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date: 19 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The United States as an empire—first spreading over the continent and then abroad—depended on ideas about the proper role of women, men, and families. Even before the United States began acquiring territory overseas, American women engaged in reform efforts abroad as missionaries and political activists. The presence of Anglo-American women and children allowed invading settlers across the continent to alternatively cast themselves as innocent victims who needed to resort to violence or as civilizing agents promoting assimilation. After 1898, Puerto Rico and the Philippines provided new arenas for women’s civilizing mission, while paternalism explained away US military violence. In turn, America’s harvest of empire included low-paid female immigrant laborers. With each wave of immigration, their bodies became the focus of white Americans’ fears over fecundity, poverty, and regulating the boundaries between the domestic and the foreign.

Keywords: gender, women, empire, colonialism, imperialism, immigration

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