Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens

Disloyal Mothers and Scurrilous Citizens : Women and Subversion during World War I

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This study focuses on the arrests, trials, and defences of women charged under the Wartime Emergency Laws passed soon after the United States entered World War I. Often members of the political left whose anti-war or pro-labor activity brought them to the attention of federal officials, these women made up ten percent of the approximately two thousand Federal Espionage cases. Their trials became important arenas in which women's relationships and obligations to the emerging national security state were contested and defined. Kennedy builds on recent scholarship that locates women's politics and gender as central to early twentieth-century state building and suggests another dimension-how wartime legal system and its attendant definitions of loyalty, patriotism, and subversion gendered citizenship. Like social welfare, anti-radical politics raised questions about the state's role in defining motherhood and social reproduction. As this study shows, state authorities often defined women's subversion as a violation of their maternal roles. Yet, with the notable exception of Kate Richards O'Hare, those women charged with sedition did not define their political behaviour within the terms set by maternalism. Instead, they used liberal arguments of equality, justice and democratic citizenship to argue for their right to speak frankly about American policy. Such claims, while often in opposition to strategies outlined by their defence teams, helped form the framework for modern arguments made in defence of civil liberties.

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  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 162.1 x 244.3 x 20.3mm | 447.88g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, INUnited States
  • English
  • 0253335655
  • 9780253335654
  • 1,672,884

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Review quote

"This well argued, yet readable book, explores a range of dimensions about the workings of the state during times of war. In particular, it illustrates how discourses about patriotic womanhood could shape the kinds of political activity thought appropriate for the female sex."--June Purvis, History Today, April 2001

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About Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy is Assistant Professor of History and Director of Women's Studies at Western Washington University. She has published in the Journal of Women's History, Mid America, and Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.

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