What Comes Transnationally
  • Patricia A. Schechter
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


“There is no racial hatred,” wrote José Martí in 1891, “because there are no races.”1 This study explores four women’s resistance to racism and racialization in a nascent global anti-imperial field, a field that Martí helped to write into existence as he pondered the impact of that “formidable neighbor,” the United States, on an ideal he called “Nuestra America.”2 The chapters in this book map a related set of critiques of race and empire in Liberian missions, anglophone “new woman” literature, Pan-American feminism, and African labor organizing. Like Martí, my chosen representatives of these movements—Amanda Berry Smith, Gertrude Stein, Josefina Silva de Cintrón, and Maida Springer—worked against essentialist notions of race and were transnational figures who crossed the Caribbean and the Atlantic with crucial stops in New York City. Central to my analysis is their refusal to abide by the rules of racial boundary keeping alluded to in Martí’s epigram, rules shaped by ideologies of “civilization” and “race advancement” that were current in his lifetime through World War II. Each woman in this study refused to elaborate or extend racial scripts in their lives and work, a refusal that compromised their ability to earn money, social status, or political currency in their own time and that has left them mostly obscured in our own.


White Supremacy Puerto Rican Woman Gender Language Racial Hatred Essentialist Notion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    José Martí, “Our America,” in fosé Martí: Selected Writings, ed. Esther Allen and Roberto Gonzz Echevarría (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), 295.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Regarding empire, Sinha emphasizes the importance of framing female agency as the “outcome of specific struggles in history” rather than measuring women’s ideas and actions according to past or contemporary theories or foundationalisms. Mrinalini Sinha, “Mapping the Imperial Social Formation: A Modest Proposal for Feminist History” Signs 25 (Summer 2000) 4: 1077–1082. Julian Go refers to a “global inter-imperial field” in “Crossing Empires: Anti-Imperialism in the US Territories” (paper presented at American Anti-imperialism since 1776 Conference, Oxford University, England, April 29–30, 2011, cited with author’s permission). Paul A. Kramer, “Race, Empire and Transnational History,” in Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State, ed. Alfred W. McCory and Francisco A. Scarano (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009), 199–209, emphasizes a dynamic distinct from the one I focus on: “Not simply that difference made empire possible; empire remade difference in the process” (200). On white supremacy, see Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men’s Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    In this extensive literature, most influential on my thinking have been Antoinette M. Burton, Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women, and Imperial Culture, 1865–1915 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994)Google Scholar
  4. Kevin K. Gaines, Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership and Politics in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Glenda E. Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996)Google Scholar
  6. Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996)Google Scholar
  7. Louise Newman, White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States (New York: Oxford, 1999)Google Scholar
  8. Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    In this tremendous literature, see Peggy Pascoe, “Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of ‘Race’ in Twentieth-Century America,” Journal of American History 83 (June 1996) 1: 44–69Google Scholar
  10. Joanne Meyerowitz, “‘How Common Culture Shapes the Separate Lives’: Sexuality, Race, and Mid-Twentieth Century Social Constructionist Thought,” Journal of American History 96 (March 2010) 4: 1057–1086CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010), chapters 16 and 24; George M. Fredrickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate over Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817–1914 (New York: Harper & Row, 1971); and Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  12. 5.
    Thomas Bender, ed., Rethinking American History in a Global Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); “AHR Conversation: On Transnational History,” American Historical Review 11 (December 2006) 5: 1140–1464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ann Curthoys, ed., Connected Worlds: History in Transnational Perspective (Canberra: ANU Australian National University, 2005.)Google Scholar
  14. Ian R. Tyrrell, Transnational Nation: United States History in Global Perspective since 1789 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)Google Scholar
  15. Caroline F. Levander and Robert S. Levine, eds., Hemispheric American Studies (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008)Google Scholar
  16. Manning Marable and Vanessa Agard-Jones, eds., Transnational Blackness: Navigating the Global Color Line (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008); Kimberly Jensen and Erika A. Kuhlman, eds., Women and Transnational Activism in Historical Perspective (Dordrecht: Republic of Letters Publishing, 2010).Google Scholar
  17. 6.
    Irene Lara, “Goddess of the Americas in the Decolonial Imaginary: Beyond the Virtuous Virgin/Pagan Puta Dichotomy,” Feminist Studies 34 (2008) 1: 99–127Google Scholar
  18. Walter D. Mignolo, “Citizenship, Knowledge, and the Limits of Humanity,” American Literary History 18 (2006) 2: 312–331. Exile and exodus have had long purchase in African American history written in the United States. For a fresh departure, see the innovative work of Elizabeth Anne Pryor, “‘Jim Crow’ Cars, Passport Denials and Atlantic Crossings: African-American Travel, Protest and Citizenship at Home and Abroad, 1827–1865,” PhD diss., University of California Santa Barbara, 2008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 7.
    Laura Briggs, Gladys McCormick, and J. T. Way, “Transnationalism: A Category of Analysis,” American Quarterly 60 (September 2008) 3: 625–648.Google Scholar
  20. Very stimulating treatments can be found in Rita de Grandis and Zilà Bernd, eds., “Unforeseeable Americas: Questioning Cultural Hybridity in the Americas,” Critical Studies vol. 13 (Atlanta: Rodopi, 2000)Google Scholar
  21. Nancy L. Green, “Expatriation, Expatriates, and Expats: The American Transformation of a Concept,” American Historical Review 114 (April 2009) 2: 307–328.Google Scholar
  22. 8.
    Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler, eds., Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ruth Roach Pierson, Nupur Chaudhuri, and Beth McAuley, eds., Nation, Empire, Colony: Historicizing Gender and Race (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  24. Caren Kaplan, Norma Alarcón, and Minoo Moallem, eds., Between Woman and Nation: Nationalisms, Transnational Feminisms, and the State (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999)Google Scholar
