Filipino problem," just as it had been for the "Chinese problem" and the "Japanese problem," was exclusion.
As time passed, however, tensions between the Filipino and Japanese communities in Stockton eased, and occasionally points of consensus did occur, particularly between the second generation. During the summer of 1938, a group of boys, among them, Richard Nunez, a twelve-year-old Filipino, and Masao Nishimura, an eleven-year-old Japanese American, went fishing along the Stockton channel. The boys were gathering their things together to go home when Nishimura, who could not swim, fell into the water. Nunez dove in and grasped him, but together, the pair were unable to climb the slippery cement banks of the channel. One of the boys, Darrel Hazelbaker, thrust his hands out to Nunez, who grabbed and held on for a brief second, then slipped. The pair thrashed about until, exhausted but holding on to each other, they sank and disappeared beneath the murky water. Though local authorities quickly pulled them out, efforts to revive the two were in vain.
Their deaths elicited an outpouring of grief and pride within the two communities. The local Filipino community newspaper eulogized Richard Nunez as a hero and an exemplary leader who was tragically lost to the community. Conspicuous among the mourners at his funeral was Mrs. Nishimura, along with representatives of theJapanese Association of Stockton. Also present was Teofilo Suarez, Nunez's uncle and the same Teofilo Suarez who along with Felix Tapia and others had led the boycott of Japanese-owned businesses eight years before.
Such a show of solidarity at that time was extraordinary. The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War the year before had caused some local Filipino community leaders to fear the possibility of a Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Some of that concern was carried over to the Stockton Japanese community as well. Issei nationalism had been heightened by the 1937 war, and local Japanese leaders had raised funds for Japan's war effort and distributed pamphlets explaining Japan's side in the conflict. Despite the potential for conflict engendered in international relations and economic envy, that a bond of sympathy could be forged suggests some capacity for consensus.
As the Tapia-Saiki incident indicates, Filipino thinking on race was complex and contradictory. Filipino actions in the boycott controversy and their responses to the anti-Filipino movement suggest that the reconciliation of Filipinos to their inferior status in the United States was predicated upon an "othering" of both Chinese and Japanese as "less civilized, Oriental" groups, based on historical prejudices and/or dominant notions of "assimilability." Angered by the incidents of racial violence and the growing anti-Filipino exclusion movement, and frustrated at their absence of power, Filipinos publicly projected these emotions onto Japanese for the duration of the boycott. But despite Filipinos' efforts to prove themselves different from the Chinese
and the Japanese, in the end the exclusion movement viewed Filipinos as the latest wave of "undesirable and unassimilable Orientals." The timing of Japanese settlement and Filipino migration may have led to different economic niches for the two groups, but what they shared was a common status as "other" forced on them by European Americans.
Race, Gender, and the Privileges of Property:
On the Significance of Miscegenation Law in the U.S. West
Like a growing number of feminist scholars, I spend most of my time trying to understand the history of relationships between race and gender. These days, that is a pretty hot topic. For some time now, the best, and most sophisticated, work in this area has put race and gender relations in the context of what has come to be known as the "powers of desire"; in other words, it traces the connections between race, gender, and sexuality. To mention only a few examples, I think of Hazel Carby's revealing study of the sexual politics of women's blues, of Antonia Castañeda's incisive critique of sexual violence in the Spanish Mexican conquest of California, or of Jacquelyn Dowd Hall's brilliant essay on rape and lynching. When studies like these are combined with a remarkable constellation of recent disciplinary developments—the dynamic emergence of lesbian and gay studies, the coming of age of the history of sexuality, and the current poststructuralist preoccupation with the politics of "bodies"—the study of sex and sexuality suddenly seems to be everywhere.
My own topic, the history of miscegenation law, would seem to be a prime candidate for interpretation along these lines. Whenever and wherever I talk about my work, I encounter people who think that miscegenation laws were significant primarily because they reflected the ultimate American sexual taboo—that against sex between white women and black men.
There is, of course, no question that such a taboo has been pervasive in American society. Certainly its power is threaded through the history of miscegenation laws. Although most experts agree that the overwhelming majority of interracial sexual relationships occurred between white men and African American or American Indian women, miscegenation laws were clearly designed to control the behavior of white women. One of the very
first laws, passed in 1664 in Maryland, said so explicitly: it targeted relationships between two groups the lawmakers identified as "freeborn English women" and "Negro slaves." Although most later miscegenation laws referred to "whites" in general rather than to white women in particular, they, too, were most likely to pass in the wake of scandals over the participation of white women in interracial relationships. Statistics on arrests and convictions are hard to come by, but, if the several dozen criminal cases which eventually reached appeals courts are any indication, the majority of couples dragged into criminal courts for violating miscegenation laws followed this same pattern: they were made up of white women and black men.
And yet, the more I study the history of miscegenation law, the more intrigued I am with the parts of the story that have so far attracted much less attention than the American obsession with controlling the sexual behavior of white women. The story I want to tell in this paper focuses more on marriage and property relations than on sex and sexuality, and more on white men and women of color than on white women and black men. And, perhaps just as important for the history of race and sex classification in American law, my story takes place not in the South, the region that has for so long stood as the paradigm for the study of race in America, but in the West, where the existence of a multicultural population provided both unprecedented opportunities for—and unprecedented challenges to—legal racial classifications. As historians Vicki Ruiz and Ellen DuBois have pointed out in another context, paying more attention to the history of the U.S. West is one way to move feminist scholarship beyond the limitations of its usual uniracial or bi-racial analyses. In these few short pages, I'll need to be more suggestive than definitive: I'll briefly outline the structure of miscegenation laws, offer as a sample one case to consider, and merely mention some historical and contemporary variations on my theme.
Let me begin by outlining the laws. Although miscegenation laws are usually remembered (when they are remembered at all) as a southern regional development aimed at African Americans, they were actually a much broader phenomenon. Adopted in both the North and the South beginning in the colonial period, miscegenation laws grew up with slavery. They did not, however, reach maturity until after the Civil War, for it was only when slavery had been abandoned that miscegenation laws came to form the crucial "bottom line" of the system of white supremacy later embodied in segregation. Miscegenation laws gained this newfound importance just at the time that they were being extended to newly formed western states.
