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Women and the Conquest of California, 1542-1840
Codes of Silence
By Virginia M. Bouvier
266 pp. / 6.00 in x 9.00 in / 2004
Paper (978-0-8165-2446-4) [s]
  
Related Interest
  - Women's Studies
  - History


Studies of the Spanish conquest in the Americas traditionally have explained European-Indian encounters in terms of such factors as geography, timing, and the charisma of individual conquistadores.
A path-breaking work . . . Bouvier's meticulous research and careful analysis bring a feminine perspective to a wide range of practices and beliefs, abuses and accommodations across national borders. She deals with the general and the particular, yielding wholly original insights. Bouvier writes clearly and dispassionately about previously untold incidents, as well as such standards as the Anza expedition, native conversion, and resistance. These events now make sense in a way they never did before. This book helps break the ‘code of silence' that has long impacted California history.

—Journal of the West

The book is an impressive accomplishment, and it deserves wide readership. . . . a notable contribution to the history of California. It deepens our understanding of what early California was actually like for all its inhabitants.

—California Mission Studies Association

Bouvier makes singularly important contributions to our knowledge and understanding of the centrality of gender, sexuality, women, and violence to the ideologies and politics of conquest. Her book should be required reading in multiple fields of history, in Women's Studies, and in other interdisciplinary fields. Only then will the silence be broken.

—Catholic Historical Review

Her goal has not simply been to write women into the story, but to overturn the long-held fiction that the settlement and conquest of Spain's territories was the work of men alone. . . . A very informative, clearly written, and lively study.

—The Americas

Yet by reconsidering this history from the perspective of gender roles and relations, we see that gender ideology was a key ingredient in the glue that held the conquest together and in turn shaped indigenous behavior toward the conquerors.

This book tells the hidden story of women during the missionization of California. It shows what it was like for women to live and work on that frontier—and how race, religion, age, and ethnicity shaped female experiences. It explores the suppression of women's experiences and cultural resistance to domination, and reveals the many codes of silence regarding the use of force at the missions, the treatment of women, indigenous ceremonies, sexuality, and dreams.

Virginia Bouvier has combed a vast array of sources— including mission records, journals of explorers and missionaries, novels of chivalry, and oral histories— and has discovered that female participation in the colonization of California was greater and earlier than most historians have recognized. Viewing the conquest through the prism of gender, Bouvier gives new meaning to the settling of new lands and attempts to convert indigenous peoples.

By analyzing the participation of women— both Hispanic and Indian— in the maintenance of or resistance to the mission system, Bouvier restores them to the narrative of the conquest, colonization, and evangelization of California. And by bringing these voices into the chorus of history, she creates new harmonies and dissonances that alter and enhance our understanding of both the experience and meaning of conquest.


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