Date of Award

2011

Advisor(s)

Edward Cahill

Second Advisor

Amy Aronson

Abstract

This project is informed by the history of Native American removal across Western lands, and the sociological and economic strategies that forced the assimilation of distinct native tribes into a mass, dominant white culture. Considering this assimilation through the imposition of domesticity and European gender ideology, this project aims to explore the political over and undertones of the cult of domesticity, and to analyze how domesticity and domestication were used to construct gender, social, and economic conformity. Post-bellum American politics regarded the women’s experience and domestic ideals as prototypes for national values. The importance of home production for the survival of the society was ingrained in political thought and discourse during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Women were viewed as beacons of morality and virtue that continually guided the men who guided our nation. Without them as arbiters of virtue, men were susceptible to corruption and could potentially run astray. For women, serving as a proper mother and wife was to perform the female civic duty during this time period. Domesticity assigned a specific kind of value to a specific space (a private space), but glorified it at the expense of access to public space and political power. In this way, public and private values were intermingled rather than being dichotomized. As Americans moved westward, this fusion of the public and private sphere found new value and served even greater political and economic motivation.