Although the laws were in many respects a national phenomenon, it was in the West, not the South, that they reached their most elaborate, even labyrinthine, development, covering the broadest list of racial categories. Thus, while the earliest miscegenation laws, passed in the South, forbade whites to
marry African Americans, later laws, developed mostly in western states, expanded the list of groups prohibited from marrying whites by adding first American Indians, then Chinese and Japanese (both often referred to by the catchall term "Mongolians"), and then "Malays" (or Filipinos). And even this didn't exhaust the list. Oregon prohibited whites from marrying "Kanakas" (or native Hawaiians); South Dakota proscribed "Coreans"; Arizona singled out Hindus. The first western miscegenation law was passed by Texas in 1837, the last more than a century later, by Utah in 1939. By the 1920s, southern states like Virginia and Georgia were expanding their laws to include categories first listed by western states.
To keep pace with this multiplication of racial categories, some states packed their laws with quasi-mathematical definitions of "race." Oregon, for example, declared that "it shall not be lawful within this state for any white person, male or female, to intermarry with any negro, Chinese, or any person having one fourth or more negro, Chinese, or Kanaka blood, or any person having more than one half Indian blood." Altogether, miscegenation laws covered forty-one states and colonies. They spanned three centuries of American history: the first ones were enacted in the 1660s, and the last ones were not declared unconstitutional until 1967.
Although it is their sexual taboos that attract attention today, the structure and function of miscegenation laws were, I think, more fundamentally related to the institution of marriage than to sexual behavior itself. In sheer numbers, many more laws prohibited interracial marriage than interracial sex. And in an even deeper sense, all miscegenation laws were designed to privilege marriage as a social and economic unit. Couples who challenged the laws knew that the right to marry translated into social respectability and economic benefits, including inheritance rights and legitimacy for children, that were denied to sexual liaisons outside marriage.
Miscegenation laws were designed to patrol this border by making socalled "miscegenous marriage" a legal impossibility. Thus criminal courts treated offenders as if they had never been married at all; that is, prosecutors charged interracial couples with the moral offense of fornication or some other illicit sex crime, then denied them the use of marriage as a defense. Civil courts guarded the junction between marriage and economic privilege. From Reconstruction to the 1930s, most miscegenation cases heard in civil courts were ex post facto attempts to invalidate relationships that had already lasted for a long time. They were brought by relatives or, sometimes, by the state, after the death of one partner, almost always a white man. Many of them were specifically designed to take property or inheritances away from the surviving partner, almost always an African American or American Indian woman.
By looking at civil lawsuits like these (which were, at least in appeals
court records, more common than criminal cases), we can begin to trace the links between white patriarchal privilege and property that sustained miscegenation laws. Let me illustrate the point by describing just one case, In re Paquet's Estate, decided by the Oregon Supreme Court in 1921. The Paquet case, like most of the civil miscegenation cases of this period, was fought over the estate of a white man. The man in question, Fred Paquet, died in 1919, survived by his sixty-three-year-old Tillamook Indian wife, named Ophelia. The Paquet estate included twenty-two acres of land, some farm animals, tools, and a buggy, altogether worth perhaps $2,500. Fred and Ophelia's relationship had a long history. In the 1880s, Fred had already begun to visit Ophelia frequently and openly enough that he had become one of many targets of a local grand jury that periodically threatened to indict white men who lived with Indian women. Seeking to formalize the relationship—and, presumably, to end this harassment—Fred consulted a lawyer, who advised him to make sure to hold a ceremony that would meet the legal requirements for an "Indian custom" marriage. Accordingly, in 1889, Fred not only reached the customary agreement with Ophelia's Tillamook relatives, paying them fifty dollars in gifts, but also sought the formal sanction of Tillamook tribal chief Betsy Fuller (who was herself married to a white man); Fuller arranged for a tribal council to consider and confirm the marriage. Fred and Ophelia lived together for more than thirty years, until his death. Fred clearly considered Ophelia his wife, and his neighbors, too, recognized their relationship, but because Fred died without leaving a formal will, administration of the estate was subject to state laws which provided for the distribution of property to surviving family members.
When Fred Paquet died, the county court recognized Ophelia as his widow and promptly appointed her administrator of the estate. Because the couple had no children, all the property, including the land, which Ophelia lived on and the Paquets had owned for more than two decades, would ordinarily have gone to her. Two days later, though, Fred's brother John came forward to contest Ophelia for control of the property. John Paquet had little to recommend him to the court. Some of his neighbors accused him of raping native women, and he had such an unsavory reputation in the community that at one point the county judge declared him "a man of immoral habits . . . incompetent to transact ordinary business affairs and generally untrustworthy." He was, however, a "white" man, and under Oregon's miscegenation law, that was enough to ensure that he won his case against Ophelia, an Indian woman.
The case eventually ended up in the Oregon Supreme Court. In making its decision, the key issue for the court was whether or not to recognize Fred and Ophelia's marriage, which violated Oregon's miscegenation law. The court listened to—and then dismissed—Ophelia's argument that the mar-
riage met the requirements for an Indian custom marriage and so should have been recognized as valid out of routine courtesy to the authority of another jurisdiction (that of the Tillamook tribe). The court also heard and dismissed Ophelia's claim that Oregon's miscegenation law discriminated against Indians and was therefore an unconstitutional denial of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection. The court ingenuously explained its reasoning; it held that the Oregon miscegenation law did not discriminate because it "applied alike to all persons, either white, negroes, Chinese, Kanaka, or Indians." Following this logic, the court declared Fred and Ophelia's marriage void because it violated Oregon's miscegenation law; it ordered that the estate and all its property be transferred to "the only relative in the state,"John Paquet, to be distributed among him, his siblings and their heirs.
As the Paquet case demonstrates, miscegenation law did not always prevent the formation of interracial relationships, sexual or otherwise. Fred and Ophelia had, after all, lived together for more than thirty years and had apparently won recognition as a couple from many of those around them; their perseverance had even allowed them to elude grandjury crackdowns. They did not, however, manage to escape the really crucial power of miscegenation law: the role it played in connecting white supremacy to the transmission of property. In American law, marriage provided the glue that set the transmission of property from husbands to wives and their children; miscegenation law kept property within racial boundaries by invalidating marriages between white men and women of color whenever ancillary white relatives like John Paquet contested them.