  25. Inderpal Grewal, Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton, eds., Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005)Google Scholar
  27. Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton, eds., Moving Subjects: Gender, Mobility and Intimacy in an Age of Global Empire (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009).Google Scholar
  28. 9.
    Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York: Routledge, 1995), chapter 1, especially page 24; Ann Laura Stoler, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 57.Google Scholar
  29. 10.
    Linda Gordon, “Internal Colonialism and Gender” in Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History, ed. Ann Laura Stoler (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 444, 450.Google Scholar
  30. 11.
    Laura Briggs, “Gender and US Imperialism in Women’s History,” in The Practice of US Women’s History: Narratives, Intersections, and Dialogues, ed. S. J. Kleinberg, Eileen Boris, and Vicki Ruiz (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007), 156.Google Scholar
  31. 13.
    Stephanie M. Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004) and James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  32. 14.
    For the idea of the native helper and related themes, see Peggy Pascoe, Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874–1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990)Google Scholar
  33. Catherine Ceniza Choy, Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino American history (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 15.
    Kristin L. Hoganson, “‘As Badly off as the Filipinos’: US Women’s Suffragists and the Imperial Issue at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Journal of Women’s History 13 (2001) 2: 9–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leila Rupp, “Challenging Imperialism in Women’s Organizations, 1888–1945,” NWSA Journal 8 (Spring 1996) 1: 8–27Google Scholar
  36. Allison L Sneider, Suffragists in an Imperial Age: US Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870–1929 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, “Enfranchising Women of Color: Woman Suffragists as Agents of Empire,” in Nation, Empire Colony, 41–56.Google Scholar
  38. See also Ian R. Tyrrell, Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), especially chapter 6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 16.
    Laura Briggs, “In Contested Territory,” The Women’s Review of Books XVII (March 2000) 6: 21.Google Scholar
  40. 17.
    Alessandra Lorini, “Cuba Libre and American Imperial Nationalism: Conflicting Views of Racial Democracy in the Post-Reconstruction United States,” in Contested Democracy: Freedom, Race and Power in American History, ed. Manisha Sinha and Penny Von Eschen (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 191–214Google Scholar
  41. Laura Lomas, Translating Empire: José Martí, Migrant Latino Subjects, and American Modernities (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Maria DeGuzmán, Spain’s Long Shadow: The Black Legend, Off-Whiteness, and Anglo-American Empire (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005).Google Scholar
  43. 18.
    Emma Pérez, The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999), xiii–xix.Google Scholar
  44. 20.
    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Can the Subaltern Speak?: Reflections on the History of an Idea, ed. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Rosalind C. Morris (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), appendix.Google Scholar
  45. 21.
    Marilyn Lake, “Nationalist Historiography, Feminist Scholarship, and the Promise and Problems of New Transnational Histories: The Australian Case,” Journal of Women’s History 19 (Spring 2007) 1: 180–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 22.
    Margot Canady, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 54.Google Scholar
  47. 24.
    Amy Kaplan, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of US Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), especially chapter 1.Google Scholar
  48. 25.
    See remarks in the AHR conversation cited above as well as Frederick Cooper, “Postcolonial Studies and the Study of History,” in Postcolonial Studies and Beyond, ed. Ania Loomba et al. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 401–422Google Scholar
  49. Geoff Eley, “Imperial Imaginary, Colonial Effect: Writing the Colony and Metropole Together,” in Race, Nation and Empire: Making Histories, 1750 to the Present, ed. Catherine Hall and Keith McClelland (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2010), 217–236.Google Scholar
  50. 26.
    Delsey Deacon, Penny Russell, and Angela Wollocott, “Introduction,” Transnational Lives: Biographies of Global Modernity, 1700 to the Present (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 2–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. See also David Lambert and Alan Lester, eds., Colonial Lives across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006).Google Scholar
  52. 30.
    Adrienne M. Israel, Amanda Berry Smith: From Washerwoman to Evangelist (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1998)Google Scholar
  53. Yevette Richards, Maida Springer: Pan-Africanist and International Labor Leader (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000). On Stein, I rely on Brenda Wineapple, Sister, Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996). Edna Acosta-Belén, “Silva de Cintrón, Josefina Pepiña (1885–1986)” in Latinas in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, vol. 3, ed. Vicki L. Ruiz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 682–683; anonymous reader reports in author’s possession.Google Scholar
  54. 31.
    Patricia A. Schechter, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and American Reform 1880–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 187, 213; Alfred M. Duster, ed., Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells-Barnett (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 373.Google Scholar
  55. 32.
    Gertrude Stein, “Picasso [1938],” in Picasso: The Complete Writings, ed. Edward Burns (New York: Liveright, 1970), 34.Google Scholar
  56. 33.
    Gaines, American Africans in Ghana Brenda Gayle Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and US Foreign Affairs, 1935–1960 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Brenda Gayle Plummer, ed., Window on Freedom: Race, Civil Rights, and Foreign Affairs, 1945–1988 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000); Penny M. Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  57. 34.
    Bender, “Historians, the Nation, and the Plentitude of Narratives,” 1.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patricia A. Schechter 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia A. Schechter

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations