Gendered settler colonialism (it’s always gendered): Katrine Barber, ‘I Just Had to Do Most Everything’: Gender, Settlement and American Empire in the Far West, MA dissertation, Portland State University, 2022


Abstract: The field of settler colonial studies has made huge strides in recent years toward problematizing the establishment of the United States on stolen land and the nation’s steady, violent expansion across the continent. Settler colonial framework provides a rich opportunity for historians of the American West to reframe white settlement on the frontier, especially that which was made possible through land grant legislation such as the Homestead Act of 1862. As the families who took up land grant property sought new opportunities for themselves, they also acted as drivers of U.S. territorial acquisition. This process was inherently gendered, in terms of both the ideological and legal framing of homesteading, as well as the material contributions made by gendered labor. The critical role of white women on the frontier, in particular, cannot be overlooked in settler colonial histories. This thesis argues that women’s labor, reproduction, and marriage alliances formed the backbone of U.S. settler colonialism, and that the “feminine” and intimate nature of these contributions both obscures the reality of imperialism in the West, as well as the important role of women’s agency in that structure. It does so through a microhistorical examination of three women who homesteaded on the North Oregon Coast in the late-nineteenth century, and compares their experiences with the limited record of Native women who lived in the same time and place.

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