The Paquet case, then, illustrates the significance of property in miscegenation cases. The next step is to understand that property, so often described in legal sources as simple economic assets (like land and capital) is actually a much more expansive phenomenon, one which took various forms and structured crucial relationships. Let me mention just three of the property relationships that appear and reappear in civil miscegenation cases. The first was suggested to me by the work of critical race theorists, who are nowadays arguing that race is in and of itself a kind of property. As Derrick Bell, the scholar who has made this argument most explicitly, explains, most whites did—and still do—"expect the society to recognize an unspoken but no less vested property right in their 'whiteness."' "This right," Bell maintains, "is recognized and upheld by courts and the society like all property rights under a government created and sustained primarily for that purpose."
As applied to the Paquet case, this theme is easy to trace, for, in a sense, the victorious John Paquet had turned his "whiteness" (the best, and perhaps the only, asset he had) into property, and did so at Ophelia's expense.
This transformation happened not once but repeatedly. One instance occurred shortly after the county judge had branded John Paquet immoral and unreliable. Dismissing these charges as the opinions of "a few scalawags and Garibaldi Indians," John Paquet's lawyers rallied enough white witnesses who would speak in his defense to mount an appeal which convinced a circuit court judge to declare Paquet competent to administer the estate. Another example of the transformation of "whiteness" into property came when the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that Ophelia Paquet's "Indianness" disqualified her from legal marriage to a white man; with Ophelia thus out of the way, John and his siblings won the right to inherit the property.
The second property relationship I want to mention was illuminated for me by Nancy Cott, who was kind enough to share with me a work in progress in which she points out the etymological connection between the words "property" and "propriety." Miscegenation law played on this connection by drawing a sharp line between "legitimate marriage" on the one hand and "illicit sex" on the other, then defining all interracial relationships as illicit sex. The distinction was a crucial one, for husbands were legally obligated to provide for legitimate wives and children, but men owed nothing to "mere" sexual partners: neither inheritance rights nor the legitimacy of children accompanied illicit relationships.
By defining all interracial relationships as illicit, miscegenation law did not so much prohibit or punish illicit sex as it did create and reproduce it. Conditioned by stereotypes which associated women of color with hyper-sexuality, judges routinely branded long-term settled relationships as "mere" sex rather than marriage. Lawyers played to these assumptions by reducing interracial relationships to interracial sex, then distinguishing interracial sex from marriage by associating it with prostitution. Describing the relationship between Fred and Ophelia Paquet, for example, John Paquet's lawyers claimed that "the alleged 'marriage' was a mere commercial affair" that did not deserve legal recognition because "the relations were entirely meretricious from their inception."
It was all but impossible for women of color to escape the legacy of these associations. Ophelia Paquet's lawyers tried to find a way out by changing the subject. Rather than refuting the association between women of color and illicit sexuality, they highlighted its flip side, the supposed connection between white women and legitimate marriage. Ophelia Paquet, they told the judge, "had been to the man as good a wife as any white woman could have been." In its final decision, the Oregon Supreme Court came as close as any court of that time did to accepting this line of argument. Taking the unusual step of admitting that "the record is conclusive that [Ophelia] lived with [Fred] as a good and faithful wife for more than 30 years," the judges admitted that they felt some sympathy for Ophelia, enough to rec-
ommend—but not require—that John Paquet offer her what they called "a fair and reasonable settlement." But in the Paquet case, as in other miscegenation cases, sexual morality, important as it was, was nonetheless still subordinate to channeling the transmission of property along racial dividing lines. Ophelia got a judicial pat on the head for good behavior, but John and his siblings got the property.
Which brings me to the third form of property relationship structured by miscegenation laws—and, for that matter, marriage laws in general—and that is women's economic dependence on men. Here the problems started long before the final decision gave John Paquet control of the Paquet estate. One of the most intriguing facts about the Paquet case is that everyone acted as if the estate in question belonged solely to Fred Paquet. In fact, however, throughout the Paquet marriage, Fred had whiled away most of his time; it was Ophelia's basket-making, fruit-picking, milk-selling, and wage work that had provided the income they needed to sustain themselves. And although the deed to their land was made out in Fred Paquet's name, the couple had used Ophelia's earnings, combined with her proceeds from government payments to Tillamook tribal members, to purchase the property and to pay the yearly taxes on it. It is significant, I think, that, although lawyers on both sides of the case knew this, neither they nor the Oregon Supreme Court judges considered it a key issue at the trial in which Ophelia lost all legal right to what the courts considered "Fred's" estate.
Indeed, Ophelia's economic contribution might never have been taken into account if it were not for the fact that in the wake of the Oregon Supreme Court decision, United States Indian officials found themselves responsible for the care of the now impoverished Ophelia. Apparently hoping both to defend Ophelia and to relieve themselves of the burden of her support, they sued John Paquet on Ophelia's behalf. Working through the federal courts that covered Indian relations and equity claims, rather than the state courts that enforced miscegenation laws, they eventually won a partial settlement. Yet their argument, too, reflected the assumption that men were better suited than women to the ownership of what the legal system referred to as "real" property. Although their brief claimed that "Fred Paquet had practically no income aside from the income he received through the labor and efforts of the said Ophelia Paquet," they asked the court to grant Ophelia the right to only half of the Paquet land. In the end, the court ordered that Ophelia should receive a cash settlement (the amount was figured at half the value of the land), but only if she agreed to make her award contingent on its sale. To get any settlement at all, Ophelia Paquet had to relinquish all claims to actual ownership of the land, although such a claim might have given her legal grounds to prevent its sale and so allow her to spend her final years on the property. It is not even clear that she ever received payment on the settlement ordered by the court. As late as 1928,
John Paquet's major creditor complained to a judge that Paquet had repeatedly turned down acceptable offers to sell the land; perhaps he had chosen to live on it himself.
Like any single example, the Paquet case captures miscegenation law as it stood at one moment, and a very particular moment at that, one that might be considered the high-water mark of American courts' determination to structure both family formation and property transmission along racial dividing lines. There is, of course, more to the story than that, so with the Paquet case now firmly in mind, let me range rather widely across time and space to mention a few historical and contemporary variations on its themes of race, gender, patriarchal privilege, and property.
Consider, for example, that if the Paquet case had been argued fifty years earlier, in the early 1870s, its outcome might well have been different, for during Reconstruction, several state legislatures repealed their miscegenation laws, and, in a remarkable handful of cases heard in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, judges declared others inoperative. The reasoning behind these decisions shows both the potential Reconstruction held for challenging white supremacy and the continuing influence of the gendered powers of traditional patriarchs. Having just lost the traditional system of social control embodied in slavery law (in which courts guarded the rights of white patriarchs as slaveowners), a few judges tried, I think, to fill the gap by reinforcing the system of social control embodied in marriage law (in which courts guarded the rights of white patriarchs as husbands); the result was that a few courts extended formal legal recognition to marriages between white men and newly freed black women.
Revealing as these decisions of the early 1870s were, however, they were also quite exceptional. Between 1875 and the 1920s, miscegenation laws found such firm footing in the courts that even the patriarchal powers of husbands were overwhelmed by the rise of the newly definitive racial classifications of the segregation era. Outside miscegenation courts, too, traditional white patriarchy was in the process of being replaced by a new form of male dominance. The extent of the erosion of traditional white patriarchy can be seen in the fact that by the 1930s, the most significant civil challenges to miscegenation law came from an unprecedented source in a new type of case: lawsuits in which couples made up of white women and men of color went to court to win the formal right to marry. These couples were, in effect, relying on a new—and less racially exclusive—definition of the role of husband to help them challenge the racial classifications at the core of miscegenation law.
It may well be significant (and, given the sheer range of miscegenation laws in the U.S. West, it is certainly ironic) that these challenges to miscegenation laws found their firmest footholds in western state courts. The cases that would eventually set precedents for invalidating miscegenation
laws first reached courts in the 1930s, and began to carry real force in 1948, when California declared its state miscegenation law unconstitutional. After 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court held that miscegenation laws violated the Fourteenth Amendment, racial categories were erased from marriage law, and miscegenation laws became a thing of the past. By the 1970s, then, fifty years after Ophelia Paquet ended up in court, the decision rendered in the Paquet case no longer made legal sense.
Today, most Americans have trouble remembering that miscegenation laws ever existed. The audiences I speak to are incredulous at the injustice and the arbitrariness of the racial classifications that stand out in the cases I tell them about; they express considerable relief that those "bad old days" are now over. I share their outrage, but I also find it intriguing that so few modern listeners notice that one of the themes raised in the Paquet case—the significance of marriage in channeling property transmission—not only remains alive and well, but has, in fact, outlived both the erosion of traditional patriarchy and the rise and fall of racial classifications in marriage law.
More than a generation after the demise of miscegenation laws (and despite repeated feminist reforms of marriage laws), the drawing of exclusionary lines around marriage is still going strong. Today the most prominent—though hardly the only—victims are lesbian and gay couples, who point out that the sexual classifications currently embedded in marriage law operate in much the same way that the racial classifications embedded in miscegenation laws once did: that is, they allow courts to categorize same-sex relationships as illicit sex rather than legitimate marriage and they allow courts to exclude same-sex couples from the property benefits of marriage, which now include everything from tax advantages to medical insurance coverage.
These modern legal battles and the earlier ones fought by couples like Fred and Ophelia Paquet both suggest, I think, that focusing on the historical connections between property and the political economy of marriage in the U.S. West offers a revealing window on the form and power of race and sex classifications in American law and race and gender hierarchies in American history.
American Indian Blood Quantum Requirements:
Blood Is Thicker than Family
Melissa L. Meyer
American Indians must be enrolled in one of more than three hundred federally recognized tribes to receive most benefits from the federal government. To be enrolled, they must meet various criteria that vary from tribe to tribe and are set forth in tribal constitutions. Upon meeting such criteria, members are issued cards and numbers that identify their special status visà-vis their tribe and the U.S. government via the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Members of no other ethnic or racial group in the U.S. maintain formal affiliations between themselves or with the federal government in this fashion. American Indians are unique.
That no one has explored in serious scholarly fashion how the enrollment process evolved or how "blood quantum" or degree of Indian "blood" came to be one of the most important criteria used first by federal policymakers and then by tribes themselves to establish tribal membership seems curious given the centrality of these issues to native people in the past and today. Tribal enrollment has been and still is intrinsically linked to entitlement to property and other material benefits in addition to the ethnic bonds that tribal members feel. Furthermore, everyone —past and present, native and non-native—employed folk understandings of the metaphorical term "blood" to the point of overwhelming all common sense. The belief that blood literally or symbolically transmitted the essential qualities of the group is, perhaps, one of the few things that all of the actors in this tortuous history have shared.
Prior to their involvement with European nations, native groups determined their membership through a myriad of kinship systems that demarcated lineages of relatives. Simply distinguishing between matrilineal and patrilineal methods of reckoning descent hardly does justice to the complex
forms that kinship systems might take. It is beyond the scope of this essay to elaborate on these various means of determining lineage, only to emphasize that family considerations, however construed, were paramount. Ironically, native notions of family lineage come closer to the origins of the term "blood" than current physiological meanings.
The historical roots of tribal enrollment extend back to the early nineteenth century when treaties with the U.S. government began to establish entitlement to specific rights, privileges, goods, services, and money. The practice of creating lists of tribal members and eventually formal censuses evolved to ensure the most accurate and equitable distribution of benefits possible. Surprisingly, the very first names to be recorded were those of individuals of mixed descent (early on referred to as "half-breeds" and then "mixed bloods"). Instead of enumerating all tribal members, U.S. policymakers relied on native leaders to distribute goods and money among their constituents. The first lists of names related to distributions of land to be held as private property. Many reasons underlay the policy of allocating plots of land to people of mixed descent. Policymakers rationalized that "half-breed" landowners would serve as a "civilizing" example to other Indians. Sometimes influential traders of mixed descent succeeded in having real or inflated "debts" covered by treaty money or land parcels. Often, federal personnel insisted that those who accepted plots of land sever their tribal affiliations, thereby fulfilling policymakers' dreams of native assimilation and hopes for reducing financial responsibilities. Discovering that people of mixed descent were the first to be enumerated was surprising, but it makes sense that such record-keeping would be tied to allocations of private property. Further elaborations of the enrollment process would also revolve around distributions of land.
