Gender and Power in California, 1770s to 1880s
Negotiating Conquest begins with an examination of how gender and ethnicity shaped the policies and practices of the Spanish conquest, showing that Hispanic women, marriage, and the family played a central role in producing a stable society on Mexico’s northernmost frontier. It then examines how gender, law, property, and ethnicity shaped social and class relations among Mexicans and native peoples, focusing particularly on how women dealt with the gender-, class-, and ethnic-based hierarchies that gave Mexican men patriarchal authority. With the American takeover in 1846, the text’s focus shifts to how the imposition of foreign legal, economic, linguistic, and cultural norms affected the status of Mexican women, male-female relations, and the family.
Addressing such issues as divorce, legitimacy, and inheritance, it describes the manner in which the conquest weakened the economic position of both Mexican women and men while at the same time increasing the leverage of Mexican women in their personal and social relationships with men. Drawing on archival materials—including dozens of legal cases—that have been largely ignored by other scholars, Chávez-García examines federal, state, and municipal laws across many periods in order to reveal how women used changing laws, institutions, and norms governing property, marriage and sexuality, and family relations to assert and protect their rights. By showing that mexicanas contested the limits of male rule and insisted that patriarchal relationships be based on reciprocity, Negotiating Conquest expands our knowledge of how patriarchy functioned and evolved as it reveals the ways in which conquest can transform social relationships in both family and community.
“Negotiating Conquest is a must-read for anyone interested in the process of conquest and colonialism or in the history of early California”—The Journal of San Diego History
“This book dramatically and thoroughly documents the transition to the American era and the resulting legal, economic, political, cultural, and social transformation”—Western Legal History