Race Women: The Politics of Black Female Leadership in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century America Open Access

Cooper, Brittney Chante (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/41687j08n?locale=en


Race Women: The Politics of Black Female Leadership in Nineteenth
and Twentieth Century America
By Brittney Cooper

In the late 19th century, a group of public Black female leaders began a range of
racial uplift initiatives in the areas of education, social welfare, healthcare,
journalism, and intellectualism. Known as race women, these leaders
commandeered the public sphere with a missionary zeal to improve the plight of
Black people. My dissertation Race Women: The Politics of Black Female
Leadership in 19th and 20th Century America
uses methods gleaned from history,
Black feminist theory, and literary criticism to examine the lives, intellectual
production and activist work of these race women, while simultaneously
interrogating Black women's relationship to the term itself. Included in my study
are a range of 19th and 20th century women including Maria Stewart, Anna Julia
Cooper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary Church Terrell and Pauli Murray. Coupled
with my analysis of the speeches and autobiographies of race women is my
examination of novels by Frances Harper and Alice Walker. The dissertation
argues that race women turned to a range of genres including both fiction and
autobiography to communicate their hopes for African Americans, to theorize the
nature of racial identity and womanhood, and to construct their own notion of
subjectivity. While grounded in the theoretical perspectives of Black feminist
theory, my project is also attendant to race women's complicated relationship to
the politics of feminism. Consequently, I both employ and challenge major Black
feminist theoretical frameworks like intersectionality, standpoint theory, the
politics of respectability and the culture of dissemblance, considering both the
advantages and limitations of using these paradigms.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Race Women Confront All Phases of the Race Question 1

Chapter 1
The Race Woman's Agenda: Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South, the
Textual Inauguration of a Black Female Leadership Tradition 22

Chapter 2
"The Story of Her People and Her Times": Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church
Terrell in the African American Autobiographical Tradition 79

Chapter 3
Breaking the Rigid Molds of Respectability: Pauli Murray's Quest for an
Unhyphenated American Identity 144

Chapter 4
Out of the Shadows: Race Women's Novels and the Inauguration of a
Womanist Ethic in Black Feminist Thought 208

Leading Ladies: The Continuing Relevance of the Race Woman in the 21st
Century 265

Works Cited 280

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