The 1887 General Allotment Act, or Dawes Act, heralded the most important period in the evolution of tribal enrollment. As part of the U.S. government's forced assimilation campaign, reservations across the country were divided into parcels of from 40 to 160 acres and assigned to individuals. Policymakers believed that owning private property would magically transform the collective values of most Indians and hasten their assimilation when nothing else had succeeded. Official censuses would determine those eligible to receive what came to be called "allotments" at each reservation. "Enrollment commissions" often compiled official tribal "rolls" that codified each individual's status as a member of their specific tribe. The commissions sometimes made decisions regarding individuals' fractional degree of Indian "blood" and otherwise determined whether people met eligibility requirements. Sometimes tribal members were given the opportunity to voice objections to these decisions, but not always. The long-term impact of official codification was not then apparent, so that concerns that would
later be voiced about the legitimacy of enrollees' claims were not raised at the time. Native people often resisted being enumerated, believing that the whole policy aimed at dispossessing them of their land, which was the long-term consequence. A substantial body of case law developed contesting the actions of the federal government in making these enrollment decisions. Today, most native people must reckon their blood quantum by reference to the lists codified at this time, despite widespread stories of miscalculation. Again, tribal enrollment revolved around distributions of private property.
Despite policymakers' efforts to undermine tribal governments and political leaders, native groups maintained or created formal tribal governments and began regulating their own membership, especially in regard to land allotments, royalties from the sale of resources, distributions of tribal funds, residence, and voting. Since 1905 in the precedent setting Waldron v. United States, U.S. courts have upheld tribal rights to determine membership based on their own laws and customs.
In 1934, Congress passed the Wheeler-Howard Act or Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) to foster economic development to relieve the poverty brought about by ill-conceived allotment policies. A central IRA feature encouraged the establishment of U.S.-sanctioned tribal governments patterned after corporations. Bureau of Indian Affairs representatives encouraged leaders from reservations that voted to accept the IRA to adopt formal tribal constitutions based on a U.S. model. In addition to making decisions regarding economic development, these tribal governments also codified enrollment requirements in their constitutions and ruled on individuals' eligibility. The IRA gave long-overdue support to Indian political organizations, but at the expense of indigenous forms and practices. Critics argue that elective IRA governments supplanted consensus governmental structures, created a permanent, voiceless, conservative minority, and were dominated by a capitalistically oriented reservation elite. Predictably, more case law developed contesting the decisions of these tribal governments. In line with established precedents, however, the courts have upheld the right of IRA governments over any contesting parties to determine eligibility for enrollment.
Complicating matters further, in the twentieth century the U.S. government established its own eligibility criteria for benefits like educational aid and health care. These requirements do not interfere with tribal membership practices. Instead, they add yet another layer to the increasingly complicated question of "Who is an Indian"?
Many criteria can be used to delimit a population. Residence, cultural affiliation, language, recognition by a community, genealogical lines of descent, self-identification, and degree of "blood" have all been used at some point in the past to define American Indian populations. However, each
measure produces a different sized population. For example, in 1990 the U.S. federal census enumerated 1.8 million self-identified American Indians, but only around 1 million were actually enrolled in one of the 304 federally recognized tribes. In other words, about 60 percent of all self-identified Indians in the 1990 census were enrolled. Which variables are ultimately employed is an arbitrary decision, but the implications for American Indians can be enormous.
As absurd as it sounds on the surface, "Who is an Indian?" has been an important question since the mid-nineteenth century. Commissioners of Indian Affairs have regularly grappled with it in their annual reports. Judges have repeatedly defined Indian identity in regard to property and entitlement, tribal membership, and criminal and civil jurisdictional conflicts among tribes, states, and the federal government. Sociologist C. Matthew Snipp identified three separate categories of American Indian identity evident in the 1980 federal census: American Indians (those who identified as Indian for both racial and ethnic categories); American Indians of multiple ancestry (those who identify racially as Indians, but list other ancestry as part of their ethnic background); and Americans of Indian descent (those who do not list Indian as their race, but include it in their ethnic background). Given such complexity, it is obvious that tribal enrollment provides only a partial answer to the question, "Who is an Indian?"
Among the most common criteria used both by tribal governments, to establish membership, and by the U.S. government, to determine who is an American Indian, is degree of Indian blood or "blood quantum." The amount necessary for enrollment can vary from 1/16 for the Eastern Band of Cherokee to 1/2 for the Hopi Nation. Some tribes, like the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, specify no blood quantum but require individuals to trace genealogical descent from a direct ancestor included on the Dawes Roll codified in 1907. The federal government maintains a 1/4 blood requirement for most of its benefits. Obviously, requiring a greater proportion of American Indian "blood" limits the eligible population more than a smaller percentage does.
Measuring Indian "blood" is a curious phenomenon that merits examination in its own right. It is incorrect to assume that the term "blood" is and always has been simply a metaphoric reference to genetic composition. Especially before knowledge of genetics, blood seemed the very stuff of life. The weakening effects of the loss of a great deal of blood—producing even death—cannot have been lost on the earliest humans. Among most band level people, blood has been and is regarded as a very powerful element. From the earliest times it has been regarded as the quintessential substance which carries and transmits the special qualities of the stock. Ancient Greeks linked blood to beliefs about human reproduction. Some be-
lieved that the mother's blood seeped into the fetus or that the testes separated blood from seed rendering semen a distillation of blood. Herodotus thought that African semen was black, and it took Aristotle to set the record straight. (What lively reading his field notes must be!) These beliefs concerning blood are probably among the oldest surviving ideas from the earliest days of humankind. They are widely distributed among the peoples of the world in much the same form.
Ideally, understanding native conceptions of blood and transmission of group qualities should form a crucial aspect of this project. Pre-contact native groups determined membership through kinship systems. Understanding how groups that formerly determined membership by kinship came to measure blood themselves is more difficult. United States policymakers set the precedent, but tribes maintained the practice. Why?
