Run for Your Lives!: Gender and the Runaway Scrape

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Texas A&M University Press, 2024 - History - 184 pages

The "Runaway Scrape" is, among Texas historians, at once recognizable but often less understood. While shelves of books examine the fall of the Alamo and the revolutionary victory at San Jacinto, surprisingly little sustained attention has been given to the chaotic period from the early to late spring of 1836 when many settlers fled their homes in the face of Santa Anna's advancing forces. In the final months of the rebellion-turned-revolution, fear of defeat prompted larger questions of what it meant to be a man or woman in an environment of wartime retreat. In Run for Your Lives! historian Linda English opens a new window into the Runaway Scrape, exploring the events and rhetoric through the lens of gender.

English identifies the central question looming over men and women alike: Were you doing enough to support the rebellion? Texas men faced the pressure to be "manly"--not to turn away or retreat, but to meet the enemy on the battlefield. As demoralizing losses stacked up, the rhetorical appeals of Anglo Texan authorities employed even more fervent language, casting the enemy as depraved and a threat to the innocent women and children of the state. Appeals to masculinity also intensified with fear-mongering references to potential Indian attacks. At the same time, while many women ceded leadership decisions to their male counterparts, an increasing number competed for power and more decisive leadership within refugee groups.

Accusations of "authoritative" or "brazen" women acting like men and "weak" or "unmanly" men acting like women abounded in an apparent scrambling of gender expectations. But as English argues, "a closer examination of the heated gendered rhetoric . . . indicates that it was delivered with a goal in mind"--recruiting converts and enlistments to the cause. Nevertheless, shifting of attitudes or expectations also proved short-lived. Postwar peace realigned the gender landscape, underscoring the temporary nature of revolutionary gender roles.

About the author (2024)

LINDA ENGLISH is associate professor of history at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She is the author of By All Accounts: General Stores and Community Life in Texas and Indian Territory.

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