Conferences, Core Program

DATE CANCELLED: Contested Foundations: Commemorating the Red Letter Year of 1619, Conference 3: “Respectable Women”: Gender, Family, Labor, Resistance, and the Metanarrative of Patriarchy [DAY 2]

Saturday, April 18, 2020
10:00 am PDT

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

This event has been adapted to a one day online event.
There will no longer be a second day to this conference.

—organized by Brenda E. Stevenson (University of California, Los Angeles) and Sharla M. Fett (Occidental College)

The year 1619 was designated as the red-letter year in Virginia, the first permanent colony in British North America, for three reasons—it marked the beginning of a representative government; the arrival of captive African laborers; and the initiation of a successful plan to encourage permanent family development through the importation of English women. It was on June 29, 1619, that Sir George Yeardley, governor general of the colony, convened a legislative assembly consisting of persons sent as representatives by its free male residents. It was the first such legislative assembly in the British colonial New World. Two months later, the first shipment of Africans arrived at Point Comfort on the southern coast of Virginia, a foreshadowing of the hundreds of thousands of African laborers who would eventually arrive and help to transform Virginia, and several other colonies, into race-based-slave economies. That same year, the Virginia Company of London began a concerted effort to recruit “respectable [English] women” to the colony so that, in the words of one Company officer, they could “‘make wifes to the inhabitants and by that meanes to make the men there more settled and less moveable.” The combination of these efforts, all meant to enhance the lives of the colonial male elite, marked the beginning of a true settler colony for Britain in North America. This beginning came with grim implications for the indigenous populations the British encountered. These experiments in governance, settler colonialism, and a racialized economy also proved to be the characteristic underpinnings of our independent nation two hundred and fifty years later. 1619 was indeed the red-letter year of British America’s 17th century!

The 2019–20 core program, which marks the 400th anniversary of this notable year, encompasses three conferences, each of which will address one of the three seminal events of 1619 within the geopolitical, economic, and social/cultural contexts of 17th and 18th century North America. Across these conferences, we will also consider 1619’s impact on the nation’s eventual character. The British, of course, were not the first Europeans to explore, establish permanent settlements, import African slaves, or create governing structures in North America. The French and the Spanish made several forays into the southern, gulf, and western regions before the British. Therefore, the program will also encompass French and Spanish forays into the southern, gulf, and western regions.

The third conference will focus on the arrival, coercion, commodification, and resistance of native, English, and African women. Scholars will consider colonial women’s labor, and their evolving status within families and communities. Discussions will engage the problems and possibilities of a colonial archive that has traditionally been constructed by, and centered on, a white, elite patriarchy to the exclusion and/or marginality of the voices and divergent experiences of women, Africans, native peoples, and non-elite whites.

Daina Ramey Berry, University of Texas at Austin
Kathleen M. Brown, University of Pennsylvania
Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
Sharla M. Fett, Occidental College
Jessica Millward, University of California, Irvine
Susanah Shaw Romney, New York University
Susan Sleeper-Smith, Michigan State University
Lisa Sousa, Occidental College
Brenda E. Stevenson, University of California, Los Angeles
Lorena S. Walsh, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation


Program schedule coming soon [3-11-2020]

There is no charge for this event. Advance booking is requested.

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Bookings are currently closed for this event.