The historical record complicates exploring native ideas about blood's properties. Intermediaries like explorers, missionaries, agents, or ethnographers produced the most documents. They generally adopted language that conflated blood and peoplehood and did not render native conceptions. Native language dictionaries tend to translate in an abrupt, matter-of-fact style ill-equipped to convey subtle, nuanced cross-cultural meanings. The Human Relations Area Files, a compilation of ethnographic information for cultures across the world, contain nothing specific to any group nor anything which might support generalizations across tribal lines. Scholars have not had these questions in mind.
Anecdotal ethnographic material concerning beliefs about menstrual blood, ritual torture (and its connection to adoption) and sacrifice, and ingesting internal organs of humans and animals confirms that some native cultures regarded blood as very powerful. But findings will not apply across tribal lines. For a larger study, delving into a few illustrative case studies where the data are better might be most productive. Interviewing native people about blood in today's volatile atmosphere would not yield results applicable to the past.
The etymological roots of the term "blood" extend deep into the Anglo-Saxon tribal psyche. In Old English, "blot" denotes blood spilled in sacrifice, a ritual intended partially to ensure continuity of the familial or tribal lineage. In Middle English the connection with sacrifice is obscured except for Christian associations with the Eucharist. By 1200, "blood" increasingly connotes lineage, descent, and ancestry in association with royal claims to property and power and presages modern conceptions of "race." Associations with intermarriage and discussions of whole- and half-blood appear. By the early eighteenth century, modern physiological meanings take the fore and "race" begins to displace the connotations of lineage and ancestry formerly attributed to "blood."
In 1911, William Whitney's Century Dictionary turns to metaphorical meanings of "blood" in the fourth definition: "Persons of any specified race, nationality, or family, considered collectively." A citation from Popular Science Monthly illustrates the point: "Indian blood, thus far in the history of this country, has tended decidedly toward extinction. This concise, paradigmatic phrase closely approximates ramblings about kinship and descent in popular and legal discourse.
Whitney assumes that the physiological meaning of "blood" preceded its metaphorical extensions, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Anglo-Saxons lacked "modern, or even classical Greek conceptions of physiology and biology. . . . The close relation of blod with blot, sacrifice, suggests that it may have originated in 'metaphorical' usage and only later, especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, picked up the varied but narrow biological meanings which the editors take for granted and believe are primary." Indeed, it seems more likely that the metaphorical connection of blood with lineage, descent, and ancestry preceded its literal physiological use. Pre-contact indigenous peoples of the Americas could easily have related to this understanding.
European beliefs about the relationship between "blood" and peoplehood infused into the Americas from two different but related directions. Spanish and Portuguese precedents on the Iberian peninsula left their mark on the first colonizing efforts. Subsequent English ventures encountered this legacy and contributed their own distinctive ideas about superior Anglo-Saxon institutions and, eventually, bloodlines. These European ideologies left distinctive imprints on the social relationships that evolved from region to region in the Americas.
For seven hundred years prior to 1492 the Iberian peninsula witnessed increasing ethnic heterogeneity as "Iberians, Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, Jews, Arabs, Berbers, Gypsies, and medieval slaves of different origins" interacted and intermixed. Although Jews and Moors came to be persecuted and exiled, they also contributed much to Spanish and Portuguese culture, including their genes. Some have suggested that Spanish and Portuguese success as colonizers can be attributed to their heritage of miscibility. Did this fact coupled with their idealization of the dark skinned "Moorish enchantress" and the Muslim tradition of polygyny foster intimate relationships with native women? Magnus Morner suggests that scholars need to know much more about this heritage to assess its influence on the colonization of Latin America. Even so, some similarities are apparent. Interactions on both sides of the Atlantic were characterized by "the same kind of strange mixture between savage warfare and pacific exchange, including miscegenation, between intolerance and tolerance in interethnic relations." The chronicler of conquest Bernal Diaz wrote that the Spaniards raped, robbed, and pillaged, "as if they were in Moorish coun-
try." A long history thus sustained Spanish and Portuguese notions of their own cultural superiority and enabled them to rationalize the conquest, freely enter into intimate relations with native women, and define the evolving social and labor systems by reference to color and, eventually, racial and caste designators.
People of English descent had their own ideas about "blood" and peoplehood. The roots of the concept of a distinct, superior Anglo-Saxon race extend back at least to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The English people who conquered the eastern shores of North America brought with them a myth glorifying a "pure" English Anglo-Saxon church as part of their religious heritage. The English Reformation stimulated research designed to prove that the church was returning to supposedly purer practices that existed before 1066; they were cleansing the church of corruption. This helped to justify their break with Rome. By the American Revolution, Euroamericans believed themselves the beneficiaries of a long tradition in which the Anglo-Saxon English had enjoyed unprecedented freedoms that had been polluted by the Norman Conquest. The emphasis was on institutions rather than race.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the emphasis changed from celebrating superior institutions to celebrating innate racial strengths. Two movements—a burst of German nationalism and a growing European interest in the history of German peoples—helped to inspire the English and Americans to celebrate Anglo-Saxons as superior people competent to create institutions capable of ruling the world. In this view, high-minded, freedom-loving German people had migrated from their simple, pure life in the forests to infuse France and England with their excellent characteristics. European Romanticism's stress on the uniqueness of individuals and peoples helped to shift the emphasis from institutions to the continuity of innate racial strengths. English-speaking people in particular fastened on the idea of each nation possessing its own Volkgeist, or special national spirit. It helped them to explain their success in the modern era.
The Romantic emphasis on feelings, imagination, and emotions also helped to sustain the blurry thinking necessary to rationalize some of the more extreme manifestations of racial Anglo-Saxonism. From these origins in German Romanticism, the English and, eventually, Americans were to combine race, nation, and language in a confused jumble of "rampant, racial nationalism." The new Romantic image that emerged glorified Anglo-Saxons as "adventurous, brave, and respectful toward women" as well as the "originators of trial by jury and parliamentary institutions."
However, it is one thing to celebrate a heritage and another to attack other people and nations for their inferiority. Scientific inquiry in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries provided the fodder for an elaboration of the inferiority of others as the final ingredient necessary for rabid,
racial, Anglo-Saxonism. Natural scientists focused on observation, measurement, and classification. They were fascinated with anthropometry, especially physiognomy, craniology, and phrenology. Linnaeus and others applied modern scientific methodology to earlier categorization schemes like the Great Chain of Being. However, comparisons that were used in the eighteenth century to emphasize the unity of mankind were in the nineteenth century used to demonstrate fundamental human differences.
Great Britain, with its colonizing endeavors in Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific, was especially fertile ground for theories of racial hierarchy. English people, particularly, with their pronounced belief in the superiority of English Anglo-Saxon bloodlines and institutions were quite anxious to separate themselves from the "savages" they had encountered who were typically of darker complexion.'
From the thirteenth through the early sixteenth century, terms like pardo, loro, negro, olivastre, and berretino were employed in Europe to distinguish people with darker skin. Significantly, they denoted color differences, not racial or caste differences. In the European colonies, as conquest of Native Americans, Africans, and Asians progressed, terms like mestizo and mulatto, denoting hybrids of any sort, evolved. Increasingly, Euroamerican colonists emphasized biological or racial categorization of people of mixed descent. Cultural factors retained greater prominence in Spanish and Portuguese social systems, but all areas witnessed this transformation of color codes to racial ones. As interracial relationships produced progeny of increasingly diverse parentage, classificatory terms became broader and more general to accommodate this growing heterogeneity. The finely tuned lists of designators of every imaginable interracial mixture (mestizo, castizo, Spaniard, mulatto, morisco, albino, torna atras, lobo, zambaigo, cambujo, albarazado, barcino, coyote, chamiso, coyote mestizo, ahi te estas, cuarteron de mestizo, quinteron, requinteron de mestizo, quarteron de mulato ) reflected the concerns of elite thinkers and later scholars more than the social reality of the time.
The term "half-breed" originated in English common law to distinguish between siblings who were not descended from exactly the same two biological parents. It had nothing to do with race. When it appeared in colonial laws and discourse it could refer to any person of mixed descent. However, the term became ensconced in the language of the North American fur trade as people of mixed descent proliferated throughout the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes watershed and came to form a separate ethnic group. Wherever trade relationships persisted, people of mixed descent proliferated. That the terms employed in early treaties would reflect fur trade social realities should not be surprising. Land cessions, often accomplished through treaties, followed closely on the heels of the denouement of the regional fur trade. Fur trade personnel, many of them of mixed descent, served as intermediaries in treaty negotiations, sometimes wrangling special
considerations (like "half-breed scrip") for members of their social group. Traders, treaty negotiators, and native people alike conflated their understandings of "blood" and peoplehood. The terms had meaning for all participants and from this entry point would continue to infiltrate and permeate the language of U.S. Indian policy.
In the language of colonial racial politics and evolving scientific racism, fused notions of blood and peoplehood were also ordered hierarchically into superior and inferior stocks. "White blood" might uplift darker "blood," but not as quickly as "tainted blood" polluted. And the stain of degeneracy attached to all those of mixed descent for those of the dominant order. It was a contest that might be won only through phenotype and cultural behavior. Color lines drawn in the racial caste system remained impermeable unless an individual looked lighter and associated with and behaved like those of "purer blood."
These understandings pervaded U.S. Indian policy. From the beginning, policymakers believed that, despite their irredeemable hybrid stock, those of mixed descent would serve as a "civilizing" force and pave the way for the success of assimilation programs. There was some truth to this logic as people of mixed descent tended toward biculturalism if they existed in sufficient numbers. But the reasoning was carried to absurd extremes until even land policies rested on a foundation of "blood." People of mixed descent, in general, had greater opportunity to acquire plots of land than native people. "Half-breeds" or "mixed bloods" were supposed to sever their tribal ties when they accepted land scrip, but they often did not. Their tendency toward biculturalism also meant that they were more likely to accept the commodification of land, to understand the workings of the market, and to be among the first to claim further allotments of land and distributions of tribal funds. At the turn of the twentieth century, policymakers reasoned that people of mixed descent were more competent to manage real estate and removed protective restrictions designed to prevent the alienation of privately held reservation land by unscrupulous corporate interests. So firmly entrenched were these ideas that in 1917 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs literally forced all tribal people of half or more white "blood" to accept unrestricted title to their land. This meant that they were liable to pay property taxes. Small wonder that tax forfeiture emerged as the primary way in which individual Indian landowners lost land in the early twentieth century.
At the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota, policymakers went to outrageous lengths in their efforts to equate white "blood" with comprehension of land in a capitalistic market. In 1907, Congress passed a law allowing "mixed bloods" of the White Earth Reservation to sell their land allotments. Failing to define "mixed blood," the law created a quagmire of uncertainty that spilled over into complex land fraud claims. In 1914 the
U.S. Supreme Court essentially applied the "one-drop rule," establishing that any amount of white "blood," no matter how minute, made an Indian a mixed blood, thus settling a complicated, nuanced issue in concrete, simplistic terms that only the judicial system can achieve. Armed with their Supreme Court definition, policymakers needed only to identify the mixed bloods to settle contested land claims. Nonetheless, it seemed that only physical anthropologists could provide the information that everyone involved with White Earth land claims eagerly awaited.
Ales Hrdlicka[*] , of the Smithsonian Institution and AlbertJenks of the University of Minnesota Anthropology Department put their heads together to devise and apply physical tests to the White Earth people to ferret out the mixed bloods. Phenotypic characteristics were of greatest diagnostic significance to them; they even hoped to construct a racial typology based on hair using the Pima as their pure baseline standard. When the micrometer they used to do cross-sectional analysis of hairs produced ambiguous results, the two scientists puzzled over their data. A baffled Jenks reported, "Both Hrdlicka and myself have hair of most typical negro type, and the Scandinavians have hair more circular in cross section than our pure blood Pima Indians." Perplexed, Jenks was forced to conclude that, "Dr. Hrdlicka and I are related to the negro, and the Scandinavians are simply bleached out Mongolians." Mired in confusion, the anthropologists had to admit that classifying human races by hair texture was proving to be a far more problematic undertaking than they had initially imagined. Nevertheless, the scientists felt sure enough of their observations to go beyond identifying what they believed to be general racial characteristics to testify as to individuals' "blood" status. Through spurious methods of this sort, Hrdlicka and Jenks lent their professional, "scientific" expertise to attempts to identify White Earth mixed bloods. Their efforts legalized the largest possible number of land transfers and directly contributed to the codification of White Earth enrollment lists. Outright racism received the imprimatur of academia. The cross-cultural faux pas would be humorous had it not, in reality, been so tragic.
