Her Act and Deed: Women's Lives in a Rural Southern County, 1837-1873

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Texas A&M University Press, 2001 - History - 190 pages
Deeds, wills, divorce decrees, and other evidence of the public lives of nineteenth-century women belie the long-held beliefs of their public invisibility. Angela Boswell's Her Act and Deed: Women's Lives in a Rural Southern County, 1837–1873 follows the threads of Southern women's lives as they weave through the public records of one Texas county during the middle of the nineteenth century. Her unique approach to exploring women's roles in a South that spanned the frontier, antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras illuminates the truths of the feminine world of those periods, and her analysis of this set of complete public records for those years challenges the theory of men's and women's separate spheres of influence, as advanced by many scholars.

The world Boswell reconstructs allows readers a more egalitarian, multicultural look at life: working class and poor women, both black and white, join their more affluent sisters in the pages of the Colorado County, Texas, courthouse records. Those same records reveal that the men of that world—most of them planters or farmers, the majority of them owning at least a few slaves—are a force for women to reckon with, both in public and at home. The almost constant presence of men in the home and their need to uphold the dominant, slave-holding hierarchy

produced a patriarchy more pervasive than that experienced by women in the urban north.

Eminently readable and accessible to scholars and general readers alike, Her Act and Deed represents a welcome addition to the classroom, to the scholar's library, and to Texas history collections.

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Interesting publication. I wonder if the author realizes that one of her subjects, Jamima McNeill, actually moved to Colorado Co. Texas after leaving Florida. Her maiden name was Cynthia Jemima Edwards, daughter of Christopher H. Edwards, first sheriff of Madison Co. Florida. She married Archibald McNeill in Alabama on Jan 23, 1825. Archibald was first Postmaster of Madison Co. Florida, and also served as a Legislator there, as well as Court Clerk. His father, James McNeill was Clerk of Alachua Co. Florida.
Archibald & Jemima moved to Colorado Co. Texas where Archibald became Justice of the Peace and Chief Justice in the early 1850's. I also noted the mention of a Marvel McFarlane and wonder if there is a relation there; Christopher Edwards' son, Sherrod Edwards named his son Marvel McFarland Edwards.
Archibald also wrote the 1850 census of Colorado Co. Texas and likely was the man who served as a Legislator in Montgomery Co. who signed at the 1845 Texas statehood convention. He died in San Antonio in 1864 and Jemima died in 1897 in Laredo, Texas. James K. Purcell jpurcell@mlode.com


Women Work Family and Law on the Frontier
To Find a New Husband The End of Marriages of the Frontier
Settling Up The Ascendance of Antebellum Society
The Law of the Master Slave Women
Civil War
LongAwaited Peace Reconstructing Society
Divorces Filed and Granted by Gender and Era
Grounds for Divorce by GENDER and ERA

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Page 22 - ... interest, if she appear in court, and being examined privily and apart from her husband, by one of the judges thereof, shall declare to him that she did freely and willingly seal and deliver the said writing...

About the author (2001)

Angela Boswell is associate professor of history at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. She received her doctorate from Rice University and has written extensively on the history of Southern women.

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