Given the destructive nature of past policies and social structures that rested. on racial (and "blood") distinctions, it seems surprising that native groups would adopt the same sorts of categorizations when they codified their requirements for tribal membership. Granted, they inherited a tangled mess of property and enrollment decisions based on blood quantum, but the push for greater native sovereignty and self-determination in the mid-twentieth century nonetheless seems like a lost opportunity.
Native people understood that past policies had differentiated between them on the basis of descent—specifically on the basis of intermarriage with Euroamericans. Often this meant that people of mixed descent enjoyed greater individual freedom and acquired greater amounts of what had once
been collectively owned property. Under the U.S. government's allotment programs, most supported the restriction that exempted allotted landholdings from taxation. But that was the only restriction that native people welcomed. No one foresaw or approved the massive intrusion of the federal government into individual and tribal affairs; it was forced upon them without notice. As policymakers sought some means by which they might lift restrictions from people who clearly were proficient in the workings of the market, they fastened on "blood" as a marker of capabilities. People of mixed descent were far more likely to be deemed "competent" and given the freedom to manage their land and bank accounts as they saw fit. It is true that tribal groups suffered widespread dispossession under allotment policies, but it does not follow that native people supported all restrictions on their individual resources. More often they yearned for freedom from government regulation and resented the selective lifting of property restrictions from those of mixed descent. As they saw it, those with white "blood" were unfairly rewarded.
One fact is obvious from examining tribal membership requirements. Native people established tribal policies that rewarded greater amounts of Indian "blood" rather than white "blood." Few scholars would argue that all of U.S. Indian policy amounted to genocide, but long-term demographic trends certainly point to a holocaust. Genocide has ideological as well as demographic consequences; defending and celebrating race is probably among them. In their purest form, blood quantum requirements amount to a celebration of race. But turning the tables in this fashion, though it may have accorded to some degree with their own notions of "blood" and lineage, would not spare tribes or individuals from the destructive consequences of basing policies on racial criteria.
The Indians who populate the American popular imagination bear absolutely no relationship to real native people either in the past or in the present. The imagery allows Americans and people over the world to sustain highly romanticized notions of Indianness. It encourages people with little or no cultural affiliation to claim Indian identity. People yearn to document descent from some relative lost in the past to enhance their chances of acquiring educational funds and gaining admittance to prestigious universities. Native people know this better than anyone. Never-before-seen "relatives" emerge as claimants every time any tribal group receives a court settlement or royalties from economic development. Such exploitation pierces as a thorn in the side of legitimate tribal members.
Given this history, it should come as no surprise that tribes with greater assets have more restrictive membership requirements. In fact, there is a correlation between more exclusive blood quantum requirements and the maintenance of reservation land bases (see tables 13.1 and 13.2). Tribes
without reservation land, like those of Oklahoma and California, tend to have more inclusive blood quantum requirements that underscore a concern with demographic survival. In this sense, enrollment criteria can be said to have both economic and demographic bases.
That claimants unrecognizable to reservation residents can and do successfully enroll carries a meaning beyond exploitation that contemporary scholars are wont to recognize. Assimilation on some level does occur, at least to the extent that descendants leave the tribal group and become unrecognizable to many of their "relatives" over the course of time. It is not easy to become enrolled even in a tribe with minimal blood quantum re-
quirements. Countless would-be relatives are turned away every year. That socalled distant relatives actually achieve enrollment should give tribes cause to reevaluate exactly what they hope to achieve by specific enrollment criteria.
Clearly, most tribes desire that enrollment reflect some sort of valid cultural affiliation. The assumption is that higher proportions of Indian "blood" increase the odds that this will be the case. Everyone knows that it does not guarantee it, just as they know that some with legitimate cultural ties will be eliminated due to their inability to meet blood quantum requirements. Carrying this logic to its extreme, anthropologist John Moore has boned up on combinatorial statistics to compare the actual distribution of blood quantum in the Creek Nation to ideal distributions. He hopes ultimately to show the probabilities of a legal "half-blood" having "Indian" chromosomes for each number in the range, from zero to forty-six. Whereas such a study has value in terms of tracing group descent, interracial marriage patterns, and health-related issues, it does not take much prescience to foresee some unintended and potentially disastrous uses to which it might be put. Imagine being required to produce a genetic, DNA analysis for purposes of tribal enrollment and receiving a card with a double helix hologram instead of a fractional delineation!
Many unenrolled people who claim Indian descent do not have exploitation on their minds; they are the victims of racist policies. Intermarriage across both tribal and racial lines means that blood quantums are everdecreasing. It takes almost no time for a one-half blood requirement to exclude from tribal enrollment people who are enmeshed in family networks and actively participate in living cultures. Many people exist today who identify as 100 percent Indian, but cannot meet the enrollment criteria of any tribe. It still remains to be explained how people who value family so dearly rationalize tribal enrollment criteria that operate to exclude so many family members.
Tribal enrollment policies and blood quantum requirements in particular represent a transformation in the way native people construe group membership. Indian identity has become increasingly racialized in the twentieth century. The pain engendered by such accusations of illegitimacy on this contested terrain of Indian identity has fractured Indian country and individuals' senses of themselves. Can a one-half blood quantum requirement be interpreted as anything other than a policy statement that "purity of blood" is more important than acknowledging and embracing family members? The Cherokee bear the brunt of many jokes and much criticism in Indian country; people among them who reflect European and African phenotypes bear testimony to their history of liberal interracial marriages. Oddly enough (aside from deviating from its matrilineal tradition), the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, with its requirement simply to trace direct familial descent to the Dawes Roll, more closely approximates the
ways in which pre-contact native groups would have defined family and kin. The Hopi one-half blood quantum requirement hardly reflects "traditional" Hopi values. Measuring fractions of blood and excluding relatives from tribal membership reflects the combined influence of Euroamerican scientific racism and conflated ideas about "blood" and peoplehood.